Monday, January 25, 2010

Fear and Loving in Reno

So, today I’m going to combine two seemingly different topics that actually are running together: my engagement and a book review.
Bran and I have been talking marriage for a while. He even asked me to pick out some rings I liked a few months ago. So while this engagement wasn’t a shock, it was a lovely surprise – especially because Bran was so sweet in arranging the steps leading up to the proposal. For those who haven’t heard the story – he buttered me up utterly as “yes” insurance. It was our third day on the ship and he had arranged a seaweed body wrap and massage, and reservations at the ship’s fancy restaurant. It was all rather lovely. After dinner, we walked around on the deck and when we hit a place where there was no one else, he got down on one knee, opened the box - and then didn’t say a word.
Of course once he hit knee I burst into tears, so I stood there, waiting… waiting… and when he didn’t say anything I nodded and burbled “yes.” He stood up and hugged me “So you’ll marry me?” “Yes.”
He then explained he hadn’t said anything when he knelt, because he knew he’d cry. This, of course, made us both laugh.
I pretty much adore Bran.
Which, however, does *not* change the fact that I’m still scared out of my noggin by the thought of getting remarried. This further segues neatly into my book review for “Committed, A skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage.” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Yes, that Elizabeth Gilbert, of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame Why then is my fear a proper segue to a book review? Because that exact fear, and the attempt at resolution, is the subject of “Committed.”
But first, a tangent (I know, you’re shocked) to the subject of “Eat, Pray, Love” (EPL from now on for brevity’s sake). I had a love/hate relationship with the book for a lot of reasons. I’m sure for pretty much the same ones that most every divorcé did. I hated it because wouldn’t we *all* love to spend our post divorce insanity at the very *least* eating our way through Italy? And maybe less of us might choose time at an Indian ashram, but I would have loved that, too. And time in Bali? Oh rats – such misery. I wanna smack Elizabeth Gilbert around for such a wonderful trip. Ahhh, but the love part of the love/hate. I love her honesty. I love that she took me down into the rabbit hole hell spiral of her depression and neurosis and anger and pain and showed me around. I listened to her speak the words of *my* feelings (literally, I had the audiobook) on more than one occasion and I realized – I’m not crazy (or stupid, or weak, or pathetic). Or at least, if I am, I am not alone in my insanity (or stupidity, weakness and pathetic-ness). There’s at the very least a party of two at this table, and at least one of us is a best-selling author. There’s something to be said for that, right? So, when I saw “Committed” as an audio book offering, I figured I would get it (this was before Brandon had proposed, mind you, but with the knowledge that he and I were on a someday track to marriage barring flaming derailment).
Sooooooo… back on track.
“Committed” follows on the heels of “EPL” but doesn’t try to wear it’s shoes. At the end of the first book, Elizabeth has found “Felipe” a brazilian born Australian who she falls head over heels for. They decide to spend their lives together but have sworn never to marry each other as each has been through a horrible divorce (Liz rates hers as a 7.2 with 10 being utter decimation). That may have been the end but for the department of homeland security. At the beginning of “Committed” we find out that Felipe’s been coming into the US on work visas for 3 months at a time and then leaving and coming back for another 3 months to be able to be with Liz in Philidelphia, where they’ve settled. He’s familiar with the work visa process because he owns a gem importing business that he’s been running out of the US for years. However, he’s never been quite so “regular” about his comings and goings, which raises the eyebrow of Homeland Security, who gives Felipe the boot, not before however, mentioning the most expedient and likely way for him to be able to live in the US with Liz, is by their marriage.
Enter the conflict! Neither wants to marry, but both want to be together, so they decide they’re going to have to. The next year is spent with them traveling as cheaply as possible through Southeast Asia (Liz has not reaped the financial success of EPL yet and Felipe’s business is all in the US) as the lawyers and officials maneuver to get everything to a point where Felipe can return to US soil and marry Liz. In this time, Liz reads everything she can get her sister to ship her on “western” marriage throughout the ages (it was just too much info to deal with marriage everywhere), interviews the locals about husbands and marriage, and observes and recollects as many marriage arrangements as she can.
I thought it was all *freaking fascinating*, and oddly enough, comforting.
Maybe Liz’s ability to sell herself on the idea worked on me as well. However, she didn’t so much look at the “good side” of marriage as she flat out explored what it is and what it has been. And she has no problem at all talking about the negatives.
Such as the fact that some researchers have found that in terms of rates of depression, physical health, longevity, and salary, modern marriage is markedly better for men than women. Then, of course, there’s the 50% divorce rate. Plus, her own reasons for not trusting the institution in it’s entirety.
However, by the end, she has built the strong case (for me, anyway) that this cultural construct we call marriage is just that – a construct – and we have the right to create and maintain it however we need to to make it our own.
So would I recommend this book? Absolutely – again, keep in mind I listened to the audio – and anything read in an author’s own voice improves it immensely (in my opinion. And unless it’s Stephen King reading).
And did it allay my fears entirely? No. I’ll still be afraid. As one woman responded to her daughter who asked if all brides are as scared as she is:
“No, honey, only the ones who think are scared.”
I think. I think A LOT. I’m a neurotic sort of cat who ends up on the ceiling every now and then because with all of my thinking I somehow forget what I’ve *learned*. Luckily, I have a sweet set of friends and adoring man who gently remind me of what I’ve forgotten while I pluck myself off of the ceiling one nail at a time.

1 comment:

  1. The whole setup for the proposal sounds wonderful!

    I think that may be a book I have to read at some point.

    Marriage is an interesting subject, especially anthropologically. Gets a lot more interesting when it's personal, though. I've had two (or three, depending on how you count them) serious relationships, all of which crashed and burned, but I managed to avoid marriage in those cases. I didn't want to be tied to anyone for that long. Xander helped me think about it sideways, though - it's a choice we're making, and we make the rules we are comfortable with. You don't have to take all the past and cram it into what you expect. You create your relationship, your comfort, your happiness. I think that's pretty much what the author said, too.

    Which I'm sure you already know.

    We've been married a little over three years and together for almost 6, and we still have to work our way over/around/through things. Sometimes they seem impossible. The thing is, though, and I see this in you two, that I like Xander, and he likes me, and when I stomp off in a huff, I know I can come back when I'm less ticked off and we'll talk our way through it. The past year has tested both of us pretty hard, but we're still here, and I still like seeing him every morning.

    I'm not sure what I'm trying to say. You and Brandon seem like you can work through things, and I can't imagine he would have asked you if he didn't think the two of you could make it. You laugh, you play, you talk, and you don't seem to shy away from the hard stuff. You have every right to be scared. It's a scary thing, and forever can feel very long sometimes at 3 o'clock in the morning. When you see him, though, or talk about him, you smile. I've seen it. That's a really good place to start, even if it seems a little silly.


    Oh, and the word verification was... "nerifies"

    very odd.