I never wanted to marry, which is odd because though I've sown my share of wild oats around the globe, I'm basically a monogamous homebody. Wherever I've lived, I've created a nest. And preferred only one man at a time to share it with me. But never quite the right one.
I dated a lot. Smart ones. Rich ones. Poor ones. Famous ones. A few infamous ones. Good, kind, decent, extremely marriageable ones. Except to me. There was always a reason why this one or that one wasn't right.
Eventually I caught on to the painful Inner Truth. I didn't believe I could give a man the kind of love that includes Trust. Or allow a man to love and put his trust in me. (You can read some of the reasons why here.)
So of course when I least expected it I met a man I trusted instantly. I didn't love him right away, but I liked him. A lot. I felt safe with him, valued. Adored. Understood. Admired. Cherished. Loved.
He didn't care about my wild oats, he'd sown plenty of his own. The skeletons in my family closet didn't scare him away, they made him want to protect me. He loved me, he wanted me to make a nest for us. A home. A future.
I took that man at his word, trusted him and his love, learned to love him back. Fiercely. Completely. Con gusto. Then he wanted marriage. No!
My rationalizations: We're already living together. Happily. Both working. Fulfilled. Complete. Content. Everything was great, why rock the boat?
He tried to talk me down, convince me it could work, but I was firm. He backed off. I thought I was safe. So I relaxed. Really. I really relaxed. His plan all along.
Predictably, almost six months later, one night I said to him, "You know, I think we should get married. I'm not afraid any more. I love you. I want to be your wife. Let's do it."
Unpredictably, it was his turn to panic. We were living together. Both working. Happy. Complete. Content. Everything was great, why rock the boat? You get the idea.
Then, right in the middle of a fairly reasonable discussion, he said the magic words that started The Fight. "There's no reason to get married unless we have kids."
Steam shot out my ears. "Are you kidding me??? What is this, the 1950s?? We should get married because we want to spend our lives together, form a lasting partnership, a family of Husband and Wife. Children should be an added blessing to our union, not an excuse or a requirement for marriage!"
The battle raged for almost two hours.
Finally, exhausted, he said what he intended as a joke to break the tension. "Okay, let's make a bet. If you can pull off a surprise party for my (30th) birthday, a real surprise, we'll get married."
"You're on!" I said. And the die was cast.
Two months later, while he was playing racketball with a clued-in friend at our health club/pool/community center, other friends helped me turn the juice bar into a party room.
The Sucker Bet
When he walked in the room, sweaty and unsuspecting, 75 people yelled, "Surprise! You're getting married!"
Planning The Wedding
The wedding plans were remarkably easy. Though it wasn't my style, my mother wanted me to have A. Wedding. Okay, then it would also be a fun Saturday night party with a great band.
Also a chocolate wedding cake. Delicious!
And I didn't want a traditional wedding gown or legions of bridesmaids. Okay, two sisters. Color scheme: If I'm wearing white, everybody's wearing white.
It's entirely possible I'd been given some Valium at this point.
We put everything in my mother's more than capable hands, no fighting, no hysteria, no bridezilla.
Food was fun, we had a tasting party, picked what we liked, that was that.
Open bar, of course. Photographer, no problem.
Only one thing I really, really regret: I said no to video. This is a wedding, not a movie, it kills spontaneity, it's tacky, I said. I was wrong. I have the memories, but I've wished so often I could see and hear them again. Especially because so many people are gone now. At least we have the pictures.
Husband-to-Be said, typically, "Just tell me what to wear and what time to show up." Tuxedo. Ketubah signing, 6 PM. Wedding, 7 PM.
The hotel gave us the three-bedroom Presidential Suite so everybody could be together. My sister-in-law and her two little kids, my other sister with her new baby and their joint baby sitter in one bedroom, the rest of the women in another, the men in the third.
Getting ready was just like home. Fighting with my sisters for space at the sink to put on make-up. Yelling at my older sister for showering so late, steaming up the mirror and frizzing my hair. Everybody telling me to put on more make-up. Older sister and Mom fixing my hair.
Sitting in a robe holding my baby nephew, chatting quietly with my two little nieces, a small oasis of calm.
Suddenly standing in my dress, my mother and sisters helping me with the short veil we'd had attached to my favorite headband.
The homey aromas of soap and baby powder mixing with perfumes, then colognes as we joined the men in the living room. Husband-to-Be looked at me with such wonder and so much love. I will never forget that look.
People went quiet as the Rabbi came in, asked us to join him at the table to sign the Ketubah (Jewish marriage contract).
Best Man signing, oldest friend/witness waiting his turn, Rabbi
The Rabbi was an old hand at marrying nervous couples (including my parents and two of my sisters, plus he'd officiated at my husband's and both his brothers' bar mitzvahs). Solumnly he reviewed the Ketubah with us. No matter what you do afterward, once you sign that, you're married. It's large, opens into three sections, all written in tiny, tiny Hebrew.
After we all signed, the Rabbi pointed to a section in the center. "This is extremely important," he said, "It contains the secret to a happy marriage." You could have heard a pin drop.
We all waited expectantly. "It's my wife's recipe for chopped liver!"
We burst out laughing, groaning at what must be a tired old joke to him, but it worked, tension broken. Until we went downstairs to the chapel. Everyone got ready. And quiet.
My husband's two brothers, my younger sister's husband and older sister's son carried the chuppah (Jewish marriage canopy) to the front, opened the beautiful old lace overhead, each holding a pole (another Jewish custom). Then Husband-to-Be's parents walked him to his place just before the chuppah so he could wait for my parents to give me over to him.
Already under the chuppah was our best man, the mutual friend who'd introduced us. They joined him there. My sisters, one after the other, moved smiling down the aisle and took their places underneath too.
Then it was just Mom, Dad and me, standing in the doorway, waiting for our cue. NOOO! I had a flash of panic so sharp I almost doubled over. I saw all my friends and family, so many smiling faces, so genuinely happy for me. I wanted to be a gracious, smiling bride.
But it seemed the room went suddenly dark. All I could see was soft light glowing around Husband-to-Be, my True North. My eyes locked onto him like a lazer beam.
The feeling was otherworldly. If I can just get to him, I thought, I'll be okay. I don't remember walking down that aisle, but here's a close-up so you can see the genuine fear in my eyes.
Oh yeah, I'm a deer caught in the headlights.
Once we got to him, though, the rest was easy. My parents kissed me...
Husband-to-Be winked at me, took me to join our families and the Rabbi under the chuppah.
It was a beautiful religious and personal ceremony. Rich with ancient tradition in a modern setting. The Rabbi who knew our families so well, spoke from the heart about Continuity. Belief. Trust. Faith. Love.
And it was a great party too. Went on until past 2 AM.
Thanks for everything, Mom. I love you.
An after-party migrated back to the presidential suite. Family, friends, Husband and I still talk about it. Especially this time of year. Especially today.
Today, January 23, 2013 is our 31st Wedding Anniversary.
I can joke about the panic now. I can laugh about that picture, it's in our wedding album. I love all the wonderful wedding memories. Because I took that huge leap of faith. And we're still married after all these years.
Continuity. Belief. Faith. Trust. Love. And Humor. In the end, that's what it takes.
PS Little more than a year later, we had our son. Win-win.