Optimism. Hmph.


The first thing I saw on the computer this morning was from an engagement photo shoot. I don’t know the couple. I thought “Psht, do people actually do that? Man, if I ever got talked into getting engaged, let alone taking engagement photos, there would only be two pictures: One of my guy and I looking at each other with ‘this is stupid, let’s go get a beer’ looks on our faces; and another of us walking away, laughing.”

I feel the same way about anniversary parties. I recently watched a movie which started out in a couple’s home. They were standing on the staircase, surrounded by their friends, the husband was giving a speech about love and whatnot. At the base of the stairs was an easel holding a large photo of the couple on their wedding day. Over the stairs there was a sign that said ‘Happy Five Year Anniversary Blabla and Blabla!” Then, too, I thought “who does that?! And only after FIVE years? Jesus, talk about optimism.”

I was once engaged. I said yes to my nervous, coldly-sweating boyfriend because I didn’t realize you could say no to someone when they asked you to marry them. Also I wasn’t quite ready for a party we were expected to arrive at any minute – it was New Year’s Eve. I didn’t really put much thought into it because I didn’t know that I could.

When planning the wedding, I became overwhelmed by the simplest things. My heart wasn’t in it, but it was a job I assumed I had been tasked to do by his proposing, so I went through the motions of driving around looking at venues, trying on a dress or two, agreeing when my brother told me I looked like a cupcake in them. I finally gave up and one rainy afternoon in the car I said “lets just get married. Let’s just pick a date and whoever can make it can make it, whoever can’t, whatever. I can’t deal with the stress of this.” He took over from there.

We got married on the beach surrounded mostly by his friends, as he is from this area, and I am from Michigan. He planned and ordered the cake, arranged the ‘reception’ (basically a potluck in his friend’s backyard. No music. Safeway pre-arranged flowers. A turkey just one week before Thanksgiving). He chose the location. I blindly nodded my head to all of it because frankly I didn’t care. I’d never fantasized about a wedding as a girl, so I had nothing to counter his suggestions with. I’d never been in a wedding, or to a bridal shower. I didn’t even know that I was supposed to have a Maid of Honor, who was supposed to do a lot of the bullshit work for me.

I was two hours late to our wedding. We lived in Oakland at the time, and I wasn’t familiar with the coast. My fiance drew a map which took my party in the wrong direction (I found it later to prove this mistake when he didn’t believe me). Once on the right path, we got a flat tire. My dad, who had flown in from Kalamazoo, reached over at one point and said “heh, he’s going to think you sold the ring and flew to Mexico!” I laughed, then he lowered his voice and said, “it’s not too late you know.” I paused, then laughed again, and he joined me. But now I know it wasn’t a joke. He liked my husband-to-be well enough, but also would have supported me 100% had I chosen to say ‘fuck this!’ In hindsight, I wish I had.

Without that marriage, though, who knows if I would have learned all of the things that took the marriage down in the end. I wouldn’t have done as much therapy, thereby growing a backbone over the next 10 years, learning how to communicate, how to ask for what I need, how to say No to what I don’t want. Oof, that was a tough lesson to learn. It is also one I’d like to practice for the rest of my life – outside of marriage. It’s fair to say I’m still rattled enough from my own experience that when I see young giddily smiling couples posing for engagement photos I think, “suckers.”

But then I think “well, I hope they make it.”

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