The truth about the truth

Sit down. Are you sitting? Good. The truth about the truth is that the truth hurts. Marriage is hard work. It's intense and you never get a break. You rarely get a pay raise and an office with a window is not part of the package. The perfect person does not exist and Prince Charming is not waiting for you because you are no Cinderella. You and I and everyone we know have bought into a scheme based on a reality with no foundation. Last night, my husband held me for hours as I alternated between shivering, sweating and throwing up. Before you assume that I was recovering from a drunken fit, I officially got the first flu of the season. It was still boiling outside, but come October and my body sets out on its mission to give me the flu. I'm nothing if not ambitious. After three days of this extraordinary behavior, the doctor proclaimed me healthy, despite the 39ºF fever and gray-tinged skin. In fact, he claimed to have never met a person quite as healthy as me. I think he may have been channeling my father who, when presented with such injuries as a broken leg or dislocated shoulder, would claim it was all in my head. The doctor - who will remain nameless (because although my husband intends to hunt him down, this is actually for my husband's protection as this doctor looks like he can kick ass) - said, "Giveret! It's all in your head!" I'm thinking, "Thanks, but I can't hear you past the ringing." The doctor then proceeded to tell me to remove my earrings, claiming that my pieced ears were interfering with my meridians and adversely affecting my chi (did I mention that this was a doctor of Western medicine?). No matter. I took off my earrings and then the doctor asked, "Now, aren't you feeling better?" At which point, with little ceremony and no antibiotics he sent me on my merry way. I told the story to my husband, who had a fit. He actually couldn't figure out what part of the incident aggravated him most. Was it the claim that I was healthy enough to run a marathon or that the earrings he had given me as an engagement gift were the harbingers of Armageddon, or was it that no antibiotics would mean he had to help me out at home? The numbers are in. As of last year, there are more single women in the world than married women, at a ratio of 49 percent to 51%. Now, you may think that this number is not all that relevant, but considering that 30 years ago the figure was closer to 68% married, this is a drastic change. Whereas previously being single was stigmatized, today being married is frowned upon in certain circles. The Queen - and by that I mean Oprah, not Elizabeth II - isn't married and advocates it. There are even more statistics to lament. Thirty-eight percent of children in America grow up in a single-parent home and one in every two marriages ends in divorce. There are those out there applauding this change. Personally, I'm terrified. Not for myself but for my children and grandchildren. Just as my flu will have to get worse before it gets better, so too will these statistics get worse before they get better. Don't get me wrong. I think it is wonderful and progressive that those who find themselves in a difficult marriage are no longer shamed into staying in it and that abusive relationships need not be life sentences. On the other hand, boredom as grounds for divorce should be condemned. And holding out for Donald Trump's wealth, George Clooney's looks and Robin Williams's humor is not only unrealistic, it's lethal. I know I'm being harsh on my own gender, but here is the truth of the matter: If you are holding out for Lancelot it's going to be a hell of a wait. He isn't out there and you are no Guinevere. Relationships are hard work, every step of the way. If you see a couple celebrating 40 years of marriage, what they are celebrating in reality is 40 years of struggle, sacrifice and compromise. Now you think to yourself: No wonder the marriage rate is dropping. Why take anything less than perfect? Why spend years working hard on compromising when I can support myself, live on my own terms, or walk away from a relationship that is no longer fulfilling, and perhaps find another? This is how I see it. I had the flu this week. My mom called every morning to check on me and two friends and one neighbor called. We are talking a total of 20 minutes of conversation over the four days I lay in bed. They all asked me how I was feeling, to which I answered "fine." When my husband asked, I burst into tears. They all asked me if I wanted something to eat, to which I said, "No thanks, I'm fine." When my husband asked, I ordered everything on the à la carte menu. When I threw up, he held my hair back, he pressed cold compresses to my head and piled on the extra covers. You don't get a pay-out like that without a lot of hard work to lay the foundation. The truth about the truth is that the truth hurts, relationships require constant effort, the work is hard and painful most of the time but the benefits are pure joy. There is one more statistic to consider: Married women outlive single women by an average of 10 years. Perhaps it's all the extra care they're given while suffering through the flu or perhaps all the hard work makes them heartier? OK. You can get up now.