Stop Saying That You Married Up


Mel and I were picking up our kids from a play date. Both of
us were trying to round up Tristan and Norah, while chatting with the couple
who watched our kids. David was a medical student, and Susan was a stay at home
mom. We knew them from church.


I was in their living room helping Norah with her shoes,
while Mel chatted with Susan.


Susan mentioned that she enjoyed reading my blog, and I
thanked her.


Then she looked at Mel and said, “Does it bother you to have
your life…” she paused for a moment tying to find the right words, “out there?”
Mel was pregnant at the time, and I’d just published a post about how she was
sleeping on an air mattress in the living room because our bed hurt her back.
“I mean, I know that you’re sleeping in the living room.”


Mel shrugged and said, “Some of what he says bothers me. But
most of that gets edited out.” She mentioned one post in particular that pissed
her off. It was about the sexual codes we use around our kids. “I didn’t really
want everyone to know about that,” she said. “And sometimes I don’t think he
gets things all the way true.”


“The truth is subjective,” I said.


Mel rolled her eyes.


Then Susan said, “Well… he does a good job of making you
come across as amazing.”


Mel smiled.


“She is amazing,” I
said. “100% amazing. I married up. No doubt about.”


I often tell people that I married up. I must have said it a
million times since we got married ten years ago. And I mean it, too. When Mel
and I first met, I didn’t know how to type and I’d never read a novel. I was
working at a hardware store and trying to get a job at the local prison. She
was this sweet, soft-spoken, and beautiful woman. I feel like she took a real
gamble on me.


When I look back at the person I was before we meant,
frankly I’m ashamed. I honestly don’t know what she could’ve seen in me. I
didn’t dress well, my hygiene was below par, and I had a foul mouth and an even
fouler disposition. I was depressed and medicated. Short and stocky. I was no
champion. Far from tall, dark and handsome.


Sometimes when I look at my former self, I don’t see
anything admirable or attractive, and I can’t understand why Mel was the one
who asked me out. And when I look back at Mel, I see her as way out of my


I know all this makes me sound very insecure, but, frankly,
I was back then. I felt lacking in both social and mental capital. My father
had recently died from his drug addiction, and my mother and I weren’t
speaking. No one in my family had finished college. Most hadn’t even attempted.
I couldn’t think of doing much more than managing a hardware store garden
center, or working at a prison.


Mel and I loaded the kids into the car, and as we drove home
Mel said, “I wish you’d stop saying that.”


“Saying what?” I asked.


“That you married up?”


I was confused, and a little offended.


“I mean it as a compliment,” I said.


“I know you do. But you marrying up, means that I married
down, and I don’t feel that way. You are a really great husband and father. I really
love you. I think you’re hot. And I don’t think that I settled for you at all.”


I reminded her of who I was when we met. How little I knew,
and my limited aspirations. How much I’d changed since meeting her.


“I didn’t have much going on, either,” she said. “When we
met, I was in my 20s and living in my boyfriend’s crappy attic. We both worked
at that hardware store. I thought it was going to be my career. I was no better
than you. When we met, you looked familiar… for some reason. I think I recognized
you from heaven. You’d tell me about the stuff you did for your girlfriend, and
it sounded so sweet.  You always made me
laugh. I don’t think that you married up. And I don’t think that I married up.
No one married down. We just… married each other.”


We sat in silence for a while. I thought about what she
said. I thought about the way I saw myself then, and how I see myself now. Then
I thought about Mel, and how she’d grown as a person, a mother, and a wife.
She’d gotten more attractive with age. She’d gone to college while trying to
care for our family.


We’d grown together.


“So what you’re saying is, we got married because we were
right for each other. Plain and simple.”


“Yup,” she said.


We were almost home when Mel reached across the front seat
and gripped my hand.



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