married to it

So much of my past is hiding beneath my bed in boxes of letters and photographs, but more of it is in my cupboards.  I used to make espresso every morning.  My coffee pot had a timer, so I’d awake to the smell of brewing and the gurgling sounds of morning.  I miss that, the home I made.  It’s sad that I stopped timing things, stopped making a home just because I didn’t share mine anymore.  I have bamboo steamers from when I made crystal shrimp and seafood shu mai.  The mandolin from when I made my own potato chips, as garnish with the braised monkfish I served over a yin yang smear of celery root and buttered carrot puree, a pool of red wine reduction is atop a shelf now, abandoned.  I miss reducing things for hours, things, not conversations and body language, but actual things.  Port and burgundy wine simmered in a stockpot with granny smith apples, celery, chicken stock and carrots.  I miss slow cooking, on Sundays, a Sunday sauce with a pork shank to flavor the red sauce I’d spoon over aldente noodles.  I miss the comfort of that life, when I had a dining room table and linen napkins.  Now I have a hint of a kitchen and a living room without even a proper coffee table.  I miss putting food on a table.  I miss having a table. 

I hate how much I spend in rent, and it still can’t afford me room for a dining room table AND a sofa.  I hate how so much of my life has become OR’s, or’s I don’t want to have to make.  I understand be single OR have a relationship.  I understand you can’t have it all, but I never knew wanting a living and dining room would fall into my OR category. I can’t live like this anymore.  With things stored away, not being enjoyed. 

I have not had a hard life.  I am grateful for the privileges I have, for the opportunities, for the pots and knives and espresso machine.  For America and my education, for having parents who guided me in the right direction.  I’m grateful, believe it or not, for my self-esteem, for having enough not to be involved with a married man, who only wants me because I’m not HER.  He wants me only because of what I’m not, not for who I’d be.  I’m grateful I never fell that low to ever be involved with someone married.  Still, I want to live more gratefully, slowly, with tea and crumpets, lemon curd and Sarabeth jams.  I want a table that wont fold away, a proper dining table with a room to put it in.  I want to fill the room with those who want to eat, savor, laugh, and drink.  I want a home to fill with voices and appetites, to provide nostalgia.  To cook a dinner, then fall asleep with a sheet for a blanket listening to the crickets and sprinklers in the night.  Roast chicken with rosemary and kosher salt, the crackling of the skin, the sweetness of the carrots as they stew in my life, the one I want but won’t have at any cost.  I’ll earn it.



  1. i'm not sure the upper west side is the place for homemade jam, checked tablecloths, crickets and monogamy.

    maybe u should move to winnipeg?

  2. Your words rang so true…I, too, was married to a cheating man. And I had the house and the dining room with big farmhouse table and linen napkins and our Sunday dinners cooked together and savored with candle light, wine, and a sense of life's bounty. The lessons of life, how things are not always as they appear, that just as life bountiful it can turn on a dime and it all can fall away…the love, the home, the nest.
    And so I, too, have the linens and the table and the letters stored away and when I sit down at my ottoman to eat my dinner now I am filled with gratitude that I learned the truth but a bittersweet longing for the days when I made a life for us. What keeps me going is the convinction in my own integrity, in being strong, in knowing that when the time comes again I will have so much experience and wisdom to draw upon. And a kitchen full of linens and cookbooks…fossils from a past life. Thanks for reminding me that my experience is a shared one.

  3. Or the 'burbs South of Minneapolis, in the growing country where I live. Still, it's hard to find time for those nice, simple things in life to enjoy.

  4. Ahh, your entries full of food are always charming to pick through. The loneliness and yearning you described in this resonates in each and every one of us, and I'm sure many sighed wistfully as they read this while others smiled at what they now have (but didn't always have).

  5. perhaps mike. but to make up for it theres a great tattoo parlour where she could get 'love' and 'hate' scrawled across her knuckles

  6. Sundry-

    I used to live on the top floor of a 4-story walkup, two apartments to a floor. It was filled with OTB Irish. Sunday was the day they all cooked a roast. Walking up the stairs on a Sunday afternoon would bring tears to your eyes.

    On being more grateful, I think some of that comes with age. You start to surrender some of the desires for things you never really needed, and it makes you more grateful for the things you have that are more important.

    Take your book money and invest it in an apartment in a less desirable area. The upper, upper, upper West side.

  7. I sometime miss that part of the married life too, guests over weekend, full set of furnitures, balcony with view and home cooking. But I don't miss the unhappiness and hollowness of it. For that reason I traded the space and stability into a studio apartment and two storage places and empty side of the bed and believes that the trying, the choice made and the type of life given up is worthwhile when I feel(felt) my heart beating again. I will earn it all over again.

    Thanks for this piece and that means also lots of thanks to the many wonderful pieces you have here. ;-)

  8. The grass is always greener on the other side….like u i was married to a man who cheated and is now engaged to a girl 15 yrs his junior. I have the home in the burbs with the dining room table which is now being used as a repository for my kids school supplies…i miss NYC and the adrenaline rush i get when i go their as well as the social ambience. however, i am bringing up my kids in a wonderful place…i hope i too find someone to share my home and the other half of my bed…

    ps thanks for your posts-i love reading them – from another fellow long island gal…:)

  9. I had the perfect life when I was married. Two Mercedes in the garage, big fancy house, children in private schools, matching china, gold flatware, a schedule that I kept, everything in its place. And I was so miserable (after a bad car wreck left me unable to continue the perfect life) that I nearly committed suicide. Remaking the world according to the new (single) plan, includes purposely NOT being perfect. It also includes living in a semi-messy but very comfy house, eating non-planned and non-perfectly presented meals all standing around the counter, jumping in the car and going on a road trip just for the hell of it. But, I too, crave cozy. I absolutely love it when I pull myself out of bed 20 minutes early to get the crock-pot going. And thanks for reminding me that I used to have a timer on my coffee pot too – I'll look for it tonight. Thanks for sharing – you make my day.

  10. I know people who have been involved with married men and women. This post wasn't written to make them feel bad about their choices. Part of me reads those lines and feels like I'm attacking them. I don't mean to be.

  11. If a married man doesn't get that regular diet of good home cooking he eventually will go out and find a restaurant that serves his needs.


    General Max

  12. Steph, even if your post did attack people that dated married people, so what? Anyone that knowingly dates a married person that is not separated deserves the abuse they get.

  13. Yes, but I'm not sure Winnipeg is the place for indor plumbing, maybe she should just move to Brooklyn? I've never been to NYC, is Brooklyn cheaper?

  14. i know you've written this post out of a longing heart, i look at it as something to look forward to. who knows when and who knows with who, there have been enough men i thought could fill in that blank, it hasn't happened yet. i can't wait for it but at the same time i am learning to enjoy the moments i have for myself. here is something i read the other day and had a new perspective on things:

    it will come, this waiting will make it more special when it arrives. i find it calming to write it all down because when the time comes and things won't go so smooth, these will be the entries to read and remind yourself how grateful you are that you have THAT.

    you're such an absolutely beautiful person, stephanie!

  15. I was involved with a married man for four years, waiting for that divorce he claimed to be seeking on the day we met. That day never came. What an idiot I was. I'd trade back all the stuff for the self esteem I gave up, but it's too late.

  16. That's quite a particular image of married life you have. For most people, even in our undeniably prosperous nation, exchanging vows dose not mean a pimped out house in Port Washington, two mercedes and candle-light meals with reduction sauces will be waiting upon return from Tahiti.
    For some, it means going back to the tiny walk-up, or a navy base (home for 2 years!), or a rented space over someone's garage.
    Yes, you should practice being more thankful, but not in spite of having to martyr it on the upper west side.

  17. Stephanie,

    I totally understand!! I live in a studio in Gramercy and pay a ridiculous amount of $ and don't have a dining/kitchen table OR a couch. And I always feel like if i buy one new thing i have to get rid of something else to make room in the closets or cabinets. I'm 31…professional…and closed into a box…very frustrating. I feel you.

  18. Your entry made me think about the Gwendolyn Brooks' poem below and how it's not really about the material possessions or square footage:

    When You Have Forgotten Sunday:
    The Love Story

    –And when you have forgotten the bright bedclothes on a
    Wednesday and a Saturday,
    And most especially when you have forgotten Sunday–
    When you have forgotten Sunday halves in bed,
    Or me sitting on the front-room radiator in the limping
    Looking off down the long street
    To nowhere,
    Hugged by my plain old wrapper of no-expectation
    And nothing-I-have-to-do and I'm-happy-why?
    And if-Monday-never-had-to-come–
    When you have forgotten that, I say,
    And how you swore, if somebody beeped the bell,
    And how my heart played hopscotch if the telephone rang;
    And how we finally went in to Sunday dinner,
    That is to say, went across the front room floor to the
    ink-spotted table in the southwest corner
    To Sunday dinner, which was always chicken and noodles
    Or chicken and rice
    And salad and rye bread and tea
    And chocolate chip cookies–
    I say, when you have forgotten that,
    When you have forgotten my little presentiment
    That the war would be over before they got to you;
    And how we finally undressed and whipped out the light and flowed
    into bed,
    And lay loose-limbed for a moment in the week-end
    Bright bedclothes,
    Then gently folded into each other–
    When you have, I say, forgotten all that,
    Then you may tell,
    Then I may believe
    You have forgotten me well.

  19. Yes, most people have been without this or that at one point of their lives or another. Mine, not due to choice, but with unforseen circumstances such as lay-offs, a loss on property sold, a sick parent dying…it happens to us all. You always bounce back and I would do it all over again if I had to. Sure, you miss those "things" of normal life, but life would be pretty boring if it was so perfect all the time, wouldn't it?

  20. I read about you in our local Sunday Times, here in South Africa and I now find myself reading your postings when ever I have a moment to spare. I find myself even thinking about you during the course of the day…. but this is not why I am sending you this comment, my needs are my own and I will deal with them.
    I have just cooked a great dinner for my family and one does not have to be married to to cook for people you love! Love goes beyond being married. Having the perfect dinning room also does not matter, just enjoy the moment with people who you care for…… Thanks for this moment!

  21. I can't live like this anymore. With things stored away, not being enjoyed.

    I feel the same way and empathize with your plight.

  22. Interesting post, I'm digesting the simple, but vivid language. I hope it's ok that a teenager is reading your blog. I can't be the only one.

  23. Blame it on my hormones, but I cried when I read, "I miss that, the home I made. It's sad that I stopped timing things, stopped making a home just because I didn't share mine anymore." I get it. Totally and completely. Especially when you add the part about being grateful and having self-esteem. It still doesn't make it any easier. Thank you for sharing how I feel, too.

  24. Stephanie,

    You didn't just refer to pasta with red sauce as "noodles", did you? Blasphemy! Hey Chris D., straighten her out, man!

  25. A sense of contentedness and fulfillment is derived from wherever you are, from whichever special memories happen to be noticed. It won't emerge from being surrounded by inanimate objects, space, the quality of napkins or the luxury of timed coffee all on its own – which incidentally, all fly the coop while one tends competently to their growing children. Indeed, creation of a sense of comfort is spawned only by the integral addition of time handed generously to loved ones, and the essence that lingers from precious interactions shared.

    You said, "I want a home to fill with voices and appetites, to provide nostalgia."

    Nostalgia is deemed a bittersweet longing, best left to crystal snow domes housing familiar Christmas scenes of falling snow and toboggans. The notion that a consummate idea of closeness and warmth is best set with a "perfect scene" is often just such another illusion to so many of us. And, not realizing that EVERYTHING most heartening hinges upon the offering of our pixie dust of love, not what the surrounding environment brings to us, further rips holes into our hearts for what once was and no longer is. Regret and longing appear to speak loudly though throughout many of your posts, I've noted.

    "I miss reducing things for hour, things, not conversations and body language, but actual things."

    I find what I've bestowed upon others in the past surfaces quite easily while repeating an original gesture with or without others being present. I continue to bake, stir and stew to my heart's content, as having shared this energy and attention before invariably summons sweet comfort instantly – simply by savoring the reminder of those acts already cherished.

    "I can't live like this anymore. With things stored away, not being enjoyed."

    I consider what my home has housed over the years and the quality of love exchanged by those sharing my space; I don't squeeze meaningfulness out of those things kept or given away. It's the perfection of caring spread breezily across my humble abode and not my holiday table that matters to me; while the perceived value of menus and material things become like so many cardboard-cutouts fixed quite firmly in the BACKGROUND. It's foremost about the people who matter, yes – and so, who should care really about utilizing things? That's not what makes my space a home.

    Your writing is stated plaintively in this entry, and sounds somewhat hollow to me, fluttering about like the echoing sound of a wail shuddered into a long tunnel. Sorry if this critique appears a bit harsh, but living a meaningful life, while married or not, while at home or not – like "the one I want but won't have at any cost. I'll earn it." – is always available, at every moment, and I suspect you already know this. Just as living faithfully in the NOW is, where refreshingly enough, there is never usually a shred of wistful regret or sorrow behind any of one's choices…

    (Thanks for the beautiful poem, Mari).

  26. I can relate. While married, I had a home. Familiar smells, beautiful flowers, someone to greet me and to love me. No cheating, no harsh words, just an end to a marriage and now it's all gone. I now live in a rented cube of an abode, with many of the same furnishings, but without the warmth, and worse, without the love…it's an empty and sad place and I long again for a true home and true love. I feel your pain Stephanie.

  27. Thank you to exist. How many women can share the emotions and the situation you write? More than we can immagine…..You have recalled to me some details of my past I have forgot, You have made me cry and then smile, thinking I was not alone….thank you Stephanie, never end your, our tragedy.

  28. Ok, here I go again…I have the so called "perfect life" in the eyes of those who don't really know me. The house, cars(domestic and plain. Those are merely things, stuff, excesses that cannot replace a meaningful, healthy relationship. There is no relationship with the spouse, it an empty, hollow existance as a result of abuse(not physically battered but verbal). At what point does one say, "Enough is enough?" The wounds run deep yet they are the ones that no one sees. AFter much mulling, it is time to make a change in my life and in the lives of my kids. They are wonderfully supportive in my decisions as they, too, have suffered the pain and heartache as I have over the years. Two of grown, one a US Marine, the other in college. The third is still in middle school.

    Yes, there are the moments I say to myself,"What could have I done differently so the abuse would not have happened?" Then I realize that it was and still is not something that I caused. The problem is his. However, I am the one that has the power to make a change for the better.
    Bittersweet are the images of something that never existed in my life. What does exist is the three terrific kids I do have, and love as much as much as they love me. There are times in one's life when it is necessary to make a change, even when it is hard to do. Thankfully, I not only have supportive children, but also friends and other family members(my parents and sibling) who also agree that "Enough is enough." Time to move on and blaze a new trail in my life.
    It is not in the things we have that make us happy, it is the people who are important to us that love us and support us that counts regardless of their affiliation.
    Thanks again for your meaningful insight and reflection that continually spurs me on in my own endeavors of life.
    You are one terrific gal.

  29. married people often complain about routine and ordinary life involving their household.. how ironic it's this you miss mostly when the marriage is over.

    As for women that have affairs with married man and married man that have affairs.. I think life is not so easy black and white.. there are many shades of grey…

  30. I read this last post and many things rang loud.. while waiting for our wedding, i was living in a very small jr. 1. The wedding itself was remarkable in many ways, awesome in so many other.. we now have the life that is always dreamed of.. and we have that apartment on the Upper East Side that affords us both living and dining space and a very nice bedroom… in fact, the "or's" we have is the selection of furniture .. new dresser or dining room table, new coffee table or new flat screen.. ah.. ms. klein, what fun it would be to hang with your possee…

  31. "As for women that have affairs with married man and married man that have affairs.. I think life is not so easy black and white.. there are many shades of grey…"

    No, Mariel, there are not many shades of grey. Some things are just wrong. There circumstances which might make something a little less wrong, or a little more wrong, but cheating on your spouse is wrong.

  32. Regarding Karen's post, congratulations on moving on. No one should have to put up with that even though it's hard to move on. Good luck and have a happier new life.

  33. Karen – run…don't walk. I survived it – it is so incredibly worth it. It will be excruciating for a bit, then painful, and then suddenly, the weight of the world will be off of you. You will be free and you can define yourself any way you want. You can make your own happiness, make your own bliss, make your own eden in your home and only let in people who are good for you – and ban the bad ones. Courage and strength.

  34. There are moments I feel more like I am in the midst of a metamorphesis. Stephanie's transparent honesty sheds light to the plight of many regardless of their place in life or their circumstances. At some point in time we face struggles in life. How we choose to handle it is part of our individuality. Many share emotions and thoughts as Stephanie so adequately expresses, she says what many cannot say. As for me, it stirs up a boldness within that cannot be squelched. Thank you to those who have confirmed to me that my decisions are right, and true. Thanks for the words of support and encouragement!

  35. There really is a part of marriage, a part, that is somehow defined by the accessories. There were a couple of women who stayed over at my apartment for a couple of days who looked in my cupboards and commented on how "divorced guy" they looked.
    Anyway, when do you want all of us over for dinner? Around 7:30 work? You want all us to bring the wine?

  36. It's precisely because of how your parents raised you that you will again have the things you miss, the things you deserve, the things you will earn.

    I have no doubt your book money will be put to very good use, whether it is to move into a bigger place where you can have a dining room table, or to pay off bills, go shopping, whatever you feel like.

    Keep up the great writing.

  37. I know this has already been stated, but nonetheless I find it so disappointing that behind all of your beautiful, honest writing are desires produced by commodification. Too often being rich in spirit, character, or humble appreciation is confused with being rich enough to spend time idly admiring your perfectly designed home and consuming overpriced and nicely presented food. This writing is representative of a disasterous trend of female writers who obsess over what the think they lack while lusting after perfection produced in glossy lifestyle magazines; frankly, I fear what glorification of this perspective will continue to do to contemporary women. Your appreciation for your parents is obvious in other posts, and I encourage you to think about them more in times like these. Be grateful they're supportive of you while you've got your own damn apartment.

  38. I love Stephanie's writing not only because I relate to so many things she says but because people read different things into it. I didn't read AT ALL what Amy did. I didn't hear anything involving consumerism or commodification. I read a frustration about living in constant flux. Once working to have a family, a life with someone, comfort of things being used rather than stored away. "Things stored away rather than enjoyed". The excercise was a metaphor not literal. "the sweetness of the carrots as they stew in my life". struggle between suburbia dream and city hell. " I want a home to fill with voices and appetites, to provide nostalgia.". Nothing material about that. just one person's opinion. That's why I love these posts.

  39. Life, nature, people – are in constant flux, Phil. That's a given. The trick is to find an acceptance of it and peace within yourself about it all, along with joy – WHILE in the moment, despite whatever circumstances you find yourself in, good or bad. Now, successfully balancing THAT act is what brings one true gratitude.

    Stephanie's musings didn't appear to reflect that this time. Amy's comments did, which is what often makes this blog so beautifully balanced.

  40. "I hate how much I spend in rent, and it still can't afford me room for a dining room table AND a sofa. I hate how so much of my life has become OR's, or's I don't want to have to make. I understand be single OR have a relationship. I understand you can't have it all, but I never knew wanting a living and dining room would fall into my OR category. I can't live like this anymore. With things stored away, not being enjoyed."

    Move. OR keep complaining. I have no sympathy for you or your ego.

    How many times per hour do you check for new comments?

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