Before buying groceries this week I Googled “what to pack in your husband’s lunch.” I was then introduced to whole forums of women who have contemplated this important question, their words running to this effect: “My husband is such a dear, he will really eat anything. I know he could pack a lunch himself but I want to do it for him because I love him.”
Assured that I had unearthed a virtuous, man-affirming corner of the world wide web, I read on. Some of the forum women had settled firmly on sandwiches and celery sticks. Others, whose husbands had access to microwaves, relied on repackaged leftovers and frozen Gatorade. One husband had spent years buying candy from his office vending machine but lost 40 pounds when his wife started packing his lunch instead. Ah, the glories of being a helpmeet.
I was determined that Jonathan would carry a beautiful brown bag of food to the first day of his senior year of college. A well-packed lunch is the just reward of a man who has the courage to get married before graduation. So we school shopped together, carefully selecting the half-pounds of turkey and provolone, the shining brioche buns, the fizzy drinks, the brown bags, the five regulation college-ruled notebooks.
The school year’s inauguration doubled as the funeral of our three-month honeymoon. At least, I saw it that way. I cried the day before school started because I feared all the really hard parts of marriage were about to topple onto my head: Jonathan’s schoolwork, too many errands, not spending all our time together anymore. After Jonathan assured me he would still live here and sit next to me on the couch when he got home, I stopped crying. He reminded me that the state of a marriage is determined not by outside circumstances but by the man and wife. They, not their schedules and obligations, choose how they will relate to each other.
When it came down to packing the lunch, I packed two instead of one. One for him, one for me. I decided to go with him on the first day, back to my alma mater. I sat in on his narrative nonfiction class, which has a reputation for being a class that really teaches you how to write. The class was great, but I knew I didn’t belong in school anymore. Most of my friends have graduated and moved on. As I sat in class, I kept thinking of all the things I am free to do now that I no longer have to do schoolwork. I can cook, write letters, do Pilates, decorate my face with war paint, learn Italian, write a book—really anything but schoolwork.
I also realized that the things in my lunch bag weren’t things I liked. They were things Jonathan liked. So for now, during the day, our paths diverge. I am reminding my very young self that doesn’t mean the end of things.