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" Little Did He Know | 2008 | Social Fluidity "

06.10.08 1:03 p.m.

After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her.  

-Mark Twain


Never the Bride

In my early adolescence, I took to jokingly asking girls to marry me. I was odd enough that I largely got away with this histrionic gesture, until a girlfriend when I was fifteen or so decided that I was remotely serious. She just wanted someone to swear to love her forever, having learned to mistrust those who were required to owing to biology. Having to not-so-politely remind this girl that minors could not make binding contracts convinced me never to use these words again until I absolutely meant them.

I was a minor still when I next thought about marriage. I was dating my best friend Jen, after years of pursuing her to little effect. I was enveloped in love and gave her my virginity with only a few dozen second thoughts. Though I wasn't about to set a timetable for it, I passively assumed that I might one day marry her. I was seventeen, so what did I really know of compatibility in the long run? It had taken six months of my kisses and caresses before she would grudgingly acknowledge that she might love me, so how could I imagine her committing to loving me forever?

With Kate, my girlfriend after Jen cheated on and left me for our friend Nick, I don't recall thinking of marriage, passively or otherwise. I was content to be with her, when things averaged out (in that I was usually completely wrapped up in the idea and action of loving her and occasionally tearing my hair out because I felt hormonally miserable). I know I get along marvelously with Kate now and think any man who convinces her to marry him is going to be astoundingly lucky, but our college selves were still too busy trying to hammer out the bases of adult love.

Of course I thought I would marry Emily, because I was months away from doing so when she left. In many ways, I feel I had, not the least of which because I proposed to and handfasted her. After seven years of being together, I was more than ready for the eyes of the law to consider us a family, but she was not. That she declined almost didn't matter, because I was ready to be married.

As should be no particular surprise, I am now phenomenally jealous when others get married. My eyes have transcended merely being green with envy and are now emeralds, faceted and sparkling. I want to be married, I want to have my wedding. I lament that this did not occur as it was supposed to, though I am understandably grateful that it did not, once Emily could no longer be a part of it. I want a wedding, I do not want a divorce. I want marital bliss and I am not willing to accept anything less for the sake of a prom in my honor.

Almost as soon as I found out that my brother was finally going to marry his fiancée Becky, who is large with his second child, I began to harass my non-biological nieces Ayannah and Aaliyah that they have to start acknowledging me as their uncle. Aaliyah, all of six, refused and insisted that I will evermore be "Little Thommy".

"Nope," I replied. "I'm your uncle now. Legally. I own you." Up until this point, I had considered them my nieces anyway. They had been ever since they stopped hiding behind Recky's legs whenever they saw me, ever since I realized they would not be temporary figures in my life. Now that Becky will be as legally a [My Surname] as her daughter Alyssah, I am entitled to harass her other daughters to a greater degree. That's what family is all about.

Aside from the fact that they are in love and wish to spend the rest of their lives together, the reason for their getting married now is practical. I joked with Dan that he was rushing her to the courthouse so his future son Aydan won't be a bastard. Dan shrugs that this isn't his concern, that he cares much more about the fact that having Becky on his insurance means Aydan's birth will cost them $4700 less. I do not find this the least bit unromantic and that money can go toward the slightly more lavish ceremony they will have in October of 2009.

Their wedding was small, just a quick series of vows in front of a justice of the peace and a kiss. They got the certificate on Monday and they got married on Friday. They'd been engaged for a while, having quietly decided to eventually make their union legal around the same time I planned my romantic proposal to Emily. Becky's brother did not bother switching out of his mechanic's uniform for the ceremony and my mother only look off from work long enough to see the ceremony, which took half an hour. I wore just blue jeans and a button down shirt and felt a bit overdressed. Still, as they are pronounced man and wife, I feel a ripple of envy under my felicity that my brother is now a married man to a woman I am pleased to consider my sister.

I find this wedding ideal for its purposes and appreciate that it underscores the idea that a wedding is about love, not $1000 worth of flowers. My previous wedding planning got out of hand, as Emily and I had to change venues and menus, argue over the number of people we could feasibly invite, vacillate between what we wanted and what would seem sufficient to distant relations who had not seen us since we were in diapers. While we tried hard to make the day about us, too much of it became about the want to impress other people and we suffered for it even before Emily ended our engagement. I cannot claim that this stress did not play a minute part in her deciding that she could no longer be with me.

Now I am the next in line to be married. Though I could happily chain my nymphet down - to her extreme pleasure - I won't be doing that anytime soon. My hasty agreement with Melanie is that I am not allowed to propose anything more committal than a weekend holiday until she is 23, a bit over four years. Melanie says she considers me her intended, that we are promised to one another in her eyes and that is more than enough for right now. Marriage is a matter of love and devotion conquering the need for instant gratification, even in a world where the supposed nectar of the honeymoon is sampled early and often to make sure it is a pleasing taste. I don't see my younger brother Bryan getting married in the foreseeable future, having not had a romantically steady girlfriend in a year and an emotionally steady one ever.

The very day after my brother's lunch hour vows, I attend my cousin Emily's wedding. For ease of narrative and to distinguish my cousin from my former fiancée, I will refer to her as Cousin!Emily. While we were occasional playmates as children, I had not seen this cousin in a decade and had no prior cause to mention her here. And, through no fault of her or mine, I can't imagine I will be mentioning her afterward.

This wedding was diametrically opposite from my brother's. Cousin!Emily's fiancé makes more in two weeks than I make in a year. I am reliably assured he is an exceedingly nice man and have no reason to question it. Both of these factors contributed to his making certain that this would be a memorable day for his bride, damn the cost. He apparently bought cars for his new sisters-in-law as wedding gifts and bought Cousin!Emily a dress that cost $10,000. There was some mention that he may have purchased a house for his father-in-law, but that might just have been a hyperbole of his generosity that I took literally.

The reception was held at Boscobel, a historic estate in Garrison, New York that I've only ever spent $30 to enter. For the view alone - one that overlooks marshes far below and the Hudson River all the way to West Point - the price is meager. Waitstaff dotted the estate to provide the guests with whatever appetizer their hearts and stomachs could desire, as well as manning an outdoor bar and a dedicated cheese table. The only trouble is that the cloudless day reached well over 100 degrees in the shade and the cheese dripped over the cobblestones.

At this reception, I kept referencing to those around me (I was stuck at the kiddy table with my cousins, though the youngest of us is twenty-three and the oldest in his thirties) the wedding I never had as a means of sympathy or comparison. What I liked about this one, how I would have done things differently. Filing away information for the wedding I will one day have. I acknowledge that I may be something of a rarity among men because I do not fear commitment. I think that those who fear it don't fully realize what they are running away from or trust Hollywood screenwriting hacks to do their thinking for them. Or maybe they just haven't allowed themselves to find the girl for whom they are willing to cut those apron strings. Even after Emily dumped me, I was quite clear that I still wanted to be married.

I feel, in a way, that I failed at this wedding because I kept thinking of Melanie. I am supposed to be living my life on my own. But the fact that remains that, on this parched plot of land, being all alone ached. To see all these happy couples cuddling together in the grass - my brother and his wife, especially - was rough and made me anxious from Melanie's hand in mine. I kept thinking how, were she here, I would be egging her onto the dance floor with me, one I only gravitate around the edges of on my own. How I would have loved to look across the marshy vista with her. How I wanted to have her at my side to watch the heat lightning hit the mountains across the Hudson from us. This is what marriage is to me, sharing the beauty of life together, as well as having someone to complain with about being trapped at an outdoor wedding in the oppressive heat.

Soon in Xenology: Engagement. Hanniel.

last watched: Forbidden Kingdom
reading: The Illuminatus! Trilogy
listening: Alas I Cannot Swim

" Little Did He Know | 2008 | Social Fluidity "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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