Being Untied Isn’t That Bad

AP4

The following appeared in The Pitt News, 1999.

The photograph was taken around that time.

No idea whose wedding it was.

Light streams down from the cathedral windows, spilling across the spotless suits of my friends and family. The ones who aren’t smiling are weeping furiously into silk handkerchiefs, and through the silver mist I watch as my bride, her Edwardian garments shimmering like polished ivory, proceeds down the aisle, bouquet in hand…

And then I wake up in a cold sweat. I’m in my apartment, I happily realize. It isn’t a tux I’m wearing but boxer shorts. And marriage is far, far away. Or so I thought until this spring, when my disillusionment began. I ran into a friend at the library. When I asked how she was, she said that she was getting married.

“You’re kidding,” I chuckled. Then, with some desperation; “You are kidding, right?”

The answer, of course, was an emphatic “No, I’m not kidding,” followed by a detailed complaint about all the tribulations she had suffered int he wake of The Most Wonderful Day of Her Life. There was the church to rent, a minister to track down, ice sculptures to order, guest lists to make. For all the preparation, it sounded like she intended to go directly from exchanging vows to invading Poland.

One of my co-workers is already married. She hasn’t even graduated, and she celebrated her second anniversary just last week. Another coworker is engaged. A third coworker has been married for three years and maintains two charming children. Even an old friend in the Air Force, the most infamous stoner in my hometown’s history, seriously contemplated tying the knot. By the year 2000, I expect to be the only unmarried human being in North America, infants and widows included.

Marriage is as strange to me as skydiving. As a kid, it was the necessary goal of any relationship, followed only by a ride into the sunset, the silhouetted kiss before a crimson backdrop, the swelling symphony, the rolling credits. Now all I can think about are the side effects: cigars, impatient limo drivers, bawling relatives I’ve never met, and this morose promise that we must part at death.

Besides, wasn’t it just last week that I was an acne-infested 12-year-old? Senior year of high school was an endless event of fellow guys trying to impress girls. Now fellow men are solemnly proposing to women. Tomorrow, fellow husbands will be picking out real estate with their wives, fellows fathers will be coming home to their toddlers…

The reason for this fear (as usual) is statistics. Nearly half of American marriages end in divorce. Of those, more than half must battle over custody of children, ownership of dishes, and drudge up in court all the wrongs ever committed by either party. Of my 10 closest friends in high school, seven were the disgruntled offspring of divorced parents, and the remaining three would have just assumed their parents broke the contract. There would, in the end, be more dishes to divvy up.

Ironically, I already live with my girlfriend. We had known each other three days when we decided to try the romantic thing, and nearly two years later we’re still, in the words of my mother, “disgustingly happy.” We talk into the wee hours of the morning. We travel, watch movies, read books aloud, and continue to compliment each other on the most mundane accomplishments.

And still, with nearly all pretensions behind us, I can’t conceive of nuptial bonding. My girlfriend can imagine it, of course, and owns a set of professional blueprints to lead us from bachelor’s party to honeymoon. All I have is the occasional nervous breakdown.

In any event, our wedding wouldn’t really be ours. My girlfriend’s mother claimed dibs on that before either of us was born. She says everything will be fine as long as I convert to Catholicism. WIth each mention of Our Lady of Lourdes, my doubts thicken.

And then, just when I think I’m resolved to wait until we’re eighty, I find myself strolling by a jewelry store, golden earrings and silver bracelets catching the lights through the windows. As I idly study them, I notice the diamond rings arrayed impeccable rows, and I’ll quietly wonder if my girlfriend would object to serving moo shu pork at the reception.

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