Long time readers will remember Manya (who now writes at Safari Mama) from her Wedding Graduate post and her super brave post on the wedding she should have called off. Today’s post is in Manya’s usual frank and funny voice, and it’s about the difficulties of knowing you want to marry someone before they are ready to marry you. When she sent me the first draft, I giggled all the way through it. I, too, once had a fake Kn*t account with a fake wedding date and read wedding magazines on the Subway “to relax.” But Manya clearly hadn’t let herself off the hook for the way she’d reacted to the cultural and emotional pressures of the pre-engaged state. So we talked about the ways we redeem ourselves through planning a wedding and building a life together, and she finally let go. So today’s post is not just for the pre-engaged. It’s for all of us who need to forgive ourselves, to finally laugh at ourselves, and get back to the hard work of loving ourselves, crazy behavior and all.
The word mortify has its roots in the word death. Over the ages it has meant “to kill” and “to bring about death,” and now it has been reigned in significantly to mean “to humble or embarrass.” Never have I understood this word better than the moment Brian and I officially entered “The Pre-Engaged State,” a profoundly awkward space that we inhabited for about eleven months.
I remember the exact moment I knew Brian was it. I was nestled in a pit of sand and we were talking about what we like to cook. I gazed up at the sky and felt something inside of my chest click into place, like a lock. Now he tells me that he sensed something had changed, and had thought to himself, “Oh, thank God. She’s crossed over too.”
I started thinking about getting married far too soon for somebody who was not long off of a difficult divorce and who should have been worried about rebound. But my head was no match for my heart, so think I did. And dream. And surf websites. And open a secret file in my computer where I kept pictures of engagement rings. I might have sent one or two to my sister, in case Brian ever sought technical assistance. I might have spun the pantone wedding color wheel once or (a million times) twice. I registered on The Kn*t with a fictional wedding date. I mooned over Snippet & Ink. I made a virtual fool of myself, but no one was there to see. This went on for two years, and as our relationship grew better and better (not to mention older), I felt less foolish about it.
We traveled thousands of miles and had a Christmas together at my parents’, then two. I met his mom and stepdad, father and stepmom. I got to know and love his sons, and them me. Then we were at the beach and talked about whether it would be a nice place for a wedding. I told him about an idea for invitations—for someone who might be getting married. On our third Christmas together, our divorces were behind us, our relationship was thriving and (without ever talking to him), I became convinced he was going to seek my parents’ blessing when we visited them over the holiday. Thus, I gave myself permission to (secretly) unleash my inner Bride, and using the excuse that they don’t have all the good wedding stuff in Kenya, I bought every single bridal magazine I could find. While Christmas shopping, I also sneaked into the local David’s Bridal to try on some dresses—just for fun.
While at David’s Bridal, I felt sheepish, but excited and giddy. I tried on dresses, and juiced it up with the sales girl. I stretched the truth, and said Brian and I were getting engaged over the holidays. But I told the truth about our names, and I signed the guestbook and registered my favorites on a wish list, too happy about that short, cute little affordable dress to think to change a digit in my home phone number. By the time Brian arrived (a few days after I did), I had hidden the magazines under the bed. I didn’t want him to feel pressured, or let on that I had intuited his secret.
Then, two nights after my stealth visit to David’s Bridal, as we all worked in my mom’s fragrant kitchen preparing a huge family meal, the phone rang and Brian answered.
“Hello, this is David’s Bridal. We’re calling to do a customer service follow up with Manya who was here visiting us this week. Would she be available?”
Brian summoned me to the phone with a quizzical look; “Honey? David’s Bridal for you? You were there this week?” Unfortunately, the woman on the other end overheard the endearment and after he said, “She’s coming” gushed, “Oooooh, you must be Brian! Congratulations on your upcoming Nuptials!”
As he handed me the phone, he whispered, “You marrying someone named Brian?” My heart stopped for a minute, but in the bustle of a Christmas kitchen I recovered by saying, “What? God, these telemarketers will say anything to get you on the phone these days!” During dinner my cheeks burned, but the light was dim, and I was wearing a turtleneck. By the time pie rolled around, all seemed forgotten.
He gave me a tiny box for Christmas that contained a beautiful…(!)… pair of diamond earrings; I bravely mustered the enthusiasm that the lavish gift deserved. A few days later, when it was time for Brian and the boys to go, my excitement had chilled like a post-Christmas house. Unless he had dragged my parents into the spidery basement where the water heater lives—and that is not how he rolls—Brian clearly had not asked for my hand. I took comfort in the knowledge that my inner Bridal frenzy was, at least, my secret.
As Brian packed his bags, I sat with him and cried a little and blamed it on the impending separation. I miss you already, I said as I swallowed my tears over the lump of disappointment in my throat. Oh, baby, me too, he said, as a roll of socks slipped out of his hands and rolled under the bed. He bent his 6’6” frame down and rummaged around under the bed, then cackled as he pulled out a glossy pile of magazines, “Oh dude, I think I just found somebody’s stash.”
Continue reading Mortification and the Pre-Engaged State