I’ve recently become engaged. To be married. For the third time.
My first engagement was an eight week affair. On the verge of a genial break up, we discovered ourselves expectant of a little life-changer. I said, “We’d better get married then,” all matter-of-fact, and he simply agreed to my simple (twisted) logic.
There was a rush to get the wedding planned before I started showing, and the day went relatively according to plan (my mother’s plan for a budget wedding worthy of an honorable mention in any typical bridal magazine).
By the time I got engaged for the second time, I had grown tired of dropping hints with my partner, and declared that I was going to marry myself on a very specific auspicious day. My mate took it upon himself to ask me to marry him on what would’ve been my day to marry myself. (In retrospect, I should’ve kept my original pact with myself.)
At the time he asked me, I recalled the other proposals I had received over the years. I was first offered a deluxe Kirby vacuum (in lieu of a ring) by an intoxicated friend who thought I’d make a good helpmate (in the most misogynist definition of the term). He said I looked like I had good childbearing hips, and that I’d really appreciate that vacuum more than a ring once I tried it out. The second was a workmate/stalker who insisted that he would “take care of me” (also in the most misogynist, honey-I-brought-home-the-bacon-just-so-you-can-keep-house-for-me sort of way). The third was a man who I had once loved and desired to marry, but who waited until we had long parted and I had fallen in love with someone new before he drove 300 miles to ask me in a last ditch unromantic rush.
Of the proposals I had had up to that moment, I turned them all down (having of course never even been asked by the one man I actually married). So I found it odd that I was finally being asked by someone I considered a life mate, one who I had goaded to consider such a choice, only after I had finally given up and accepted his stubborn refusal to “conform to society’s expectations of couples” or some such nonsense. He leaned into me on that oddly auspicious morning and proposed:
“Let’s get married.”
As if marrying myself was so illogical that it got him to rethink his position on marriage altogether.
We planned a yearlong engagement. We were to marry exactly a year after the proposal, which left me plenty of time to warp into bridezilla, planzilla, pain-in-the-asszilla or whatever it was that led me to be consumed by the planning process of a perfect second wedding for both of us. It had to be understated, and earthy, yet I also wanted to somehow include my entire (and very large) extended family. We agreed to have a small beach ceremony, followed 2 days later by a more lavish catered reception.
The more plans I made, the colder his feet grew. I recall arguments that spun out of my attempts to include him in the planning process.
“How can you be thinking about wedding favors when you’re not even getting along with me?” “We shouldn’t even be deciding on a menu for the reception when you’re not making an effort to communicate well.” “I think you care more about the wedding than the marriage!”
And so, I was left to mind my P’s and Q’s, attempting to prove my love by being a good listener, communicator, and keeping all of my wedding plans to myself. What a futile task that was! I was doomed to always say the wrong thing, speak with the wrong tone, express the wrong kind of sigh, and it was maddening, all that trying to prove myself worthy of his love. We got along better when we were just partners (or so I had believed).
Eleven weeks before our slated date, the wedding was called off, and, as much as it saddened me, I knew it was for the best. We tried to make a go of it, on and off and on again. We tried to redefine what we were, but it seemed we only worked when we had no definition, no enduring plan for a life together, when it was simply a carefree thing.
After the break up, I didn’t think I would ever find someone who got me, who really really got me the way I wanted. None of my partners ever spoke or understood my language, and I had accepted that I was okay with that, that perhaps I was never to find the kind of love I believed I deserved. But that all changed so swiftly when I met my true match.
I had recently left grad school, determined never to return and uncertain what to do next, when an old boss from my undergrad days rehired me as a barista. I had come full circle, happy to have my nose out of the books, and glad to be departed from nonsensical theoretical lenses and back into the flow of being a simple coffee wench serving the locals I had long known and missed dearly. We met there at work, in a kitchen shared by two separate businesses. I, the befuddled barista/baker in the cafe on the right; he, the mysteriously non-local chef for the Italian restaurant on the left. The day I met him, I was certain that I already knew him from somewhere I could not place, and I told him as much.
“I get that a lot,” he said, unfazed.
Somehow I just knew he spoke my language.
It was just like any other ordinary Wednesday in June. Only that was the day I met my future husband. I didn’t know it at the time, but my then on (soon to be forevermore off) partner could already see a change in me when I told him about meeting “a cool chef at work.” He asked: “Is this someone I need to be worried about?” And I answered honestly that I only knew this was someone who I wanted to be my friend.
I introduced my fiance to nearly half of my large extended family at a cousin’s wedding a few weeks ago. He was received well by everyone. My cousins, aunts and uncles all congratulated us on our engagement, and quite a few of them asked for details on the big day. When they found that I had no plans to share with them other than a possible date, a few cousins took it upon themselves to assist me in the planning process. Location, location, location! It seemed to be the most important detail that I should have ironed out by then. One cousin suggested that I have a destination wedding.
“What do you think of Maine, Amber?” she suggested. “I’ve always wanted to visit Maine!”
“I’ll think about that,” I answered politely. But I was really thinking to myself: Are you going to pay for this wedding?
It’s hard to plan a wedding for a big ol’ family when you have no budget. It’s harder still to imagine cutting so many fond well-wishers out of the party over something as silly as having scant money to pay for a super shindig. I am nothing if not creative and resourceful. There’s a fitting cliche for this somewhere up my sleeve; where there’s a will…
Yet still, I get a little cold and prickly just thinking about all the planning, anticipation and money that goes into a single day that’s supposed to be picture perfect and what not. It’s really just a simple formality that I look forward to getting over with so I can get on with married life.