Note: This column appears in the 4/7 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/8 issue of the Peoria Times
My wife—as noted in her Matron of Honor’s speech during our wedding seven years ago—was never going to get married. She was her own woman, and no man was going to define her. Male companionship was not her goal, and was mostly viewed as an obstacle on the road to her professional and personal aspirations.
This ideology ran somewhat contrary to her Brooklyn-Italian upbringing, where young girls married neighborhood Italian boys via a system of cleverly arranged courtships: Oh, hey, Vincenzo randomly stopped by for no reason! Come in, come in, have some coffee. MARIA! Get over here and get Vincenzo the biscotti.
Not that my in-laws themselves abided by this blatant stereotype, but they assuredly were concerned that their daughter’s independence may serve as a barrier to potential relationships. When I first met them and managed not to say or do anything stupid, they could barely contain their restrained optimism.
It still seems improbable that it was I, of all people, that managed to earn her affections. That’s not to say, however, that she conceded her independence. After all, she opted to maintain her last name through marriage, which offended my in-laws more than it did myself (somewhere, my mother-in-law is still gasping). Some in our family, whether by accident or intent, refuse to acknowledge this reality even, ironically, on anniversary cards. One of our close family friends has, no joke, taken to addressing our mail: “Mike Kenny & the Women’s Liberation.”
The sheer force of her personality can be a challenge. There are no shortcuts with her, and I had, until meeting her, forged a life on shortcuts. When it was easier to lie, she caught me. When it was easier to make an excuse, she called me out. When it was easier to use duct tape to fix it, she made me call her father.
At times this was exhausting, and my ego, along with whatever else I had just broken, was often left shattered. But over time, I have realized again and again that I have become quite a different and, I think, much better person. Whereas marriage can often devolve into a constant battle of wills, she has somehow allowed the finer points of each of our personalities to influence each other rather than threaten.
My wife is also the most wonderful paradox. She is proudly liberal, with the heart and faith of a saint. She will watch a documentary on the public school system, and then “The Bachelor Reunion Show.” Our bedroom is painted light purple, but our “Yankee room” is next door. She is an interior decorator and avid player of “Angry Birds.” She has great taste, yet loves Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow because they are from Brooklyn. She is super funny and remains endearingly defensive—she will say something funny and ask me why I am laughing.
She is a working mother. The best around.
Some hypothetical woman may have found it easier for us to stay in New Jersey, and had not talked me into becoming a foster and adoptive parent. I married a not-so-hypothetical woman seven years ago this week. That’s not too long in the scheme of things, but it’s a good number—a lucky one.