“So how long has it been?”
It’s an innocent enough question.
“Three years,” I say.
“Are you two talking marriage?”
Here it comes. Again.
I take a breath.
She picks up another clump of hair and brushes the goop through the silver. I’m a captive audience in a blue swivel chair.
“He mentions it from time to time,” I say, looking back down at my iPhone, trying to read an email.
“Don’t you want to get married?” she asks. “Do you have something against it?”
She isn’t prying. She isn’t accusatory. Like so many others, she doesn’t understand why I’m not pushing for marriage. She’s genuinely curious. Most women want to get married, and if they divorce, they want to remarry. I guess I’m not most women. And I’m tired of having to explain that divorce changed me – irrevocably. Or rather, the life I have led after divorce – all the years of drama and worry – they changed me.
She’s also 25 years younger and a newlywed.
“I have nothing against marriage,” I say, “but it’s a lot more complicated after you’ve been through a nasty split, especially if there were rough years after. So the very thought of marriage isn’t simple and isn’t without worry. You think of love, but also logistical and financial issues that are trickier when you have kids and you’re a little older.”
She continues painting the next strip of strands.
“Here’s the thing,” I say. “No matter how much you wish it wasn’t true, you understand that any relationship can end badly.”
She turns me in the chair, and starts working on the back. I watch in the mirror. Her hands are quick and skillful, and I note her concentration, not to mention her unlined 20-something face. I sense that she’s trying to figure me out.
“Look,” I say, setting the phone down and holding out my bare left hand. “I like a beautiful bauble as much as the next woman, and I won’t say I don’t miss having a ring on my finger and everything it means in this culture. That kind of acceptance. But marriage isn’t about a diamond. Marriage is a whole other thing.”
“Yeah,” she says.
Naturally, we are changed by our experiences. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. My guy’s divorce experience was different from mine – his kids were grown, there was no squabbling in court, there were no years of mind games and constant financial drain. And his employment situation is also a different story.
“So you don’t want to get married then,” she says.
“I don’t think about whether or not I want it. I’m just not sure I need it.”
“What about him? Do you think he wants to get married?”
I’m quiet. The subject used to come up frequently. It comes up less often, but it comes up. I think he is a man who enjoys being married – a “marriage minded man.” Then again, millions of men enjoy being married.
Can’t say I blame them really. The husband thing? It’s not a bad gig.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked about remarrying. I know it won’t be the last. I find myself trying to see the upside as being greater than the downside; the downside comprised predominantly of worries that may never come to pass.
Then again, the logistics are not uncomplicated. He has a condo; I have a house. The real estate market wouldn’t make it easy for either of us to sell. He has no emotional attachment to his place; I have tremendous emotional attachment to mine. Besides… This is my children’s home. It’s my home. I fought long and hard to keep this roof over our heads, not to mention turning this little place into a safe haven – small as it is, messy as it’s always been. And now, it is filled with 10 years of memories we have made – my boys, their friends, the dog. And now, the man in my life.
Memories with me. My memories. My “now.”
My guy leaves early in the morning with an aggravating commute. He drags in at dinner time, and I’m happy to see him. We cook, we eat, he sleeps, and I pick back up with my work. We work – as things are right now. Why would I change them?
Most people imagine a single sequence: dating, relationship, possibly living together – and then marriage. The conventions follow “logical steps.”
I’m thinking of a friend whose mother, in her late 60s, recently married her live-in gentleman of seven or eight years. Clearly, they were in no hurry. I can only imagine that they wed because they truly wanted to – because they wanted to – whatever their reasons.
“What if he decides that he needs it? Marriage?”
She isn’t the one who asks. It’s a question I hear in my head, suddenly. It’s a question I’m not prepared to deal with. Certainly not yet.