LIKE SO MANY THINGS in my life, I’m not sure how it happened. One minute I was happily single, the next minute—okay, two years later—I agreed to marry a certain fellow. And the very next minute, I’d been sucked into the marriage industrial complex.
I’d never been married, never thought I would be, nor did it especially matter to me. At fortysomething (late mid-forties, to be exact), I figured I had a better chance of growing a third arm out of my forehead than getting married. I wasn’t one of those women who’d spent her whole life planning her wedding. I’m a low-maintenance, unfussy kind of gal, and left to my own devices, I’d serve Chicken In A Biskit and tap-water ice cubes—if given plenty of lead time.
I was outraged by brides who imagined themselves royalty and went to ridiculous extremes to put on extravagant pageants. You know who I’m talking about: otherwise sane women who insist that the bridesmaid dresses match the stamen in the flowers of the bridal bouquet; or the normally down-to-earth girl who spends $10,000 on an ice sculpture commemorating the couple’s first meeting at Starbucks.
Not me. Time, budget, and modest sensibilities dictated a small, simple ceremony for my affianced and me. My feller is from Texas, where merely referring to your love as “wife” or “husband” means you’re common-law spouses (which would make me Mrs. George Clooney). Anyway, it doesn’t get much simpler than that.
But then I registered. A bridal registry is a system wherein a log of desired gifts is compiled by the couple. I’m not sure why it’s considered more civil than just walking up to someone and demanding a gravy boat, but what do I know? Nevertheless, there I was in the middle of Target one evening. I’d been given a scanner, a hand-held version of those you find at the checkout counter, which I was instructed to aim at a product and press a trigger. It would automatically add the item to a list of everything I’d be willing to accept from my humble subjects. I pointed the device at a bag of potato chips, just to see if it worked. A strange, surging lust came over me. I was Rambo Bride, scanning everything that didn’t move. In a fog of greed, I’d practically forgotten my fiancÃ©’s name. By the time I was done, I had candy, motor oil, and several big screen TVs on my list.
After the frenzy abated, I felt guilty and weird. Who was I? I began to wonder if weddings weren’t rather like funerals. The rituals surrounding the event keep you from thinking too much about the great beyond, the unknown existence after all is said and done. The Egyptians packed up their dead with riches before they were entombed so they’d have all the right stuff in the afterlife, with only a blurry notion of what that might be. I can’t help but feel weddings operate under the same principle.
I love my betrothed, to be sure. But the planning keeps you from recognizing your terror. I’m happy—but I’m also scared and excited and sad. Was he the right one? What did that even mean? What if getting married meant that I’d never be able to pursue my dream of becoming an astronaut/ballerina/realtor/veterinarian? There is very little time for soul-searching if you’re hell-bent on getting the pretty flower stamps with which to send out the invitations.
It came time to get the marriage license, and ’twas then I cracked. The Ramsey County clerk asked me to raise my right hand to take an oath. I was to swear that “all the information contained in the application document is true to the best of your knowledge, that one of the parties is a woman and the other a man, and that neither party is mentally deficient.”
The declaration caught me off guard, and all the doubts and fears came surging through me. Lately my beloved had been working on his Marty Allen impersonation and had been spouting random “Hello, Deres!” with the intensity of a Method actor. And I’d recently observed him at a bookstore clearance rack, pouring over a Ripley’s Believe It or Not picture book as if it held the secrets to particle physics.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or scream. But the rings had been sized, the invitations had been sent, the judge booked. And oh, yeah—I was crazy about the guy. In a leap of faith, I said “I do.”