Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Accidental (Almost) Engagement

Back from happy hour with friends one New York fall evening, as we sank into a couch and a movie my beloved began waxing romantic. There is a sentimentalist in him, often hidden from public view. In moments of weakness and inebriation, the sentimentalist slips through eloquently. Accidentally, we were both carried into the love haze of romantic riffing and robust red wine. In this comfortable calm, we realized that we would soon be walking into an accidental marriage proposal. In this comfortable calm, we smiled. In this same comfortable calm, still hazy and romantic we stayed as we are. We are happy here, and in weak moments of cockiness even reckon we are happier than some married couples we know.

As a girl born into a predominantly Catholic culture, I used to think that there were only two relationship options for women: the single life (read: old maid) or the married life. What I learned in my twenties, however, was that I was wired differently. Unlike most of my friends, I wasn’t caught up in ‘defining’ the state of my romantic relationships. Instead, I was compelled to experience these relationships to their fullest, exploring this ‘other’ I was sharing times with. I loved noting subtle evolutions in me as I opened up to another. I would like to think that it was my sharp insight into people that informed this approach to men and relationships, the truth is it simply is my nature to relish the now without letting worries about the future dilute the fullness of each experience. How then does this approach make room for marriage and engagement?

My thoughts on marriage continue to evolve. I still believe in marriage. Many of my favorite people are in solid marriages that make room for expansion and individuality. This is because the members of these marriages are amazing people who inevitably form amazing partnerships. In each case, the marriage is strong because the relationship is strong. Had they found themselves in situations where they could not marry, I am certain their relationships would still be as strong. I guess this makes me a stronger believer in relationships than marriage. I believe in relationships that provide a fertile ground for individuals to flourish. For some, this includes marriage. Sadly, the option of marriage is not available to everyone.

Where I grew up, divorce is not an option. Couples who fall in love after having been in a previous marriage cannot marry each other. This saddens me. The culture claims to be pro-marriage, only there is a double standard to this pro-marriage stance. It only makes room for heterosexuals who have not been in marriages before. This does not feel pro-marriage at all, does it? In my eyes, it dilutes the meaning and the magic of marriage.

Where I live now, same sex couples that fall in love cannot marry either. It is astounding to think that this is America in the twenty-first century, even more astounding to think that this is New York City in the twenty-first century. But there it is. In a country that prides itself in freedoms, not all people are free to marry. What does this say about marriage? What does it mean when a culture espouses the value of marriage, then takes away the freedom to be married?

Fortunately for all of us, no one can take away our freedom to be in relationships. No one can take away our freedom to love. On this winter morning, the love haze of romantic riffing and robust wine has made way for the clear light of day and I cannot help but smile. I don’t know that I will be married, or that it even matters. But oh do I know this. I am loved and cherished by a man whom I love more today than when I met him nearly six years ago. In this season of holidays where sentimentalist slips are celebrated and love is most palpably in the air, this is plenty.

Love is plenty.