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Of Purgatory and Blessings | 2010 | Seeing Red and Jade

12.07.10 9:16 a.m.

The world has grown suspicious of anything that looks like a happily married life.  

-Oscar Wilde


The Bliss in Another

Kei and Jude  
Mater, Filius et Spiritus Sanctus

Hannah posts how eager she is to start a family. I can't keep from analyzing this, since there is still a version of her in my head, living with Daniel and dating nameless men from the internet. The desire for a family and that for liberal and momentary connection with inferior men exist on the same continuum, I know, but ostensibly at opposing ends.

Hannah may love her biological family - I honestly don't know either way - but she does not often seem to like them. They did not come to (or possibly acknowledge) her boot camp graduation, which likely marked her more deeply than her graduation from Bard. Given this, I too would feel a nesting instinct, an urge to cobble together a family of my own to supplant that given to me by genetic vagaries.

She has Arthur who, if just judging by the delicacies she seems to bake for him thrice weekly, is quite lucky. He is her family now, as I do not think the pitter-patter of little feet is in their immediate future. I believe this is the first time since I met her that I would actually say that she seems content and is not merely drawling reassurances that I can't make myself believe.

A day later, I happen upon a picture of Keilaina looking at her new son Jude. He is tiny and wrinkly, seeming half-formed in her hands. Kei is not merely happy gazing down at him, she is experiencing ultimate bliss. I have joked before that Keilaina was born to be a mother, but it is hard to argue against the fulfillment she appears to feel. Seeing how totally she loves Jude, there can be no doubt. She is beautiful beyond the physical in that picture, sublime. Dan, her husband, goes so far as to say that many societal problems can be traced to people not understanding that marriage should result in such propagation.

I find that, beneath my conscious awareness, tears stream down my face in a way that makes me exhausted. I can't place quite why. Others suggest that it is the alarm of my biological clock telling me to wake up and put a baby in Melanie. I don't agree. I think it is seeing someone I love engulfed in something so far beyond the commonplace. This is how Mary should look embracing the Christ child.

I once read that one cries at wedding not from happiness but from covetousness. By comparison, the person watching and crying is miserable, no matter how happy he or she was before sitting in the pew. These are tears of jealousy, even if one is so self-unaware as to mistake them. I think it is more like Stendhal Syndrome, where one is overwhelmed with the compelling beauty of art such that people at the Louvre have been struck mute or have fainted. Seeing something that is so essential to the human condition is awesome in the truest sense.

The people I care about, with few exceptions, are either creating families/married/on the brink of being married or are unlikely to do so. Kate will be married in less than a year, Hannah is married and plotting for the eventual expansion of her family, Emily is married with a daughter, Keilaina is married with two sons. On the other hand, we have Daniel, who seems to be a perpetual bachelor and years ago argued for a procedure to ensure he would not father any bastards, so confident was he that fatherhood would never be the life he wanted. Melissa would be married and is desirous of that stability in her life. However, this would require a partner who could match her, who is rare indeed. The steady ones are much too dull and the compelling ones are much too unstable, so far ensuring that she will have to stay ensorcelled with her tumultuous, charmer boyfriend Ben. Very few occupy the middle ground at my age, where one might or might not be married. The waveform has collapsed. One is either already hitched or gearing up to be a spinster. I'm uncertain as to where I stand and am afraid to peer into the box to see whether Schrödinger's cat is dead.
She makes quite the dashing companion, I dare say!

I've been on the brink of marriage once and had more than made my peace with it. I saw it as the inevitable result of my relationship to that point with Emily. She did not and I am grateful she put a stop to it before walking down the aisle. For a while after, I had the commitment equivalent of blue balls, wanting the release of a legally sanctioned joining together with someone (followed, months later, by the sour grapes of never wanting to be wed). Were it not for Melanie's deft adoration and assertiveness that I was hers, I don't doubt I would have eventually fallen into the wrong relationship with a woman who wanted a husband but was indifferent as to who filled that role.

Melanie says that we shall have a civil union the moment they are legal in the United States, but marriage seems a bridge too far for her. According to her, marriages fail and end in divorce, civil unions can be dissolved with a notarized letter (hardly the most romantic consideration, but there you are). At least I have the excuse for my bachelorhood that I am desperately in love with a woman several years my junior who has no pressure - societal, financial, sexual, gravidity - to marry me other than that she adores me and might wish to have a paper attesting to this fact. As I have made my intentions on her plain, it was agreed years ago that she would have to be the one proposing to forestall my getting down on one knee every three weeks. (Though this did create the idea of an Engagement Bunny in lieu of a ring she would not wear. One proffers the rabbit in two hands and proposes as normal. If the object of one's affection vacillates or hesitates, one begins to apply pressure to the midsection of the Engagement Bunny until one gets the answer one wants. When the one being proposed to agrees, the bunny is handed over safely and the three of you potentially live happily ever after.)

At twenty-one, I assumed I would one day be married, but couldn't have described much of the experience beyond that and certainly wasn't ready to be married for a long while. Even when I proposed to Emily, I was not ready to actually be married, however marginally different that would have been than the life we were leading. In the story I was leading to that point, possession of the ring plus family vacation plus fireworks plus chocolate covered strawberries plus love equaled proposal. Once I had made my grand gesture and she began to tell people, I did not feel it was what I ought to have done (though I vastly warmed to the idea in the year between asking her and preparing to make good).

I don't want Hannah's marital bliss or Keilaina's parental Elysium. I want my own delight in my own way. I want my family of two (plus our three communally held goldfish and, maybe in time, a proper dog) and I am willing to exercise patience until it is feasible because there is no other way for me to live with integrity and contentment. I consider marriage (or civil uniting) now not because I want that commitment - weddings are faintly bizarre spectacles no matter how often I encounter them - but that Melanie daily makes me know that we will continue to be blissful together, that we have a bond that transcends the need to promptly dart to a vicar for confirmation. That, after all, should be the point of this exercise.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, linguistics.

last watched: Fringe
reading: Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
listening: Dresden Dolls

Of Purgatory and Blessings | 2010 | Seeing Red and Jade

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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