Sunday, April 01, 2018

"Marriage Proposals Are Stupid"

It's Easter Sunday, I'm up far, far too early on account of lingering stiffness and soreness and can't-get-comfortable-ness from the debacle that was yesterday, and while I have the downstairs to myself, I've got some music cranked and I figured I'd crank out some words.

"The debacle that was yesterday": simply the craziest day I've yet seen in my store. We went through more product than I would have thought possible (while still having far, far too much product on hand). It made it hard to move, breathe, or think. This whole week has been one giant shitshow, and I'm glad it's over.


Source material for this post here.


"We're going to pick out a ring today," said Eva, and my stomach lurched painfully.

That was the grand marriage proposal here. We went to the mall, picked out a jeweller, and then she picked a ring. Immediately before she did it, I had to run to the bathroom. Urgently. I sat there in the stall, experiencing pain we've all felt, hearing sounds we've all heard, smelling smells we've never even imagined...and thinking thoughts.

I was thinking about the last time I was engaged. Compare and contrast. That time, I was young. Painfully young. Lynne was my first real relationship. There was much to like in it, at least at first and for a painfully young person who still viewed relationships as "completing" me: Lynne had many traits I lacked, and seemed willing to put up with me. Must be love, right?

Well, no. And even at twenty, I knew that. But I buried it. And every time it surfaced, I STOMPED on it. And when it kept bubbling up, more and more often, I thought to myself I know what will shut this up. I'll buy her a ring. 

Yeah. That doesn't work.

Jump cut: Eight years and a lifetime. I had met Eva some months ago when I walked into a job interview and felt an instant jolt of lightning. As I'm sure I've mentioned, I've learned to trust that feeling. It's as if something, or Something, grabs my headd, turns in in the direction of the woman who holds the lightning in her hand, and says This person is important. 

And Eva was and is.

We achieved a real depth of connection in a very short time. She told me later that I was the first person to really want to look behind the shell she had constructed to better face the world. That's me and always has been. I have no use for shells. Show me who you are. Eva did, and we fell together. That is, we fell, together. Or rose together, if you like that more: I do.

There was something different about both Eva and my relationship with her that I at first questioned due to its sheer novelty, but very quickly cherished more than perhaps anything else: absolutely no drama or bullshit. Previous relationships and proto-relationships of mine were chock-full of both: ego trips, power trips, poor-me control dramas, you name it. With Eva there was, and is, none of that.

She distrusts the grand gestures. She's not conventionally romantic, in fact--you'd miss the romance in her entirely if you looked for it only where it shows in others. For her, romance is about letting someone be, unequivocally and absolutely, themselves, and knowing she is freely granted the same. 

I have never met anyone so openhearted. Never.

The first date was June 11, 1999. I moved in with her on July 1, which would have been the third date if I had been thinking in terms of dates. I wasn't. I was thinking in terms of permanence, and so was she.

The talk flowed effortlessly and it covered virtually everything. As was and is my custom, I detailed every last flaw, major and minor, that I could think of, honesty being the best policy and all. Some of those flaws were richly self-evident, and she was already correcting a big one.

I had been living off a tab at 7-Eleven. Everything I ate came out of that store, and out of my paycheque, leaving me just enough money for rent. Not healthy for wallet or waistline. Eva gently but firmly reformed me, in gradual steps, from $200+ a week down to, eventually, nothing. Crucially, she didn't just restrict me; I'd have chafed against that. No, she offered me better food...and even more importantly, something tangible to replace the hole in my soul I'd been trying to stuff with money for about a decade.

Looking back, I'd say that her actions there pretty much cemented our relationship. It's hard for outsiders to comprehend any of the dynamics here, but one of the defining ones is our complementary attitudes on control. She defaults to it; she's a natural leader. I accede to it; I'm a natural follower. That does NOT mean I'm subservient in this marriage, incidentally, even if it looks like that to you. We are partners, a team. Decisions that affect me are made with my full participation and input, which is always respected, and my needs and my reasonable wants are enthusiastically catered to.

Witness last weekend. It was originally supposed to be a trip to Niagara Falls with Kathy for her birthday; the possibility she'd have to work that day put the kibosh on what would have been a fairly pricy trip--which Eva had immediately agreed to mostly fund when I tentatively mentioned it one morning.

She's selfless that way, is Eva. To a fault, really. Attention lavished on her is never wasted, but she does feel uncomfortable being at its center, and as I said, she distrusts the grand romantic gesture.

So we talked. And talked. And talked and talked and talked, both before we moved in and in the days and weeks after. We laid out our desired future in broad strokes -- and our current reality bears more than a passing resemblance to it. I won't lie and say we covered everything. The premarital course we took affirmed that. I scoffed and whined incessantly about stupid headshrinkers who don't even know us presuming to tell us all the things we might do wrong--and can assure you that had we not taken that course, we'd have diverged six times over by now.

But what I'm saying is that our marriage was only formalized on October 14, 2000. It had been in place long, long before that. Arguably, since July 1, 1999.

The "proposal", when it came, was hers, and phrased in the form of a statement: "we're going to get a ring today". She knew that had she not decided that, it might be years before I did. That wasn't out of any lack of desire on my part to be with her--I was with her. It was a leftover silly notion in my head that had a surprising amount of power, a notion many men will recognize: marriage is a trap.

It's not.

Done properly, it's not--no relationship is, or should be. What marriage is: single life with security. And I said that long, long, LONG before we embraced polyamory.

Sitting in that bathroom stall, thinking about the trap I did dodge with Lynne, clenching, I clinched something. That I loved Eva in a way I never loved -- couldn't love -- Lynne.

My diary of the time, which had a vivid purple-pink cover that led me to dub it "Past..Present...Fuschia",  has a series of questions I wrote to gauge compatibility with a potential mate. I wrote those questions about two weeks before I met Eva. Nothing prompted me to do so--nothing conscious, at any rate. I just felt complete for the first time in my life, and realized that if I was to find a lifemate, it would be someone not to be my "other half" or to "complete me" but a complete person in her own right who would  share in life's completeness with me.

Had I not written that list of questions, nobody would have come along to answer them.

You mix all of this together and you get an unconventional courtship that nevertheless has stood the test of time. 

Are marriage proposals stupid? It's up to the couple. Some people relish the show. I do feel a need to publicly state my commitments: they assume added, welcome, weight when other people hear them. But I might suggest that a proposal is better framed as a statement of what exists, rather than a question about what could.

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