November 9, 2000
Why Get Married?
We'd been seeing each other for about three and a half years, and it'd come up, more than once.
"No... well, maybe. I don't know."
"Do you want to?"
Why get married? I love him, we're already living together, things are just fine, why do we need to get married? I'm not philosophically opposed to marriage; I've done it before - twice. Apparently I do it badly. And yet, I wasn't sure. Maybe we should, but I just couldn't think of a good reason.So I asked myself, why do people get married?
The main reason, it seemed to me, was to have children. But that was not a reason for us. I already have two, and I'm too old for more. I'm not just saying that, I really am too old.
Financial security, that's a big one, but that wasn't for us either. I've been supporting myself and my kids forever.
There's family pressure. Again, not for us. My mother died nine years ago. My father and his new lady friend are decidedly not getting married; they're getting a kick out of just living together, it's so much more romantic. And his parents? Their son was a 43-year-old bachelor. They're so relieved that he's finally got a meaningful relationship, they don't care if we make it legal.
Social pressure. We're middle-aged folk, living in L.A. in the year of the second millennium. Hotel clerks are not giving us the fish eye, for God's sake.
And speaking of God, does the holy of holies care if we get married? Please. One of my favorite jokes goes: "You want to make God laugh? Make plans." I assume a wedding must be one of God's favorite jokes. They take more planning than preproduction for a feature film.
There were definitely reasons for other people to get married, I just couldn't come up with a reason for me to get married. The question reverberated in my head, "should we?" I just couldn't quite say yes.
Then one starlit night, after a great deal of excellent champagne - we'd been to a champagne-and-cheese-tasting held in a rich man's garage. (I say garage, but it had marble floors, climate control, custom-made glass cases full of silver trophy cups and a security system the envy of any museum. It housed 11 vintage Bugattis. "Mint condition" does not do justice to their perfection; a very rich man indeed). While strolling in the glorious gardens next to this garage, my boyfriend looked deep into my eyes and said "I love you. I want to always be with you. Will you marry me?" It was fabulously romantic, I was delightfully intoxicated and the word, "yes" just fell out of my mouth. There was no thought process involved. Was it reflex? Instinct? My "real" feelings?
I'd taken the leap and said yes, but I wasn't sure I was going to land on my feet. I wanted to get married, but I still didn't feel comfortable with "why."
Time to follow the ancient tradition and visit the rabbi: I heard "family... friends... public witnessing..." Also, time to follow the modern tradition, and visit the therapist: I heard "old fears... your choice... commitment..."
The words circled my head like planes over LAX waiting for landing clearance.I made mental lists of my fiancé's attributes: he's loving and supportive, funny and charming, not afraid to be a fool, a fine traveling companion, and he genuinely likes and cares about my kids. He's honest, dependable, loyal, and he truly loves me - yes, he's wonderful, more than I dreamed I'd ever find. And yes, that's why I love him. But we have all that already. Married or not married, it won't change who we are and why we love each other, or even that we love each other.
Meanwhile, as I am struggling to come up with a reason to get married, my fiancé has finished fixing my antique rocker. He presents me with my repaired chair, now safe to sit in. It's as beautiful as it ever was and now it functions, too. I sit, rock and look around the room. I see the other things he's fixed: the entry hall light fixture, the cracked base of a storage chest, the stuck window crank. And that's just the living room. His handiwork is all around the house. He's fixed the VCR, the electric broom, the blender and the toaster oven. He's returned table legs, cabinet doors and desk drawers to their pristine shape. He's rewired lamps, and built a closet for out-of-season clothes. He can even trouble shoot the computer.
He can put just about any broken thing back together. If we have the pieces he can glue them. He's reattached cup handles, teapot lids and serving bowls. He's salvaged jewelry, purse handles and flashlights. Once he saved a cracked Game Boy from the trash. Apparently there's way more to glue than Elmer's, and boy, does he know his adhesives. There's one that's right for metal, one for paper, one for ceramic, one for plastic, one just for wood (and then there's some confusing thing called plastic wood, but I won't even go there). And he always knows the right adhesive for every job.
And then one day, I realized that the most important thing my soon-to-be-new husband has put back together is my family. It's been 10 years since the divorce from the children's father. For 10 years my children and I have lived in a broken home, but he fixes broken things.
We are not going to create children, but we have children. We have breakfast together, we go out to dinner for birthdays and gather for holidays together, we laugh at "The Simpsons" together. He helps my son with his French and science homework. He picks my daughter up from Sunday school and play rehearsals. He intervenes when there are fights, he kvells when there is joy. When we are married, my children will no longer introduce him as "my mom's friend," but as "my stepdad." We will be a family.
Now that's a reason to get married.
By the way, I found out who really cares if we get married: the bridal industry! Do you have any idea how much stuff you have to buy, how many people you have to pay, how much food and liquor you have to order? Well, of course, you do. You've probably got married once or twice yourself.