Doing Dishes, 2017

Doing Dishes, 2017

I became a husband in 2017, and in an otherwise nightmarish year of national reckoning and embarrassment, I held on to my new title like a match flickering against the vortex.

I married Emily on a cloudless afternoon, beneath a pergola and among friends and family. Our friend Jiin officiated, his words deliberate and paced. Everyone complimented him on his range. During my vows, a red-tailed hawk circled overhead. When Emily said, “I do,” passengers in a passing Jeep screamed, “Yaaaassssss.”

My sister—my best ma’am—sang Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” for the mother-son dance. I looked over my mom’s shoulder at my crying father, who for the first time in probably months was made speechless.

I danced with my new wife as we ate donuts instead of cake. With my thumbs, I pulled on my suspenders and mugged for the crowd. At the end of the night, everyone packed into a trolley. I fell asleep next to Emily, afraid that I wouldn’t remember any of it the next day. But I did. I do.

But all that shit is frivolous and irrelevant because I GOT NEW DISHES. Did you know that when you get married, the people in your life throw gifts at you, and that you get to pick these gifts, and that there are systems in place to protect against duplicate gifts? That you can choose “Stemless Wine Glasses x 4” on the Crate & Barrel website and that weeks later, your aunt and uncle will have sent them to your doorstep?

I washed some good goddamn dishes this year, let me tell you. Wide soup bowls, short tumblers, angular cheese plates, his & hers coffee mugs, and an entirely new set of silverware, each piece with new contours to learn, new fragilities to grasp.

And in this ecstasy of dishwashing, I listened to new music. Constant readers will remember that I spent much of my twenties working at an outdoor education center, and that after each meal, we would bring campers/participants into the industrial dishroom to help wash and clean up. We would play music, framing the experience as a dance party with chores. Thus: the inextricable connection between rinse cycles and pop music.

These are the songs I listened to this year, when I became a husband, when I washed the dishes of my new life.

ALSO: Listen on Google Play

“Slip Away” by Perfume Genius

“Slip Away” by Perfume Genius

On Thursdays after work, I go to the Whole Foods hot buffet and attempt to invent a meal that would make my surrogate television father, Guy Fieri, so proud that his unconditional love for me would manifest in a paternal fist bump on an episode of his landmark series Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Most of these food inventions have been dead on arrival. There was nothing appetizing about stuffing breadcrumbs into garlic bread for what at the time I called “inbred crunchy bread.” And certainly no one would eat my “buffalo mesclun greens salad.”

Last night, however, with my trusty biodegradable compostable to-go box in hand, I added chicken tikka masala to a base layer of tater tots and was so excited at the result that I emailed Guy immediately.

“I call it Tater Tots Masala,” I wrote. “Please consider it for any one of your restaurants. I ask for nothing except your approval, in the way a father might pat his son on the head for coming in second at a Boy Scouts’ pinewood derby event, or the way a father might pat his son on the head for securing a lure to a fishing line, or the way a father might pat his son on the head for suggesting something new and exciting for the family food business.”

Within seconds I received a reply. “Message delivery failure,” it read. “The email address you entered, papaguy @ foodnetwork . com, does not exist or is inactive.”

“Slip Away” by Perfume Genius is part of my annual best-of dishwashing playlist. [More on that here.]

Read more of my 2017 in review.

“Play Money” by The New Pornographers

“Play Money” by The New Pornographers

(To set up this one, I need you to know that my wife’s mother’s maiden name is Callander, not Callender. Got it? Callander. [Double preface: Recently I watched the new documentary about the monumental failure of the Dana Carvey Show, and Stephen Colbert said, “Why let people figure out the joke? Tell them the joke right away.”])

Days before my wedding, I stood in the supermarket’s frozen foods aisle and looked at what I hoped I was marrying into: a dynasty of readymade self-steaming entrees, casseroles, and souffles, thawed over four microwave minutes.

The Marie Callender fortune, an empire of ice and sodium.

I should have seen the folly in this thought, as earlier in our relationship, Emily warned me that her father—who to me was still Mr. McIntosh—was not a primary architect in the personal computer boom of 1984. And I warned her that my mother’s family, the McMillans, weren’t a textbook publishing conglomerate, or the nation’s premier manufacturer of gun stocks. (My father, however, could never have a mistaken lineage: Marvullo is a made-up name, an Ellis Island misnomer gifted to us by a near-deaf immigration agent and a nascent but already uncaring bureaucracy.)

“My mother is not an heiress to the Marie Callender frozen foods imperium, as you called it,” said Emily. “She is a retired marketing director who likes playing Gears of War and reading Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.”

“I skip his articles,” I said. “It’s always like he’s saying, ‘Golly, look what I found out Can you believe it?.’ Makes me want to barf.”

So these were my future in-laws: off-brand and not quite. I sent a text to Emily while I stood there in full view of a shelf of Marie Callender’s slow-roasted beef with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and tender vegetables.

“So you have no stake in this?” I wrote. I took a picture of the display. One minute passed.

“Nope,” she wrote back. “I’m just me.”

I married her on May 20, 2017 on a cloudless afternoon, among friends and family. We married each other for love and not potential windfalls, which is how love should manifest in my opinion.

Here is “Play Money” by the New Pornographers, one of my favorite songs of the year.

The New Pornographers’ “Play Money” is part of my annual best-of dishwashing playlist. [More on that here.]

Read more of my 2017 in review.

“Daughter” by Four Tet

“Daughter” by Four Tet

If I could figure out how to lay claim to and then monetize internet searches for “Good Dad Books For Christmas,” then I would. Every time someone buys a ghostwritten memoir from whatever retired New York Yankee cashed in that year, I’d catch a windfall. New history doorstop tome from Ron Chernow? If you buy it for your dad using my algorithm, then I’d get a piece of that action! A new book about clipper ships? Fishing for coho salmon? Weirdly fetishistic histories of assassinations written by predatory former Fox news hosts? My search results will help. Every year I buy my dad another of these books, and he enjoys them.

Though, last year for Christmas I bought my father a Stratomatic baseball board game, a limp facsimile of the tabletop stat amusement he spent much of his childhood mastering. The man thanked me in a way disproportionate to what I deserved; he raised me, fed me and clothed me for 18 years, then supported me financially for an additional [redacted] years. One $18.99 purchase could not have evened things out.

If you have a positive male role model in your life, I hope you procure for him an impacting and profound gift. Here is “Daughter” by Four Tet.