Thursday, March 15, 2007

Prenuptial Semantics

You know you’ve reached phase three—quarter life—the moment a wedding invitation comes in the mail and it’s addressed to you.

This happened pretty early for me—I was 21. A girl who was on the same exchange program with me in Ireland got married at the ripe age of 22 (much to my absolute horror). At her wedding, I realized why she had chosen to marry so young—she was from the Land of the Marrying People. Left and right there were couples who had been together since high school. Girls younger than me flashed their engagement rings to one another, while the ones who didn’t yet have them said things like, “John’s going to propose soon, I can feel it.” Gossip mongers whispered about, “Poor Ashley’s been waiting for her ring for almost six months now. What’s Eric waiting for?” while I, wide-eyed and absolutely terrified for the entire duration of the reception, drowned myself in Jack and Cokes.

E came to visit with her husband a few months back and we got together for drinks. She and her husband were working two jobs to save for a down payment on a house and she had been stressed-out for the last two years. When he was out of earshot, she confided in me that she missed dating.

“You mean, like, you want M to take you out more?”

After a brief hesitation, “Uh, yeah. Kind of like that…”

It was pretty obvious that she wasn’t very happy. I knew it was primarily the financial burdens that were weighing her down—she hadn’t had a chance to enjoy her honeymoon period because she was too busy stressing about grad school and finding a place to live from the get-go—but she also seemed tired of being married. Despite my cynicism when it comes to marriage, I’m not about to go and encourage someone to make such a huge life-changing decision like leaving their spouse, so I assured her that things would get better once they paid the down payment. She seemed a little skeptical, but forced a smile and agreed.

God knows why, but a few months ago, a friend of mine forwarded me some sort of article about the practical questions couples should ask each other before they get married. Big things like “How many children do we want to have?” and “If one needs to relocate, will the other be willing to follow?” to seemingly inane (but still very important) ones like, “Will we have a TV in the bedroom?” Seeing no use for it, I passed it along to a friend whose brother is about to get married.

“I don’t know why someone sent me this, but you can pass it along to your brother.”

I guess she assumed that I was being my usual cynical, overly-pragmatic self and shot back with:

“Marriage is about love, not some survey.”

Very true, very true, but it’s the couples who abide too strictly by the theory that “love conquers all” who end up freaking the fuck out when they find out that their husband is going to pursue his dream of becoming a street artist the same week you find out you’re pregnant with your fifth child.

I think a lot of people, often myself included, are really taken with the notion of getting married, but the concept of being married completely escapes them. I admit, I fantasize sometimes about finding some great guy, falling retardedly in love and having a big stinkin’ wedding, but that’s where the fantasies stop. No one fantasizes about what comes after that. Who sits around and thinks about the years of dirty socks lying on the bedroom floor and getting your ear chewed off because you aren’t romantic enough anymore? Assuming the marriage goes extremely well, even, you rarely fantasize about happily sitting at home together and just being married. So people get caught up. They plan the big wedding, the $5000 flowers, the big poufy dress, flower girls and doves flying overhead as you kiss. They think about waterskiing on their honeymoon and the first year of picking out matching curtains and wallpaper for the new house and getting pregnant with the first baby. They forget about the hours of doing nothing, the arguments, the bills, the mortgage payments, the first time he loses his job, the fourth unplanned pregnancy, the having sex with the same person for the rest of your life.

I met E when she was already engaged and in the midst of her wedding plans, and she was happy, carefree, excited, young. She asked me for all sorts of advice about seat covers, cake flavors, flower colors, honeymoon destinations, houses, cities to live in. But she never asked me how to be married. And now, two years later, the dress is in storage, the flowers are dead, the cake is eaten, and all that's left are responsibilities she didn't know she'd have and routines she didn't want.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got married at 23. And while we were engaged, we had to go to pre-cana. I thought it would be BS but it dealt with a lot of things that should be discussed before walking down the aisle. I learned a lot and even now, 4 years later, it still helps. Marriage is about love, but the survey (and pre-cana) never hurts.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of my high school friends got married really early, I have been to 5 weddings already and I am 24. That's what happens when you don't go to college and stay in the same town with the same girl you went to prom with. They probably won't get divorced because they are too scared to leave the only thing they know. Nice to see a post from you.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous km said...

marraige. *shivers* relationships are hard enough. why be legally bound by one....

love the entry. u couldnt have said it better.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

glad you're back

11:19 AM  

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