By the time many women descend the aisle, they have spent their child – and early adult – hoods thinking about The Wedding. This may be a pop-culture generated idea, but it’s the idea I’ve always stuck to. I was never that girl. I didn’t pick out dresses, I didn’t think about flowers and color schemes and venues. I never thought about what my husband would look like. The hours that some spend on a day, I spent on an even more dangerous idea: the marriage, the life.
I racked up a few proposals in my late teens and early twenties, and escaped them in the same haphazard way I elicited them. It was easy to place the puzzle piece of a person up next to my nearly completed puzzle. I could never find a piece to fit, it was never difficult to put one piece aside and go back to the box. Just like my grandfather taught me, I completed the edges of my puzzle first, I had an existing framework. I propped up the puzzle box, picture side up and nestled it over the bottom box so as keep it upright. I kept comparing the pieces to the picture, to the in-progress puzzle.
In my late twenties I finally met someone who matched the picture. I couldn’t figure out how, at first, but it was a definite match. The analogy ends here, of course, because you can’t just pop a person into your existing schema. Like the addition of Mary Poppins to an otherwise un-exceptional English household, one person blows out the edges. You must begin again. You build the edges around yourselves.
Begin we did. Not consciously, of course, but everyone begins somewhere. We began in my eventual concession to a friend: yes, you may give the new guy at work my number. These were pre-Skype days, and we talked at night after his work day was over and I had Colby in bed. I sat on my back steps with the cordless land line phone squished between my shoulder and my left ear, a glass of Malbec frequently in my hand. Eventually we met, and our awkward first date gave way to more dates which eventually led to me, standing over our shared bathroom sink, using the neti pot because I have some syphilitic mutant cold, and shouting holy shit, Matt! come look at what just came out of my nose! That’s the end game, friends, finding someone who will look at your snot.
And even though I am conscious of my desire to squeeze Matt into my ideal-husband mold, it still happens. He resists, which gives me an odd sense of faith. If he never easily complies, doesn’t that make for less of a chance he will feel robbed of himself in the years to come? Maybe each shitty mustache, the constant refusal to get a hair cut; maybe that all means that he will hold on to himself through this marriage. It will prevent me from losing myself within him.
This marriage thing, well, I read too much Doris Lessing in my early twenties. I could never get how the balance would work. How is it even remotely fucking possible that you can spend your entire life with someone and retain your self? Add children to the mix, and the proverbial game is over. I want to posit an alternative: What if the nature of change isn’t a loss of self, but an opportunity for growth?
So frequently when Matt and I argue, I find myself thinking, This is not what I want my life to be like, this is not what I imagined. As I get older I am realizing that these statements, and my idealized marriage situation are never reflections of real and actual life. I used to fling around statements like, I am only going to get married once. Really. I could rattle off a list of pronouncements I’ve made on marriage that would make you simultaneously cringe and look at me with the “aww, honey, soon you’ll know” face.
I am less hesitant these days, as we move closer to the aisle. I’ve been able to loosen some of my long-held beliefs about what a marriage should be like, and this is the most healthy and liberating thing I’ve accomplished in a long time. I’ve been able to realize Matt as an actual human being who gets to have input in our life – as opposed to the benevolent golem I had created.
My knowledge and opinions on marriage have the shape of an inverted pyramid. Where I once knew so much, and now have less, but maybe more important knowledge.What I’m left with is this:
Our marriage will be whatever it is. We will do the best we can with the tools we have, and we will love each other even when we don’t love each other.