Marriage Is What Brings Us Together Today

Subtitle from AWP15 Challenge– 1. We are afraid to write what’s true, but it always seems to be the most relevant.–@CherylStrayed

What’s true?

Today: I get ready for school. I put wax in my hair, a blazer on my shoulders, blush on my cheeks. Everything is routine. I reach for my ring.

February 2015: It’s the first day of school. I greet my classes and talk about my cats and my D. It feels just a tiny bit false when I say fiancé this time. The ring on my finger says otherwise.

Speculation, April circa 1997: When I was in ninth or tenth grade, I got asked to hang out with a group of artsy kids on a weekend night. It was a coed non-sleeping sleep over. We listened to music and talked like we were five years older. I remember a girl leaving her rings somewhere. I can see the image on a shelf or a hearth. I think I told her to grab them. We all wore multiple rings. We trespassed in the neighborhood backyards after midnight. We drove to Waffle House.   She must have taken them off before and never had them in the car. The rings, I mean. The next day, I remember being blamed for her not finding them. It was ridiculous. I knew it was ridiculous, but I still went home, eager to make friends with someone I didn’t like, and I found a ring that my mother had. It was a small diamond, on a white gold setting. It meant a lot to me, and I gave it away. For some reason I thought it was a good idea; I’d sacrifice something I loved, something I knew was valuable to me and my family, to make amends for a wrong-doing I didn’t believe I’d committed. She didn’t say thank you.


February 2013: After good years, and bad years, and mountains of love and fighting for what I wanted and what she wanted, and becoming what we wanted, on our sixth anniversary I was asked (at the end of a day long travel trip) to be married. We were in the DCA airport, in the exact spot where years ago, I had heard for the first time that D loved me. It’s a romantic story.

March 2013, San Juan: We purchased an engagement ring on vacation–under sales and friend pressure–even though we both had doubts (about the ring, not each other). The ring was too big, and to this day I still wear the cheaper, beloved ring she bought as a placeholder, the exact match to hers that we both liked more. And the diamond, gorgeous but a size too big, stays in its box.

I have a friend who has a tattooed ring. I keep hoping she will write about it at some point, but she hasn’t. I understand.

What’s true: This week, an old friend, one of the people D and I were vacationing with when said diamond ring was purchased, recently asked us about the wedding. K, like others, admits to feeling awkward about asking but asks anyway (with good reason): “Did you have to change your wedding guest numbers?” The world assumes we are getting married in July (with good reason). That’s what we said, the last time anyone really asked. But this spring is a series of awkward conversations. People have been expecting invitations. We don’t know how to say the things that should have been said months ago.

In the only holiday letter we’ve managed to get out in our eight years of being together–nearly seven years at the time of writing–we mentioned that we were in fact engaged and that we were hoping to get married in the upcoming year. We had been engaged then for nearly a year. Another anniversary has come and gone and so much has happened and nothing has happened. We are not getting married. Not last year, not this year. Not next year. We are not getting married. No worries. It’s okay. Yes, we’re still together. We love each other. Yes, yes.

Speculation: Other people have done this before. They must have. Where are the stories and movies and TV shows about the couple that got engaged and then got unengaged but decided that everything else was good? I’ve seen movies like And Away We Go about non-married couples having babies. We are not having a baby. I’ve seen movies about couples who assume they aren’t getting married, who have a hard time, then accept it, and then eventually get married anyway. That used to be our story.

November 2014, Florida: One week last fall when we went out of town for a friend’s wedding, we felt it was easier to satiate people when they asked or hinted. Yes, we’re getting married. Yes, next year. Over the course of a few nights and a couple of days, we started our own drinking game. When they ask about the wedding nonchalantly, take a sip. When they ask about how you met, get a shot. When they want to know the story of the engagement, finish your drink. People at weddings (with good reason) love to talk about marriage and weddings. We love Love. And people love D and I together. We are an especially good poster child for the straight liberals who like cute queer couples. We are the kind of couple that even not-so-liberal-straight people can’t help but smile at. D wears her suspenders and dances with an eight-year-old boy on the dance floor. I cut in after a few. Pictures snap snap snap.

What’s true: I love our friends and our life. I love wearing this ring. I love D.

What’s true: Before we went to the wedding reception in Florida, we had to get in touch with our wedding planner, whose next pay installment was due, and tell her we weren’t going any further.

Today 5:57 PM: A friend texts from NY “Why’s it easer to be open on paper than in life?”

“Because on paper we have time to prep and primp and rip all the band-aids off–we have more control.” I have D. I have (say it, in your best Elizabeth Bishop) control. I am not getting married.


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