Love and marriage—Frank Sinatra crooned that you can’t have one without the other. Sorry, Ol’ Blue Eyes, but the heterosexuals are disproving your myth—marrying without love, loving without marriage, and disparaging the entire institution. We’re rebels, Frankie baby.
Before I begin, let’s clarify something: “getting married” and “being married” are very different things in reality. Ladies can spend an entire year focused on the task of getting married. Little girls fantasize about getting married, they rarely fantasize about being married. Getting married is about weddings and fancy dresses and giant cakes and presents from long forgotten relatives. Being married is decidedly less glamourous. I failed to get married.
Marriage is one of those traditions that everyone is assumed to take part in. But no one really discussed it with me and asked whether it was something I’d like to do someday. My own parents had several divorces between them and 100% divorce rate. Bitterness consumed my mother after her last divorce and she soured on men altogether. To this day she cannot be convinced that men have any redeeming qualities. My poor boyfriends never stood a chance. Nobody taught me to play house or instilled in me the desire to take care of a husband/family. While other girls dreamed about being princesses and mommies, I dreamed about being a self-sufficient modern woman—a jetsettin’ lady leaving an international trail of broken hearts. To be fair, no one told me about any of that either.
I didn’t even think about marriage until my first serious boyfriend in high school. Sixteen sounds too young to consider the prospect of marriage. Unless you live in Alabama. Serious Boyfriend #1 and I sometimes played the game of “what would it be like if we got married.” We’d get all moon-eyed and imagine white picket fences and cute cottages and tricked out entertainment centers…wait, why does he get to play with all the cool electronic toys? Do we need so many game consoles? I want to play Tetris! Y’know, if we get a smaller television, we can buy a hot tub…Whaddya mean what’s for dinner? We realized that a mutual love for the animated The Tick series and Weird Al was not a solid foundation for lifelong partnership but did make for some short-term laughs. And we learned an important lesson in trying to make out to George Carlin’s HBO specials.
Serious Boyfriend #2 entered my life before my senior year and stuck with me through my first year in university. Somewhere along the line, we got engaged. I thought it was a pretend engagement, something to pacify the parents while we spent all of our waking hours and most of our non-waking hours in each other’s company. Apparently, there’s some unwritten societal rule that couples can only be together for six-to-eighteen months before everyone starts nagging about wedding dates and offspring. Because I assumed the engagement was an open-ended ruse until we eventually broke up (and we were breaking up, right? Right?!), I had no intention of planning a real wedding. This wouldn’t do. Everyone expected us to set a date. Serious Boyfriend #2 became Perturbed Fiance. Silly people. They thought I would plan one of those traditional weddings with flowers and frilly dresses and family. Had they met me? I grew discouraged after finding that the bride’s side of the…chapel-like location would be sparse compared to the groom’s side. In order to receive wedding presents from people your parents only mention in passing on the big holidays, you have to invite them to the actual wedding. And they feel obligated to show up. The whole event was becoming distasteful to me. Perturbed Fiance seemed open to the idea of elopement. So much for pretending!
As I said, I failed to get married.
Cohabitation, on the other hand, is something I can live with. Cohabitation without expectation is even better. Since Perturbed Fiance became Serious Ex-Boyfriend #2 instead of Ex-Husband #1, I have lived with two men. Once with the far-off intentions of marrying and settling down in a small town, which didn’t jibe with my jetsetting lady plans. Now I cohabit with a man who is also not the marrying kind. Our mutual love for each other has kept us together for an unspecified amount of time and provided long-term giggles and guffaws. We agree that fancy parties are not necessary for us to celebrate our relationship, even if we don’t agree which way to turn the spoons in the dishwasher.
Marriage is sneaky, as my boyfriend and I learned a few years ago. Apparently, in the eyes of some governments—including the one in our newly adopted country—couples who have been together an unspecified amount of time (hey, that’s us!) are considered common-law spouses. So, my once Secret Boyfriend has evolved into my Common-Law Partner. Without any ado, I am, for all intents and purposes, married. I guess Sinatra was right after all. These boots are made for walkin’…wait.