Monday, June 18, 2012

okay. the truth.

I've been in a writing group since the beginning of the year. On Sunday evenings, the six of us gather with our notepads and laptops, huddling around electrical outlets in our Barnes and Noble to hash out details of our lives and our emotions and sharing the words we can assign to our life experiences.

I read last Friday's post to my writing group last night, and they called me out. Jami paused and conceded that perchance she knows me too well by now, but she was certain there was more to say. "That's a lie," Ms. Gregg* summarized.

The emotions that spill forward when friends get married are more messy and complex than just being happy for your friends. Even for friends, a marriage is a loss, in some way. Augusta will never again be my roommate, because she'll be Mitch's roommate. The three of us— Augusta, Mitch and Shanti— as three kids will cease, as Mitch and Augusta make big, adult decisions. Maria and I won't again be eleven-year-old girls watching The Parent Trap in her basement, playing with our dolls, running squealing from her brothers and eating French toast on Saturday mornings.

We wouldn't be whether or not she and Alex were getting married, but something about a wedding really puts a wax seal on the deal. As much as I like to tell myself that a marriage is just a legal contract, that's a brave face. Regardless of where it goes or if it ends, a marriage holds huge significance. I can say that once you're engaged, you've already agreed to spend your lives together, so what's the big rush to get married. (And Amy and I have said that in our conversations.) I stand by that on one count, as far as planning a beautiful wedding.

But to really get a handle on what marriage means to us as a society, I like to think of it through the lens of a blind date test. If I were going on a blind date with somebody, what's the baggage our mutual friend would share? A relationship? Maybe. An engagement? Almost certainly. A marriage? Absolutely. It's the marriage that we really want to know about before that blind date. How did the couple get to the altar? What happened? Why did it end? Was it bad?

What about marriage makes it more significant than living together? Maria and Alex have been living together for more than three years, but their getting married suddenly sounds so grown-up. When Elizabeth Gilbert wrote her sequel to Eat, Pray, Love, Committed, she explored what marriage means from a myriad of perspectives, and she mused on the concept that her deep, meaningful relationship that wasn't sealed with a marriage license meant nothing to U.S. Border Patrol, while two sixteen-year-olds who'd gotten married after an accidental pregnancy would have been given full protection in the same situation.

So marriage holds significance in our psyches and culture, whether or not we like it.

Another aspect of the emotions attached to the experience is the light a wedding sheds on our own situations. Last night, Ms. Gregg, in true form, made a most eloquent observation: "I don't think it's ever easy to think other people have an intimate completeness, no matter what it costs, if you don't have that right now."

It's true. I honestly don't want to get married right now. For me, it would feel binding and not liberating. But that's essentially because I haven't found the person I want to marry. To know that these women in my world have found someone who they want to marry, whether or not our dreams look the same, sometimes makes me wonder. Am I missing out on something? Will I ever find someone I want to marry?  And back to what Ms. Gregg said— it's that "intimate completeness." We dream about an intimate completeness, and when our friends are getting married, we imagine that they have that.

And they probably do. When Maria talks about the way Alex irons his shirts, it's so mundane that it speaks of an intimacy I've not yet known with a partner. I don't know yet know the person with whom I want to share that, and their intimacy sheds light on my own lack of intimacy at this point in my life.

I still operate as a single unit, and I love that on so many levels. The thought of  having my major decisions depend at least partially on someone else's desires literally inspires shallower breathing in me. I can't imagine being trapped in that way, because that's what it sounds like to me right now. Just the same, in those occasional situations where I find myself operating as two with someone, I am reminded of how sweet it is to feel that partnership. That's what my friends experience on the daily, and, like Ms. Gregg said, "no matter what it costs," they have it. Is it worth it?

There's plenty more to say on this topic, but I feel now I'm leaning more in the direction of telling the truth. Thank you for reading, and please feel free to leave comments.

*I call Julia "Ms. Gregg" because she was my teacher and advisor for two years in high school, and even though she says I can call her Julia, it still feels weird to do so. Maybe someday it won't.

Photo sources unknown.

1 comment:

  1. Good writing and thinking and telling the truth...