Tag Archives: marriage

Getting Over the “Princess Fantasy.” Slowly.

On Thursday D, as he frequently does, made dinner for me and a few of his college friends.

One of them has gone on a few dates with a girl that he likes, and all week had planned to call her the following night–Friday–in order to see her over the weekend.

The rest of us, myself in particular, took umbrage at this strategy.

“So if you want to hang out with someone during the weekend, when would you call them?” I asked the group.

“Thursday” was the immediate, obvious consensus. This suggestion provoked a response so aggravated, so extreme that even the guy in question couldn’t help but be amused–at which point the conversation turned comic.

“I don’t just think you should call her,” one guy chimed in. “I think you should marry the girl. Might as well propose.”

“You’re compatible, you’re physically attracted,” he continued, his wife making salad a few feet away. “That’s all you need. The rest you’ve got to work for anyhow. There’s no such thing as ‘the one.'”

This is a theory with which, in the abstract, I completely agree. There are lots of people one could find happy partnership with. With any of them, there would be persistent challenges. Different ones, perhaps, but challenges all the same. Sharing a life is never easy.

In other words, intellectually I know he’s right: the myth of “the one” is just that–a myth.

Emotionally, though, I’m not sure I do.

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When a Woman “Finally” Gets Married

Like any good, compulsive iPhone owner, I sometimes check my email during my morning run. You know, Cee-lo and Kanye and various NPR podcasts can only hold a girl’s attention for so long. Even while jogging. Even while jogging with a highly excitable mutt who has been known to throw said girl on her back via enthusiasm for a passing terrier. But I digress.

The problem is that the place where I run–a trail around the campus golf course–doesn’t have very good network reception. And so when, one morning this week, I looked at my email and saw a message from my father, I could only see two things: one, that the subject was “news alert.” And two, that he’d sent it to me along with all of my immediate family members–brothers, mom, sisters-in-law.

I have a grandmother who is about to turn a hundred. I have a sister-in-law who recently pulled out her back and a niece who has had a chronic fever for the past three weeks. Also, I’m Jewish. In other words, I spent the  next five minutes, until the full content of the message finally downloaded, in a state of panic.

Then, I saw what it said: “We just heard over the weekend,” my dad wrote,”that Ilene and Allen got engaged.”

Then, I felt a little ridiculous. (Actually, I felt a little angry too: immediately upon returning home I typed a ‘reply-all’ asking that everyone refrain from sending emails with such ominous subject lines in future; two of my siblings quickly seconded the request.)

But back to the message. Ilene, you see, is my paternal cousin. She is about to turn fifty. She is a very successful, very well-paid corporate lawyer with a condo on the Upper East Side. This is her first marriage.

The “news” my father sent wasn’t exactly breaking. My mother had, rather breathlessly, delivered the information via phone the night before.

The thing is that no one in my family is particularly close with Ilene. None of us are that close to the entire side of the family, I should say: they’re lovely people, but they’re a bit, well, different. You know, they have bigger hair and bigger belt buckles and the political persuasion that such things often imply. Even when I lived in the same city, I’m sure I went years without seeing her–or, certainly, any of her Florida-residing relatives.

The news, then, was not so significant because of our relationship. It was so significant because of the particulars. Specifically, the fact that, at almost-fifty, no one expected her to tie the knot.

Most notably, Grandma Edith–the one who is a hundred.

“Did you hear about Ilene?” she asked when I called to check in on her this morning. (You’ll have to imagine my vocal impression here: full-on Brooklyn, Yiddish accent applies. “Here” is more like “heah.”)

“Yes,” I said, patiently. “I heard.”

“Could you believe it?” she asked. “It’s about time. She’s no spring chicken, you know.”

I will chalk up the fact that she repeated that last phrase, or some version of it (“she isn’t exactly young“) about half a dozen times throughout our ten-minute conversation to age: I’m of the opinion that, if nothing else, surviving a century earns you the right to say whatever the hell you want.

But what about my parents? As I alluded above, they’re pretty progressive types. If my father had his way New York City would be its’ own country and all Fox news anchors would be lined up and shot. They’re supposed to be liberated, feminist, enlightened.

So why were they so brazenly glib with the news that this “old maid” was finally getting hitched?

I don’t really want to call my parents sexist–they’re not. (They are, also, wonderfully tolerant and well-humored, relatively private people who put up admirably with an aggressively oversharing daughter–for which I am ever-grateful.) That is, they’re not sexist any more than the rest of us are. And the reaction to Ilene’s announcement reminds me that “the rest of us” still have a ways to go.

Talk about news that isn’t quite breaking, but it still unsettles to realize that, even in our post-“Sex and the City,” women-getting-more-educated-than-men era, the notion that a woman is only worth her marriage persists. To be a single man is a choice; to be a single woman is pathetic.

I’m glad my cousin is getting married. But not because there’s anything significant about a ring or a ceremony. I’m glad because Allen seems like a really good, honest guy who has a good chance of making her happy. Which, no matter how old or successful we are, is all any of us can hope for.

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Conversations On a Plane

In workshop earlier this semester, my wise peers gave me some typically wise advice:

“You’re idealizing relationships too much,” they said.

“The author is smarter than the narrator. You know that romantic love won’t solve everything.”

I do know this. Sort of. But it’s easier to play with point of view and structure and tone than to be more reflective. I promptly ignored them in my revision.

During my trip home to New York today, though, I was reminded of what they said.

Specifically, an 83-year old Delta passenger named Phyllis, seated beside me between Minneapolis and JFK, reminded me.

Phyllis was (actually, probably she still is) on her way to Cairo. She has three grown children, but no interest in spending the holiday with them. She sees them other times of the year. It will not be her first visit to Cairo, either: she told me she’s been to sixty countries.

“Really I’m just going to Egypt so I can get to Syria,” she explained.

“Why do you want to go to Syria?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t been yet.”

Phyllis, who lives in Lansing, Michigan–where she raised those three kids, alone (“I had a husband, but I got rid of him”)–spontaneously announced to me, abruptly looking up frrom her Steven Martini thriller, that she loves being single.

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Inventory: Counting All the Men Left

The thing about dating, and being single, is that it’s really hard not to spend a lot of time feeling hopeless. You meet someone, you reject them or they reject you, and–no matter how many times it happens–you always manage to feel as though there is absolutely no one else around.

This feeling can be particularly acute in a smaller city, where it sometimes seems as though you’ve seen everyone in town at least once, and the ones you find attractive–you’ve already dated.

Perhaps, in some very small towns, this is actually true. But, as I reminded S last night, it usually is not the case–and for us, it definitely isn’t.

“I think we forgot how big this city actually is,” I said. “Just because we see the same people over and over again we assume that we’ve seen everyone. But I think there are a lot of men here who we haven’t yet come across.”

“It’s true,” she said, attempting morale.

The thing is that I only thought to say this because S said something very similar recently to me. Her words, as they often do,  resonated so much that I wrote about them–not on the blog, but in a nonfiction essay I’m working on.

This essay, which is the closest thing to a blog post I’ve attempted in longer form (much longer: my average post is 700 words, this piece is close to 5,000) got workshopped last night.

For the uninitiated, this means that a group of about ten people sat around a table telling me–sitting by with a virtual piece of duct tape over my mouth–a lot about what’s not working (and a little about what is) in what I’ve written.

As you might imagine, there’s a lot in this essay that’s not working. But that particular moment, the one in which S imparts her wisdom, is one that many people agreed worked well.

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What Happens When You Watch Airplane Movies/Notes on Wedding Fantasies

On the flight to London I read a book. (Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Brilliant graphic memoir. Thanks, D.) And on the flight home, I watched three romantic comedies.

Yes, three: Leap Year (really dumb plot but Amy Adams is appealing and Matthew Goode may be today’s vote for sexiest English-speaking male), Valentine’s Day (unwatchably and incomprehensibly dumb, but Ashton Kutcher is cute at playing himself) and…wait for it…Bride Wars.

S watched the first two with me and reluctantly began watching the third–I tried challenging her to finish it, but the only prize I could muster was my miniature packet of off-brand cheese crackers from the American Airlines snack box and it turned out she hadn’t eaten hers either. She made it through about fifteen minutes before switching to the last half of an Entourage episode.

“I think I might need to write about this,” I leaned over and whispered to her as she changed channels while I kept watching.

“Sure,” she said, too tired–and too old a friend–to mask her skepticism.

I mean, it did occur to me that I might have to comment on the film–especially after the early scene when Candice Bergen’s character (the wedding planner) informs those played by Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson (best friends getting married on the same day, vying for the same location etc.) that their lives will not actually begin until their wedding day. “You are dead, right now,” she says. Yikes.

But, also, I kinda wanted to watch.

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

Today in lowbrow gym reading, I perused myself some Glamour. (I claim, by the way, to read the New Yorker at the gym. Once in a while I do. But let’s be real: when there’s a lighter option available, I am not above taking it).

This issue featured Katie Couric conducting a serious interview with Whoopi Goldberg. Okay fine it was really, really unserious. Among her puffy questions was one about what she knows now that she wished she had known in her twenties.

Being Whoopi and being awesome, she replied that she wished she knew that being twenty-something is not, in fact, all that different than being fifty-something.

Which, if you’re not Whoopi, may be more or less true. But regardless it reminded me of a conversation I had last night with one of my best friends, R.

R is starting law school in the fall, which means she’s moving back to New York. She is currently contemplating a decision: whether to go back to her bright-but-expensive-and-ideally-located Brooklyn apartment, or move in, for a few months at least, to her parents bright-but-free-and-ideally-located Brooklyn house.

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Listening to Friends, And Yourself

It is my nature, when I’m not sure how to handle a situation, to consult with close friends. It is also my nature to have a lot of close friends. And it is also my nature to, especially when it comes to dating, run into a good number of situations that I’m not sure how to handle.

As you might imagine, this can make things complicated.

I feel fortunate to have many people in my life in whom I can confide. (To say noting, even, of my virtual confidantes–bless your invisible souls.) And a lot of people whose opinions I sincerely trust.

This blessing does, however, leave me with a curse. Namely: the problem of what to do when these opinions contradict one another. Which, or course, they inevitably do.

In a recent “situation,” I found myself the recipient of advice ranging from the wisdom that I should probably never speak to a person again, to that I should probably marry him and laugh about all of it over a champagne toast at our wedding.

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