Marriage is everywhere, all the time. Or more accurately, weddings are everywhere, all the time. So it’s something that I almost can’t help but find myself thinking about a lot on many different levels ranging from the semi-philosophical to the harmlessly superficial. (In more concrete terms: “Does marriage really fundamentally change the nature of a relationship?” to “Will I have a Pinterest page for party favors?”)
I can’t remember a time in my life when I did not want to get married. This was in spite of the fact that I didn’t go on my first date until I was comfortably into my 20s; I didn’t meet the guy who would be my first (and last––aw shucks!) boyfriend until I was 25. Twenty-five seems so young now––because it is so young––but at the time I felt very abnormal and it frequently occurred to me that continuing to imagine that marriage was in the cards for me was perhaps overly optimistic. Again, this was not overly optimistic, because again, 25 is basically puberty still. I’m just trying to get to my point, which I am not doing a very good job of, which is that even when my dating life was nonexistent and pretty far-off, I always, always had this notion hanging out in the back of my brain that one day I would wear the white dress and marry a then-faceless man in the black (or dark navy, I couldn’t decide) tux, and we would have probably three children and I would name one of them after either my grandma’s maiden name (Taylor) or my mom’s maiden name (Kennedy).
I couldn’t, and can’t, help it; the idea of marriage is built into me, as I’m sure it is for lots of people who were raised on things like pot roast and religion. My parents have been married for almost thirty years, and they are best friends who do everything together but also nothing together in that they spend a lot of time on the couch playing Bingo on their iPads, not talking––an inspiring portrait of long-wedded bliss that I’ve always wanted too.
On December 30, 2011, I landed in JFK after four days in Las Vegas. The next day, when my mom started to ask a long string of questions, interro-style (as is her custom), I couldn’t hold back any longer. I told her I had met the guy I was going to marry. I can only assume that my mom was taken aback by this news, as I was the same daughter who had, only days earlier, snorted at her suggestion that I’d meet my future husband in Las Vegas. (Because who says that?) Now I was prancing around in my leopard print Snuggie eating leftover Christmas cookies gushing about a mystery man with an anachronistic French-sounding name who had also once been Mormon (two of the three or four facts I had about him). But my mom entertained my girlish whimsy nonetheless––for awhile, anyway. Then, when she must have realized that I was showing no sign of settling down about it, she began to say things like, “Maybe you should stop saying that, um, you know. That you are going to marry him.”
Pragmatic advice, definitely. So I stopped saying it (out loud).
Two months later we had our first date. The next day, when my mom started to ask a long string of questions, interro-style (as is her custom), my reply was nonchalant and matter-of-fact: “Oh, we’re getting married.” (I’ll add that this response was far too confident for someone who had said goodnight with a firm handshake/ “Go team!” huddle formation–type gesture.) I don’t remember my mom asking too many questions after that.
It’s three years later now, as you’re probably aware. It is a Monday night and I am lying next to Beau, who has stolen the remote from me and has changed the channel from Dancing with the Stars to Big Momma’s House. We engage in a brief skirmish. All in all, things have worked out.
We aren’t married or engaged, and to be frank, we aren’t even really all that close to being engaged. This is fine for the most part, because the thought of giving away all my money right now to wedding vendors makes me feel queasy, as does the thought of Beau spending many dollars on a piece of jewelry that Leonardo DiCaprio smuggled from Sierra Leone. I also would like to have a longer courtship because when the “engagement” does happen, I would like people’s reactions to err on the side of, “Fuckin’ finally” rather than “Well, someone’s jumping the gun.”
Still, I have my moments. I am not proud of these moments and I fully acknowledge that my “having a moment” stems from factors that are mainly external and social. I also acknowledge that whatever stress or pressure or frustration I occasionally feel about marriage places me in a very specific socioeconomic category (hetero, privileged) that in fact de-legitimizes the stress, pressure, and frustration. That is why I have inserted the word “problematic” into the title of this post; it’s my small, feeble attempt at self-awareness. Though I suppose if I was truly self-aware, I wouldn’t have written this at all. But let’s ignore that for the purposes of getting through this. My point is that I know I do not have any real, valid right to feel in any way angsty, even occasionally, about me and marriage right now, because 1) I am only 28 and I should not feel compelled to speed up my life when its current pace is suiting me just fine, more or less, and 2) the fact of the matter is that I have a legally, socially accepted right to be married, period, and when I am married one day, no one will think twice about it or say “Do they really have to shove it in our face like that? It’s just not natural.” At least I don’t think so. But you never know.
The thing about marriage that’s most bothersome to me at the moment, I think, is not that I am not married or close to it, but how all the outside nonsense about marriage makes you feel about yourself when you aren’t. How everyone sort of acts like it’s the pinnacle of every young man or woman’s life, so you better on that, kiddo. How it’s an assumed step in one’s life trajectory. How people might feel a little sad or uncomfortable for you when your younger sibling gets on that saddle way before it’s even a feasible option for you. And also how the labels “husband” and “wife” and even “engaged” automatically, unquestionably elevate a relationship. You know? It’s somehow unfair that a couple who has dated for only a few months and hasn’t even heard each other fart yet can get engaged and BAM! They are a realer, truer pair than a couple who has dated for a few years but can’t, oh I don’t know, scrape together the funds to throw an expensive party for their love. The new couple is now out there hobnobbing with all the marrieds, having board game nights and talking about place settings and wall colors, and the other couple––and they’ve been through some shit together––they’re now the black sheep cousin living in the basement playing video games. Where is the justice in that?
One may say, aw, come on man, that’s not true, or aw, come on man, you can’t put a time stamp on love! Well, no. Maybe you can’t. I know every relationship is different, and time is no guarantee. I know there are married couples out there whose short courtships and perhaps hasty engagements have withstood the test of time, and who have grown past googly eyes and explorative sex into a love that is mature, and tested, and deep. I know it’s not fair to say that a couple who has dated for only a few months loves each other less than a couple who has been together for years and years. But you know what? I’m sort of saying that. Well, “less” probably isn’t the right word. But “differently,” I think, is. They love differently. Not better or worse or more or less. But differently. And I think that difference, however you want to articulate or define it, matters.
I guess I don’t really know what I’m saying here, but I have to write a conclusion so here it goes. I like the idea of marriage and always have. I think it’s a nice, meaningful, beautiful thing. And I want to be married––maybe not now, but one day. I would just like all the hullabaloo surrounding it to settle the fuck down, a little. I do.