October 21, 2004
Lately it seems as if everyone I know is interested in me getting married. In fact, the person pressuring me the least is my girlfriend,
Carrie. She's still working on her independence, having recently moved out of her parents' house for the first time.
Like many women, Carrie looks forward to wearing a wedding gown, but she needs more time to work on her growth as a woman. At least that's what I've been telling her in the hopes it buys me some more time.
Recently, I had Shabbat dinner at a couple's house -- Chasidic friends in their early 20s with a newborn. While the wife was burping her baby, she asked when Carrie and I were going to get married. Her husband quickly joined in.
"Why?" I asked. "What's so great about being married?"
The baby spit up onto her shirt as her husband fielded the question; only he did so in a very Chasidic fashion -- no answers, just more questions: "What are you waiting for? Why are you so scared? Will you pass the gefilte fish?"
"What does marriage offer me?" I asked him. I tried to explain to him the difference between our situations. He is a Chasid who avoids shaking hands with a woman in order to avoid getting excited. When he met his wife, he was expected to avoid touching until marriage. So, marriage came fast. I, on the other hand, am dating Carrie, who, being the woman of loose morals she is, allowed me to not only kiss her within the first week of dating, but also to hold her hand. Three years later, we've gone so far I can now hold the hands of other women. "So what's the rush?" I asked him.
My friend looked at me pensively, sat quiet for a moment and then said, "Seriously, I'm still hungry. Will you pass the gefilte fish?"
One day, Carrie's grandmother pulled me aside. "Do you planning on marrying Carrie?"
"I don't know, lady" I answered. "We're not really up to that."
"Well you better get up to it, funny guy. I want to see great-grandkids before I die."
"And I want you to live a long time, so for you I'm going to hold off," I said.
She shook her head and walked away muttering to herself.
Why would anyone in Carrie's family want her to marry me? I look decent enough and am occasionally funny but I'm a 30-year-old struggling actor, getting by on the bare minimum, and living in a rent-controlled apartment in Silver Lake. On paper, I sure don't sound that great. I don't think I'd do too well on JDate, where women decide whom to date based on a picture, career choice, yearly income and a list of my hobbies, which oddly enough include going to restaurants and listening in on other people's conversations.
Carrie spends three to four nights a week at my apartment. We have a great relationship. Sometimes we bicker too much, but I love her and I'm pretty sure she loves me. The thing is, the nights she isn't with me I don't really mind. In fact, I enjoy having the nights off. It's not that I'm unhappy in the relationship -- I just like my freedom. I don't have other women sneaking over in the middle of the night, but I like the feeling that I could if I wanted to. I'll probably never act on it, but I want the option. Even though I have no interest in dating anyone else, I'm still a little frightened by the idea of dating one person for the rest of my life. So, maybe I need a little more time. Is that bad? Is there something wrong with me because I'm not ready to be married? I feel like I'll know when it's time. I'll be a little more settled in my career and hopefully be ready to have children -- or at least a houseplant.
So if Carrie and I are both not ready to buy into marriage, why is everyone else so interested in selling? Are they getting commission?
I once knew a woman who got wrapped up in some cult-like business seminars -- Anthony Robbins kind of stuff where she kept paying more and more for these seminars and then would hold meetings where she would try to recruit other people to join. She invited me to one and I went there already knowing there was no chance they were getting me to sign up. But she begged me and I gave in out of respect for her. Midway through the introductory course I realized something. These people, who were charting their happiness with multicolored markers on gigantic pieces of paper that sat on easels, were not trying to convince me to join because their lives were now so enriched. They were convincing me to join because they needed to convince themselves.
My married friends are all newly married and, therefore, are still getting used to the idea. By convincing me, and others like me, to go down the same road as quickly as possible, it validates their decision. And it's not necessarily a bad decision -- just one I'm not ready to make. I'm sure as they grow more comfortable with their decision the less they will feel the need to convince others to do likewise. And who knows -- by then I might be ready to go down that road with them. As for Carrie's grandmother, well, she just wants to see a baby. I can get one for her on the black market within a week.
I picked up the phone and called Carrie. "I just wanted to say I love you and I'm glad we both agree on how things are going. We care deeply about each other but aren't in a rush to get married. We have plenty of time and can take things as they come."
"Well," she said. "Don't get too comfortable."
Seth Menachem is an actor living in Los Angeles. You can currently see him on TV hawking such fine luxuries as fast food, beer and cellular service.