I’m obviously stuck on love and relationship issues right now. I blame this on an incident between friends and Amanda Palmer’s wedding blog, obviously on two opposite ends of the romantic spectrum.
The wedding blog really resonated with me, probably because I’m a lady in love and because Ms. Palmer (or Mrs. Neil Gaiman, if you prefer) said a lot of things that express my own beliefs almost exactly. In some ways, I see a lot of similarities between Amanda and Neil and Paul and myself. Almost like we’re younger versions of them or something.
I’ve explored a lot of this in a well-organized essay-type piece, but talking about things informally is fun!
Like Amanda, I was anti-marriage. My parents have never had the best marriage. That said, I was exposed to my grandparents’ amazing marriage and I’ve since based all my ideas of love and marriage on them. We’ll come to that. I saw marriage as unnecessary. I don’t need a ring or a priest and the government to make it official for me to commit my life to someone. We’ll come to that, too. And while Amanda swore off marriage at 23, I was probably still in high school when I came to this conclusion.
Until I started writing that essay-type piece, I didn’t think Paul and I had some romantic story to tell, but we kind of do. In short, my grandfather was the greatest man I have ever known, for various reasons. Most importantly now, though, he was a true gentleman. He truly loved my grandmother. He’d do any little thing selflessly just to make her life easier, even if that meant simply relieving her of dish duty. They still held hands. They still kissed. I wanted to love and be loved like that. Thanks to just enough encounters with total douchebags, I was convinced I never would and that I’d end up settling for someone who wasn’t what I wanted.
The universe likes to make me look like an ass. So, the very night I met Paul, I happened to hang out with Meri and Sarah and talk all about how I was going to stay single and could never date a guy in college because I can’t stand most guys in college.
Paul was kind of a double-whammy. First, he ruined my single decision. Second, he proved that I could have the man of my dreams.
Paul did gentlemanly things like wait a few dates before kissing me and asking beforehand. The fact that this impressed me should be an indicator of the kind of crap I’d endured from other men. He does any little thing selflessly just to make my life easier (clearing snow off my car, getting things down from the high shelves, cooking for me, offering to go buy Dr. Pepper when I joke that Dr. Thunder is a sad imitation…). I’ve gone from saying, “He reminds me of Pap Pap” to basically saying, “I think Grandma and Pap Pap sent him to me,” because I truly believe that. Even if we don’t last, I’ll come out of this relationship with renewed faith in love and men and a better outlook than I had when we met. I have my moments of “I’m never going to do better than this,” and then I think, “That’s stupid. Your silly ideas have already been proven wrong.”
Amazing guys do exist. The nice guy does really get the girl sometimes.
I do think this plays a part in why I get so upset over the bad relationships I’ve watched friends stay in. On the one hand, it’s like I want everyone to have a man like Paul, and on the other hand, I’ve learned that the whole “I’ll never do better” attitude is stupid and I fear others are stuck in it.
I have no idea when I fell in love with him or how I knew. I didn’t have a breakthrough moment, or one where I knew he loved me. I just know that at some point, when I listened to love songs and watched romance movies, I didn’t wonder what that felt like anymore. I didn’t yearn for it. And as far as knowing he loved me goes, I had a lot of learning to do. People make mistakes. His mistakes didn’t mean he didn’t love me, and I don’t know how that crazy idea got in my head. I know he loves me by the way he looks at me and, ironically, by the crushing look of disappointment and pain he gets on his face when he knows he’s hurt me. Or by how committed he is to fixing things when he makes mistakes, and in those little things he does that remind me of Pap Pap. Most of all, though, he smiles a hell of a lot more when we’re together than any other time.
In many ways, our relationship shouldn’t work and almost hasn’t. We’ve nearly dumped each other plenty of times, and once when he was the one contemplating it, he said, “Do you think we’re too different?” I said, “No.” I told him that our differences will only be problems if we make them problems, and they haven’t been problems since. Still, there was a lot that I thought would’ve had one of us ending it. He rarely drinks. I have many nights I can just barely piece together. He doesn’t like tattoos and piercings. I have both. He’s a practicing Catholic. I’m not, expect for some occasions where he asks me to go to church with him. He’s a scientist. I’m a writer. Okay, so he’s really a displaced English major who sold out. I majored in writing when everyone told me I’d never find a job with my degree (proved them wrong!). He’s shy and unsure of himself. I’m loud, outgoing, and pretty confident most days (or I fake it). We’re three hours away from each other for about eight to nine months out of the year. Yet we still love each other and still work everything out to our mutual satisfaction.
We balance each other out.
For all of our differences, though, we have a lot in common, too. We understand each other. He’s the only person I know that I can talk to about writing. We nerd out together over all kinds of things. He really is my best friend.
Best of all, he respects my individuality and independence. Amanda Palmer says it better than I ever could:
“i despise being told what to do. i just hate it. i like making things up as i go along, i like kissing who i want to when i want to, and i have no desire to be possessed, owned, kept or put in my place as a girlfriend or a wife.
it was a constant cause of marvel to me that neil looked at these determined and fiercely independent qualities and he not only withstood them, he not only tolerated them, he actually encouraged them. i’d fantasized for years that i’d someday find this person, who would hold me but let me go flying into the void, and simultaneously let me go flying but hold me, keep me tethered to the earth. and when i found him, true to my long-held assumption about what would come to pass should i find a human this miraculous, i actually clung. “
Paul has never told me what to do. I’ve never felt like I’m with a man who views or treats me as a possession or like as a woman or girlfriend, I’m cast into some role. I think he’d agree that in our relationship, we are both equals. And that’s the way I want it. That’s exactly what I need.
Where does this leave us?
I, who didn’t need marriage, have come to want it. I still don’t need it, but the thought is nice. As Amanda says, marriage tells the world that you have who you want and love.
I set conditions should I one day desire to get married. I won’t accept a proposal until I’m 25. I’ve since agreed that I can bump it down to when Paul’s been done with school and working for one year. Life is too hectic in the early 20s for marriage. Not that it gets any less hectic, but who wants to be worrying about graduating, finding a job and a place to live, planning a wedding, marriage classes for the Catholics, and the logistics and stress of committing to another person. “Smart girl,” many married adults have told me.
My mother told me when I made my conditions that I’d probably meet someone who’d sweep me off my feet and make me want to break my own vow. I’ve only altered it.
When Paul and I say things like, “if we get married,” I think we both know we really mean “when.” And I can think of plenty of reasons as to why we should. Someday.