Friday, February 3, 2012

Because We Need To Finish The Veal Stew First

I had promised an ambitious food posting, but then there's still stew to be eaten and fish doesn't keep, so fish later, stew until there is no more, and something different for reading today.

Last weekend, we had brunch with my mother-in-law and devoted partner(husband)'s former minister whom I had only met once at a Border's in 19something and who wasn't able to attend our wedding. She asked us a question which, strangely, people have been asking: does it feel different to be married? And I don't want to belittle the question because it's a rather valid one in our circumstance. We were together a very long time before making it official and that perplexed people; as it perplexed them when, seemingly out of nowhere, we decided to go ahead and sign the papers and serve wine with them. I think if you had asked me to answer that question before marriage I would have given a flippant answer. Now, though, I have to admit that it is different. But in very specific, kinda cheesy ways.

I draw your attention to two things I've read about love and marriage in the past day, both courtesy of friend postings on Facebook. The first a story about a married couple whose lives were irrevocably changed when the husband suffered irreversible brain damage; the second about a single woman my age contemplating a lifetime with a man whose views on religion deviate so wildly from her own that crying is a frequent occurrence.

Both of these articles incited emotion from me; emotion that would have been different prior to marriage. I would have, without hesitation, assured you, in my pre-marriage state, that I was with devoted partner in sickness and in health. But I would have been under no moral, ethical, or quasi-legal obligation to do so. It was merely my love for him that prompted that response. Now, though, it's serious. It's real. Words are only words save for how you endow them with meaning, and when we recited our vows - our traditional, old-fashioned vows - we meant them. Literally. Irrevocably. I think it's why we wanted those vows. Those were the lessons of marriage that spoke to us and we wanted it to be absolutely clear that we were signing on for old-fashioned, irrevocable marriage. It wasn't just laziness on our parts. Or as Henry Rollins said, "Me and you until we die. For better for worse. You get cancer, I'm sticking with you, your tits get cut off, I'm sticking with you, you f-ing grow this melanoma lump out of your f-ing head, I'm staying with you. I gotta put you in adult f-ing diapers when you're 90, I love you and I'm going to do it every day."* We didn't think the guests would really get that, so we went with the book of common prayer. And this first article is absolutely heartbreaking because it resonates so strongly. Sure, we had gobs of years in the bag where that's what we thought, but being married feels different because we know we're going to do it now.

Which brings me to the second article where a woman is wondering if she should enter into what any rational person could see is a doomed long-term relationship simply because she's 34 and her pickings are slim. All the self-righteous crap I just spewed above, that's MY truth. MY life. MY stubbornness. And I do my level best not to judge how others do it simply because we decided on the Thunderdome interpretation of marriage. But it gets me in the gut to read and hear about this paranoia of being left alone and grabbing at anything vaguely compatible to avoid this. As if you get a medal for it, or that at your funeral they make mention that you lived your life summa cum somebody. Marriages are tough in the best of situations, but entering into one where you already have one of the three bellwethers of divorce checked off (the other two are money and kids) beggars belief. And doing so because you think it's the best you'll ever get (an outlook, by the way, which I believe dooms one to only getting the ok out of life)?

Listen, I'm now a big advocate of this whole spending-your-life-with-the-same-person thing, I like it, but the whole Big Capitalized Vow aspect? I never could have done that for someone who was just the best I could get. I'd like to think most people (or most of the people I know) get into marriage because they love the other person and think it's going to work forever, not simply so they can check "married" off on their bucket lists; it's terrible when it doesn't work out that way, but knowing it's not going to work out that way and having the party anyway? Ick. I mean these are the author's own words: "But if I decide not to be a part of this holy threesome, I could risk ending up on my own. That doesn't sound like a very good deal to make. In fact, that sounds rather like a deal with the Devil." Great, so marry someone with whom you have fundamental, intrinsic differences and enjoy the two years or so of getting to claim you're married before you kill each other or merely divide your stuff and flee to opposite ends of the country. Is there a prize for that?

So, yes, it feels different to be married. More weighty. More explicitly responsibility-laden. And while I clearly did judge the soon-to-be-married-and-then-divorced author, there are too many struggling marriages that deserve a chance for me to get worked up about a theoretical one that should never happen. We waited a long time, and I'm glad we did. Not because it is an amusing story to tell new people, but because, given our feelings about marriage, we wanted to be damn sure we meant it. Having set it down on paper? Yeah, that feels pretty damned different!

*Dear Henry Rollins, This is now the third time I have bought this album. Today I did it to find that one passage. Thank goodness for The Cloud because, theoretically, it means I won't have to buy it again. Love, Yelena.

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