I’m going to need everyone who has posted a Facebook status along the lines of, “Happy Anniversary to my best friend and the love of my life!” to form a line, so that in an orderly fashion, I can walk down said line and thump each of you right in the middle of your foreheads.
Is your husband really, truly your best friend? Really?
Because mine isn’t.
When people ask me how I met my husband, I usually just say, “Church.” You need to know someone pretty well before you say something like, “God told me he was my husband and even though I’m not used to hearing voices, I just went for it! What’s to lose, amiright?!”
It was the summer of 1997, I was 19 years old and spending the break working in the office of a new evangelical church my mother had started attending.
My parents had just gone through a shocking divorce, and by shocking, let me just say that to this very day, almost 20 years after their divorce, I’ve never heard my parents argue. Ever. They woke us up one fine Alabama Saturday morning and told us they had gotten a divorce a few weeks earlier and my dad was moving out. There was no warning shot fired, no attempt at counseling or reconciliation, just that one sucker punch when we weren’t paying attention. A year later, I broke up with my boyfriend of four years and my heart was still tender from both events.
Maybe I was naive to think I could bargain with God, but nevertheless, I laid out my terms in my journal:
I’ll never give my heart away again. I’m giving it to you. Maybe I’m ridiculous to never want to date again, but if you could just give me a sign or something when I meet my husband—THEN I’ll date him and fall in love. I don’t want to risk picking the wrong person again. After everything…I don’t trust my own judgment. So a burning bush? I’m not in a hurry. I’m ready to go all Sister Mary Clarence about this (that’s a Sister Act joke—God gets me). So, please. Smoke signals? Something…
Before I headed back for the next semester, my older brother Matt and I decided to go to Texas for a Christian motorcycle rally with a family from our new church. (And yes, I do realize this story is getting weirder by the second.) It was kind of a Christian convention meets county fair/campgrounds, but with former Hells Angels who have converted and love Jesus — I’m sure you have the perfect mental picture.
We borrowed a tent, loaded Matt’s car and joined a caravan of cars following the O’Bryant family to Texas. One of their sons, Zeb, was a year younger than me. But even if I hadn’t been in my Sister Mary Clarence phase, I wouldn’t have looked at him twice.
Zeb wasn’t my type. My type was clean cut and all-American, the kind who wore lots of Polo shirts and khaki pants, possibly played golf and most definitely was a member of Key Club. Zeb rode a metallic blue 1976 Harley-Davidson everywhere he went, had a goatee that was a little longer than I thought sanitary and his naturally brown hair was bleached blonde and spiked in a manner not unlike Edward Cullen’s — or Edward Scissorhands’, for that matter.
Regardless, meeting Zeb began a weekend-long love affair with his vintage Harley-Davidson and Texas back roads. Every time Zeb jumped on his bike, he’d give me a nod, I’d hop on and we’d take off. The rumble of the Harley and the twisting roads through the Hill Country almost hypnotized me. The wind blasted my face and ratted my hair as the sun warmed my jeans. I was careful to keep my hands gently on Zeb’s hips and to not lean too close against him — Sister Mary Clarence didn’t want to inadvertently press any boobage against his back and give him the wrong idea.
We were sitting in a tent revival type of meeting — folding chairs and open air with the stars hanging low and lazy in the night sky. Our faces were still grey with the road dust and we smelled sweetly of sunshine and gasoline. I was sitting there with my Bible open on my lap when I had a crazy thought:
“My husband is here somewhere…”
My eyes scanned the crowd and as they did, they fell on Zeb, who was sitting to my right, ripped jeans and motorcycle boots propped on the chair in front of him. Now I’m not saying I heard an audible voice, but something deep inside of me clearly shouted, “It’s him.”
I knew from that moment on I would marry him. And it’s a damn good thing I was hearing voices that night — otherwise, I would’ve totally missed it.
Zeb is my polar opposite. He’s an extrovert; I’m an introvert. He loves nature and the outdoors; I’ve wondered if I could get a PhD in Netflix. He’s calm, steady and always in a good mood. I’m creative, a roller-coaster of emotions and quite frankly — prone to hysterics.
I want a best friend who will tell me I need one more pair of shoes and a man who will remind me to save for my retirement account. I want to call my best friend when I feel I’ve been wronged and hear her say, “What a b*tch! I can’t believe she said that to you!” I want to be married to a man who says, “Who gives a sh*t what she thinks?” And I want to get into bed at night with a man who ignites things in me no one else can.
Zeb isn’t my “best friend.”
I have never been so angry at my best friend that I fantasized about throwing a lamp or other miscellaneous piece of furniture at her head. I can’t say the same for ole Zeb. For example, once our 3-year-old had walking pneumonia. Sadie was running a fever, listless and refused to drink anything. I tried all manner of juices, an assortment of sippy cups and silly straws all to no avail.
“Zeb, will you go to the store and get some Popsicles?” I asked.
“Do you really think she needs sugar when she’s this sick?”
“I think she needs any type of fluid she can get down because she’s going to get dehydrated. So yes, I think she needs Popsicles.” I replied.
“Give her some water,” Zeb advised.
“Try some juice.”
“Really Zeb? I’ve tried everything. That’s why I need Popsicles.” I was starting to get pretty pissed.
“I just don’t think she needs sugar.” He said, again.
“Noted. Now go to the store and get Popsicles. Please.” I said ‘please’ out loud but in my head, I was screaming, “YOU SOB!”
He was as mad as all get out, but he went to the store — victory was mine! Sadie would be hydrated! All was well with the world…until he walked in the door carrying a box of 200 Otter Pops that weren’t even frozen.
“Is this really happening?!” I yelled, “What the hell? POPSICLES, Zeb! Why is that so hard?”
“These ARE Popsicles!” He yelled back.
“No they aren’t! They’ll be Popsicles in 36-48 hours but they are most certainly NOT Popsicles right now! Why didn’t you get frozen ones?”
He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I didn’t know you could buy them that way.”
“Are you sure that’s how you want to play this? Do you really want me to believe you’re that stupid?” I asked.
I don’t know that I’ve ever been so completely filled with rage. Over freaking Popsicles.
But that’s the way it is with me and Zeb — we are passionate and stubborn. Sometimes I think I might see myself on an episode of Dateline, Josh Mankiewicz strolling down our street as a camera pans wide and says, “In the small town of Greenwood, Mississippi, everything looked perfect for Zeb and Robin O’Bryant…until one day, in a fit of rage, Robin did the unthinkable…”
But then, in a split second, Zeb is there with eyes the exact same amber brown as sunshine filtered through a beer bottle. He wraps his arms around me while I’m standing at the stove cooking dinner. He kisses my neck and his beard tickles my skin, “Sorry,” he whispers. And I melt.
Zeb isn’t my best friend. Depending on the movie I want to see, I’ll ditch him in a second for my girlfriends. But when things gets real, I don’t care if anyone is standing with me but him. He’s my partner, my equal and without a doubt, my better half. Zeb is the peanut butter to my jelly, the yin to my yang, the spiritual Xanax to my eight-ball of coke.
I’m also going to need all of you people who say, “Thanks for the best 15 years of my life!” to stand in a separate corner and await your own punishment, because marriage isn’t easy, and it most certainly isn’t all happy.
I’d rather say:
“I really appreciate you driving me to therapy every week.”
“Thanks for not leaving me when I act like a lunatic.”
“Thanks for acting like you thought I was sexy for the last 16 years even though I’ve gained and lost hundreds of pounds and my stretch marks look like a topographical map of the Rocky Mountains.”
I have lots of friends, hell, I even have lots of best friends…but there is and will always be, only one Zeb. He’s my husband and that’s enough.
About the Author: Robin O’Bryant is the The New Times best-selling author of Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves. You can follow her on FaceBook as Robin O’Bryant or Twitter.