Saturday, March 03, 2007

For Whom The Bells Toll

I didn't believe in the institution of marriage until I was 22. Wedding bells until that time were signs of a cool party but not much else.

I always saw marriage as an institution where the woman had to give up peices of herself in order to hold on to something we had been told would last forever. Compromises that were only made on one end to keep together a family. Because as women, being the strong light bearers we were, thats what we did.

I have this very vivid memory of sitting on some steps in front of our little apartment trying to get my dad to tell my mom "I love you" the way boys did for girls in the movies. He refused. I was young and reflecting on how awkward I made the situation for my mother, is still somewhat painful. "Come on daddy, just say it." And he sat there and refused as my mother watched his child beg him on her behalf to express a sentiment that I know came easily for her. I knew he loved her, I still know. For some reason, he just couldn't give her that tidbit. Yet stubborn I stood demanding that he say the words. Even then, I felt the hurt on her behalf. I remember putting my little hands on his face and trying to force his mouth to say the words. Afterward, I went to the bathroom and cried in a place my mom and dad couldn't see me, I couldn't understand why daddy was so mean. I was seven years old. For a long time I thought he was holding onto emotions like that because it gave him a power he couldn't relinquish. As an adult I realize its much less sinister than that. Not a lot of people openly expressed love to my dad before my mom, my brother and I. It takes practice. Until we showed him, he just didn't know.

I always liked the idea of a wedding, in the way little girls like the idea of big white dresses and parties. Even when I was shorter than an adult pant leg, I knew wedding and marriage were separate entities. And the latter, I thought was too painful an institution to participate in.

My head and my heart have always been at war with how to deal with them. I mean on one I hand I acknowledge I have wonderful parents. My father, with his inability to express, loved us the only way he knew how growing up. He would work 16/18 hour days and come in after bed time. I would stay awake with my eyes closed, just to feel him walk in the room and kiss my brother and mine's foreheads. My mom, has to be THE most loving woman you'll ever meet. Her warmth is unparalleled in this world and I do not believe that to be remotely an exageration.

We have the similar kinds of issues I imagine all families have. There is particular duress between me and my dad. A disconnet in personalities that goes from small to large in under 5 seconds flat. They had a lot of problems when we were younger and I played marriage counselor until about the age of 14 when in a car in front of a Mervyns, I told my mom that I wasn't her friend but her daughter and I wasn't sure I could handle it anymore. So I left the car feeling guilty that I was leaving my mom friendless and mad at my dad's inability to express anything emotionally.

All in all, they are much healthier now, but we have a divide and it leads to distance between the two of us. Their marriage is something that I respect but have never wanted to have. My mom was always translating him to the world explaining how good she believed his heart to be. Which on one hand, I appreciated as a sign of the resilience of love and on another despised because I felt like it was a really tiring way for my mom to always be living.

When I met Mark and Amy at 22, it was the first time I ever saw a marriage of mutual respect, friendship and passion. The way they regarded each other and even looked at each other made a believer out of the most anti-marriage individual. They talked things out, he went home because he wanted to be around her, they traveled together and shared hobbies to spend time with each other. They were that couple that you look at and can't quite figure it out. I mean you know they have ups and downs like any other couple but they love each other so much that its just a part of what their fighing for in their life together as a couple.

I moved out here on my own the year I met them and didn't really have anyone I knew. I had a boyfriend who cheated on me 6 months into my stay here and they got me drunk and took me home to their guest room where both of them treated me like their little sister. Mark got drunk with me because he said that no one drinks along on nights like that and Amy laughed, consoled and dressed me for bed later when I was too drunk to unsnap my own bra. Even sitting there, drunk and hurt in Mark's t-shirt, I watched as they hugged each other before they went to bed and I said to myselfr "They have it. It's possible and I won't settle for less then that." I am forever grateful that they showed me a template worth following.

Once I met them, I met a couple of other couples that have the same kind of relationships. Where the woman isn't always "the understanding one" translating her husband to the world. In these relationships I know they are partners not people who need to feign completeness for each other.

Last night as I watched another friend celebrate this kind of union. She looked resplendent, gorgeous, pregnant and glowing of new bride and new motherhood at the same time. I'm glad I get to see reinforcements of these unions all the time. I can't just defer to Mark and Amy as a fluke. If anything, I'm at the point that I realize that they should be more the rule than the exception even if they aren't. So I'm a convert. I'm starting to really accept, believe and be happy that its about more then a big expensive party. It's about big living and loving.

Cheers Cristel! Thank you for being another example to look to. Last night was fabulous and you deserve all the happiness in the world. I'm so happy that your baby gets to be loved the way I know you and Jon will love him. I'm open for baby-sitting if you need a nap or a moment. You two will be an amazing mom and dad.

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