I admit that I have some mixed feelings on marriage. Having seen some marriages that were less than ideal, I grew up thinking that I probably wouldn’t get married. Marriage wasn’t really a goal of mine. I’m a firm believer that a person can be happy and whole without being married.
When I first met John, I certainly didn’t entertain ideas of marrying him. It wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, we were each dating other people when we met. (If you must know, I was dating his roommate.)
But I think I can pinpoint the moment I fell for John. It was over a year after I first met him, and some time after both of our earlier relationships had ended. The moment I fell for John was was, remarkably, right after I fell on my butt.
It was the winter break of my Junior year of college, late December. I had just returned to the US from a semester abroad in Brazil. I went over to my by-that-point-ex-boyfriend’s house to catch up. John was still one of his housemates, and hearing that he was home, I went up to his room say hello. His door was open, and I poked my head in to say hi. Then I glanced at the papers he had taped up on his door, a long vertical banner of dot-matrix printouts. (Did I mention this was 1991?) First was a set of Dan Quayle quotes. Below that was a bunch of quotes taken from insurance claims. I started reading. I snickered. I laughed some more. I read some more. I bent down to read the pages lower down on the door, eventually squatting to read those at knee-level. I read: “I saw a slow-moving, sad-faced old gentleman as he bounced off the hood of my car.” I tried to read it out loud, but was laughing so hard I couldn’t. I laughed so hard I lost my balance, squatting there on my heels. I fell right onto my butt.
You might think that this would be somewhat of an embarrassing turn of events for a reunion with an acquaintance. And perhaps it would have been, except that John, seeing me laughing so hard at things that he had found funny enough to print out and hang on his door, was laughing along with me. And while he may well have been laughing at me for falling on my ass in his doorway, I didn’t mind. I was laughing too hard. And when our eyes met, both of us laughing at the quotes and my clumsiness, I’m pretty sure that was the moment that I knew I had found someone I wanted to know better.
We didn’t get married that night. But we did start seeing more of each other. Then we moved in together. Got engaged. Bought a house. We made some attempts to plan a wedding, but were foiled by various scheduling conflicts with key family members.
We ended up getting married by a Justice of the Peace eight years into our relationship, and shortly before I planned to quit my job. (Die-hard romantic that I was, I wanted to have health insurance.) We’d had a long engagement, and what with living together and owning a house together, even, I felt that we were largely as committed as we needed to be. What with my luke-warm views on the institution of marriage, I didn’t see how being married would change our relationship. I remember commenting to an acquaintance, a married woman a few years older than me, something to that effect. She replied: “Marriage does change things. It gets better.”
I have to say that she was right. It was a subtle shift, but having our commitment be officially recognized made things a bit more settled, and a bit more comfortable. And when we had our party (several years later), the wedding ceremony to celebrate our marriage surrounded by our friends and family, it got even better.
Sometimes, when you are lucky enough to find someone who shares your sense of humor and your worldview, someone you love passionately and who loves you right back, someone who lets you feel at home with yourself, that conventionalized connection marriage gives you makes you feel just a little bit more together and a little bit more at home. It’s a declaration to the world that you know who’s going to be there to help you up when you fall on your butt.
This post is dedicated to Flutter, a remarkably strong, strikingly beautiful woman with a great sense of humor, to share in her joy at getting married. Flutter, I wish you and Clay many happy years full of love, health, comfort and humor. May you laugh your asses off together with abandon. (Emily has invited those who know Flutter to join in on the celebration. To see more of the well-wishing, go see her post “Mawigge is what brings us together today.”)
This post is also dedicated to John, love of my life, who has been there for me, on more occasions than I can count, when I have fallen on my butt (either literally or figuratively) over these past 20+ years.