Wifely steps

Today marks my first stint as a guest blogger! When the sunny and inspiring Toni of Wifely Steps asked me to write a guest post to celebrate the 7th anniversary of her marriage (and by extension, her blog), I leapt at the opportunity.

The theme was, naturally, “Wifely Steps.” There were so many things I could have written about, but one thing I was sure about was that nobody needed to hear marriage advice from a newlywed 28 year-old. So I wrote about the first wifely step I ever took. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to reflect on the journey and remind myself of my choice. Sharing what I wrote with Marlon got me a googly-eyed look, a big bear hug and a whispered “Thank you” – all of which were nice too.

Reposting from Toni’s blog (different pics there)!

Deepa’s Wifely Steps

I’ll let you in on a secret. The biggest wifely step I ever took was precisely two months and twenty-five days before I became my husband’s wife.

The diamond ring was on my finger, the wedding date was set, the honeymoon flights had been booked – and so had my one-way ticket to Singapore. Marlon, who had gotten a kick-ass job in Singapore, had been based there for the entire four years we’d been dating. Since we both agreed that the Singapore dollar would give us a better financial head start in our shared life, the moment we had gotten engaged, moving there became a foregone conclusion.

The thing was, I didn’t want to move. I loved my life. I had a career that made me creatively fulfilled, ecstatically happy and financially rewarded, a tight-knit family of females with whom I shared everything, and a large, loving and irreplaceable network of friends (a choir, actually) made my life sparkling and vibrant.

Unlike many Filipinos who would leap at the chance to live and work abroad, I was staunchly in love with life in the Philippines – with our people, our beaches, our Salcedo markets and Cubao Expos and cheap finds at Landmark, and damned if I was going to give it up to start from scratch, jobless and friendless, in a country about the size of Quezon City.
Marlon and I with the Singapore skyline

But when I said yes to Marlon’s proposal, I – by default, almost – also said yes to Singapore. We were overjoyed at the prospect that we were finally going to be together after four years of physical separation, but there were trepidations underneath the happy surface. I was not too excited about being lonely and financially dependent (at least until I got a job). Marlon was worried that I was someday going to resent him for being the reason for the disappearance of my wonderful life.

After a while, I realized I had said yes without really making a choice. And that beyond putting on a brave face, what I really had to do to start our new life together with no fears, no doubts, was simply… choose.

So on October 4th, 2007, only two months and twenty-five days before our wedding date, I really, truly and freely chose to move to Singapore. I wrote Marlon this letter, excerpts of which I will share with you.

Dear Marlon,
This is what I see. I didn’t choose Singapore. 
I chose you. I chose to be with you… no matter what that looks like.
Starting out, that was all I really wanted. I realized now, I’m finally getting what I really want. 
Coming into this marriage, you are my biggest commitment. I’m not committed to where we’re going to live, what we’re going to do, how much we’re going to earn, what we’re going to do with it. I’m committed to you – my best friend, my partner, my husband, the one true love of my life. And I’m committed to being with you – finally, forever. With that commitment in place, the rest just follows. It’s just details. It’s just circumstances. So I can rattle around and drive myself nuts about circumstances. Or I can see that I’m finally getting something I want with all my heart. Something I said I’d have no matter what, damn the torpedoes. You. You in front of me on December 29, and by my side for the rest of my life.
So there’s nothing there for me to do, or be, just yet. That only means I haven’t created it yet – and that I still can. Thank you for giving me the space to do just that in our relationship. Thank you that my life as me, Deepa, doesn’t end when our marriage begins. Thank you, because I know creating my life and sharing it with you will be so much fun. Thank you, because whatever game I choose to play, having you on my team will enable to me to kick some serious ass.

Thank you, because who you are to me is someone who is worth it. Thank you for being such a beautiful person, in the face of whom a beautiful life is almost relatively easy to give up. Thank you for being the beautiful person who is the beginning of a beautiful life where I am moving to.
I love you. And I choose you.

Making a real choice freed me to be truly happy on our big day

To date, that has been my biggest wifely step, from which all my wifely steps have followed. Some of those subsequent steps have flowed with grace and ease while others have been taken in awkward fits and shaky starts. 

Some have been fun – like learning to cook, assisted by my husband the kitchen god, or buying him a Playstation 3 for Christmas (to the horror of many wife friends), or simply allowing myself the joy of saying “Yes” when my husband says to me, “Let me take care of you”, or easing into the role of obsessive-compulsive itinerary planner for every trip and holiday (and both of us being peripatetic travelers, believe me there have been a lot). 

Sharing childhood memories with Marlon at the Grand Place in Brussels

Others have been challenging and difficult – like this past weekend, when Marlon and I found ourselves having a “who-would-have-thought-we’d-ever-be-here?” moment at the Great Wall of China. I, the sleep-till-noon-sloth, pushed myself to complete the entire trek up the mountainside, climbing hundreds of steps on a stone staircase with practically a vertical incline in a dress and Chucks, because I knew there was nothing more my adrenaline junkie husband wanted than to reach the top of the Great Wall.

At the summit of last weekend’s trek up the Great Wall of China

Starting my life as a wife began with a choice. And each wifely step I take every single day is just that, too – a choice. Even if the choice is inspired by my husband, or by our shared goals, or by my love for him or his love for me, the choice is always mine to make.

And I know I – and my wonderful husband – wouldn’t have it any other way.

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… and the living is easy.

The first few days of my return to the couchwife life have found me taking it very, very easy. I rolled out of bed at noon on my first non-working Monday, snacked on leftovers while catching up on my stockpile of Gossip Girl episodes, and did a lot of surfing.

Having failed at my attempt to get up early and cook my husband breakfast, I compensated by having dinner up and running by the time he got home — grilled cinnamon and ginger chicken with couscous salad. I can’t remember the last time I did that and it felt wonderful to be wifely again.

Yesterday I swam a few laps at our condo’s bleached-hot, deserted swimming pool. Then I did the groceries, whereupon I found that the deserted supermarket aisles do wonders to alleviate the usual “supermarket-cart rage” that comes upon me on Sunday evenings at Fairprice. In the evening I met up with Bianca and Chi to help Chi put together his Miss Greece costume for a Miss Gay Universe pageant on Saturday. Craziness!

I’m at home and really feeling like it’s summer, what with these long, lazy and unbelievably hot days. I quickly learned that one of the upsides to working full-time is having the aircon on 24/7 at full blast, and not having to pay for it. Still, as I putter around in a constant sheen of sweat, I am almost giddy with gratitude at being home to experience a summer vacation for the first time since graduating from college.

On this summer vacation, I am both child and parent. I’m finding things to fill my own days — overseas trips, exercise, lunches, visits from friends, doctor’s appointments (hello Mommy!) errands and cleaning sprees. My supposed holiday is turning out busier than I expected, but I can’t complain when I see the neat little boxes in my iCal filled entirely with things I want and choose to do.

It’s a big change from the couchwife life of two years ago, when I had just moved here and was still trying to find work. We’re financially in a better position to fund my “summer vacation”, so I don’t feel so guilty about leaving the house and doing things like having lunch with friends or buying tickets to shows I would like to see. There are freelance clients — not to mention new skills and a level of confidence — I have now that I didn’t two years ago.

All in all it’s shaping up to be a good summer. Now if only it wasn’t quite so hot…

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Hostess with the mostest

Marlon and I had one of our favorite couple friends – Susie and Tinus, who just moved back to Lah-Lah Land from New York — over for brunch today. And it got me thinking about entertaining and hosting social occasions at home.
Brunch guests Susie and Mr. T at our table, making mimosas

Part of being a young wife is the newness, fun and confusion of being a hostess. (Not a hoh-stess, but a hoe-stess. Just so we’re clear.) Marlon and I have guests over for lunch or dinner once in a while, and while Marlon does more of the prep work than any husband I’ve ever come across, these social occasions are always supposed to be the wife’s thing — making me, for the first time in my life, a hostess.

I love planning the menu and having friends over, but I have yet to get the hang of this entertaining thing. As a (relatively still) newlywed couple, we always find out just how little we have in the way of proper cutlery and china when it’s time to have people over. 

Our very first dinner guests, David and Phyllis, brought us a bottle of wine when we invited them over one weekend… only for us to discover that we didn’t even have a corkscrew. Marlon had to escape to the kitchen (which is open anyway) and stab at the cork with a bread knife, and we had to fish bits of out of our wineglasses all evening. David presented Marlon with a corkscrew the following Monday. 

Influenced by the Singaporean habit of stocking up on duty-free wine and liquor with every trip to Changi, we have a bottle each of champagne, dessert wine, Baileys and Absolut Tropical in the house… but only one set of all-purpose wine glasses from Ikea. I recently took advantage of a sale at Tang’s to buy serving plates, serving bowls and serving utensils because I realized we couldn’t go any longer plunking the metal pot of the rice cooker down on a trivet on the table, or serving couscous salad out of a scratched-up melamine bowl that Marlon used and abused through his bachelor days. Then when we bought pandesal from Lucky Plaza, I realized we didn’t even have a bread basket to keep the pandesal warm throughout brunch. It seems to never end!

And that’s just lunch or dinner for four people. When Marlon’s boss and his wife decided to bring their little daughter over for dinner, Marlon had to eat off a white plastic plate. Anything far beyond that magic number means paper plates for all — since we only have four pieces of everything.

Then there’s the matter of place settings. For brunch this morning, I had glasses and wine glasses on the table and had no idea if I should keep the tea cups for hot chocolate off the table or just plunk them in there. It’s almost enough to make a girl wish she had gone to finishing school. 

Tablea reveals itself to Susie… amidst our new serving ware from Tang’s!

Thankfully, most of the wives who come over are young wives like me. I haven’t seen anyone raise an eyebrow or make furtive notes on a checklist just yet. And luckily, our friends are pretty chill (and rather nutty). I spend a lot of time rushing back and forth before people come over, but once we’re all seated I wonder if I should even be wondering about how to be a proper hostess. And the champagne starts pouring, our friends start digging in and raving about Marlon’s latest culinary success, and we’re all laughing, there seems to be so much more to life than doing things properly.

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