A while after I got engaged I was driving across a bridge, I remember exactly where I was (and I have almost written this exact sentence some time ago, I know it), and I remember that it suddenly hit me: I am not at all any happier being engaged than I was not being engaged.
We are almost 3 years married. It’s like a blip on the marriage-time continuum. But even so, it absolutely boggles me that I spent so much time and mental energy chasing this existence. I don’t even mean I was out to get an MRS degree, I don’t mean I was searching searching searching for a husband all of the time. I had long periods of being single and long periods of being not single and short periods of staccato dating. But ultimately I was always searching for that partner whether or not I knew it.
I think even the coolest among us has a small shred of expectation of what being married will be like, and that expectation is probably (not absolutely, but most likely) wrong.
I don’t even remember what I thought it would be, I just remember seeing it with a big sigh of relief. The finish line. I made it. Check it off the list. Once I get there, won’t that be grand?
And it wasn’t not grand. It was great! Yay engagement! Someone wanted me forever and ever! ME! Of all people! And I wanted him back, thank goodness… otherwise, awk-ward.
On Monday our stroller was stolen from our car. Our car was parked in our spot in a secure garage. Our car was parked in our spot in a secure garage and it just so happened to be unlocked.
The car I had before this car, the car I had for almost 10 years didn’t have automatic locks. You had to push down every single little nubbin before closing the doors. It was easy to lock your keys in it. I got good at reminding my friends to lock their doors behind them, I got good at doing a quick scan to see if any of the nubbins were still sticking up. My car was broken into once. Someone bashed in one of the tiny side windows. Even when I had it detailed they missed some of the glass wedged between the floor mat and the door.
Kamel left the car doors unlocked because he was relying on the auto-lock feature. It was a frustrating mistake as I am religious about locking the doors and this has been an annoying small argument Kamel and I have. Did you lock the doors? They auto lock. I don’t care, all you have to do is push the button, just push the button.
And so on.
Kamel felt really bad. He knew he had fucked up. He said he would fix it, replace the stroller, make sure to lock the car doors every time. No matter what.
And that’s great. I mean, it was a mistake and we all make them and we all learn from them (And, as a bonus, I got to say I told you so…. so win for everyone?) but the problem is that when you’re married it’s not like he can really “fix” a mistake that costs us money. It’s not like either of us can really say, “oh, don’t worry, I’ll handle it and it will be like it never happened [insert hypnotism voice here].” It means we won’t be able to make a household purchase we needed to make, it means the constant tug-a-war of marriage where one of our choices ripple effects the other, it means if one of us makes a mistake we’re both paying for it.
This is a very small thing. It is a 3 year thing. It is a blip in the marriage-time continuum. But it’s an example of how marriage doesn’t mean what I thought it meant. It means something way more complicated than can ever be expressed, not even when you ask a person to spend forever with you, not even when you say your vows.
Marriage keeps asking me to be a better person than I was before. To be patient, to be kind, to be selfless. It also pushes me to be strong, to be firm, and challenges me to not lose myself. Marriage has granted me stability and that buddy I was always looking for. But it is also so much work.
Engagement was hard, but it was like an uphill sprint that lead you to a beautiful vista. It sucked and there were tears and massive fatigue. After surviving that, I thought, marriage was a cake walk! Marriage is the marathon. It’s 100 thousand marathons. I think there are probably 100 thousand finish lines and victories. There are also the really wonderful times where I think, “I got this. We got this. We are the greatest people alive!” and then there are the times where it’s, “Who told us to do this?! This was the worst idea ever!”
It’s not that it isn’t awesome. It is awesome. There is an intimacy with sharing your entire life with someone that cannot be correctly expressed. But being attached to someone forever and ever with the million jillion nooks and crannies of what that entails – it melts my brain thinking that so many people are racing towards that. It’s lovely in its beautiful simplicity of happily ever after, the white dress, the cake, the toasts. But it’s when you really truly would like to shove your partner down the stairs, and you don’t, and then you end up maybe loving them even more (though it may take a few days/months/years) for their annoying faults when the magic actually happens. It’s just a marathon of work to get there.
We are officially, legally, changing our names this week. We both had to pay court fees and have it changed by a judge because I waited too long and, for Kamel, that’s just how it works when a man changes his name. I eased into my married name like gradually slipping into a hot tub. It overwhelmed me at first, but then it was kind of thrilling, and then we had Gabe and he officially became the first Dupuis-Perez, and then a year after filling out his name on a million forms it’s finally our turn. In some ways it feels like a renewal of vows. We’re doing this whole legal thing all over again, the part where we say, “Yes. We are family and we are stickin’ to it.” I like it. It’s obnoxiously non-sentimental but it makes me want to dance around in my underpants chanting,”We changed our names, we changed our names, we changed our names.” Marriage, man… what a trip.