I went to Carrie's wedding two weekends ago.
Carrie: former Westovarian, masters in teaching, someone told her once that she had a map of Ireland on her face, pale skin, green eyes, light freckles, long tousled curly black hair.
It's easy to forget that these weddings are more than just a weekend occurrence. They can start feeling like a dime a dozen, Whitworth ones anyway, during the summer. Commonly overheard in jocular comparison: -- "I have n number of weddings to attend this month" -- "Ah yes, I have n + 1."
Whitworth: liberal arts Christian college, 2,000 students, contained dreaded cliche: "ring by spring", as in the spring of one's senior year, the ring traditionally containing a diamond, the ring worn on the left hand, the ring featured in personal pages on the Internet, the ring shown (palm out) next to gaping mouth, the ring on hand resting on other (slightly bigger) hand and photo fading blurry toward the edges.
It's easy to forget that (for the parties involved) the wedding is something momentous. I had drunk too much the night before.
I have a friend whose (not from Whitworth, needed me to clarify "ring by spring") primary objection with marriage is his realism.
"I am a realist." -- friend not from Whitworth
Statistically in the United States half of marriages end in divorce. I am told that the Whitworth statistic for marriages is slightly worse. Moreover, it is unrealistic to expect people -- even in a sustained marriage -- not to break their vows, not to be selfish, not to continue the habits and pleasures and preoccupations that they had before getting married.
I do not experience an emotional connection to Mitch's happiness, at least not an immediate one. I feel immediately what I want, like or don't like. I evaluate the consequences my actions have to my future and present comfort. Having my emotions and my thoughts hardwired into what affects my husband might not be something that ever happens. Realistically.
Carrie married a man named Alec. I don't think they'll admit to this, but the first time they met* was at Westover. We were making dinner during one of the late summer weeks before school started. Alec and some other guests were there. We cooked applesauce into everything we made. We made applesauce bread and chicken and margaritas. The bottom of our over-full blender broke, and its green-yellow contents spilled out at enough speed to coat the counters and floor and bottom half of the refrigerator. Carrie and Alec's relationship has been too refined and traditional and romantic to have admittedly started with a kitchen awash and sticky with pulverized apple and half a bottle of tequila (as I am here positing it did).
*met: that time that they first found a little interest in each other, seeds of thoughts, you know: all that romance stuff.
Alec is tall, has a big smile (his lips extending beyond the edges of his outside teeth so there are spaces in the two corners of his lips where he could potentially put things), and has short tousled curly black hair.
I sat in the church with my four-o-clock hangover and watched Carrie walk down the aisle in her white dress with her black hair and her green eyes, looking beautiful. I remembered that she was my good friend and that a wedding meant something, that hers was not a dime a dozen, and that it was no longer spring.
Carrie and Alec promised to be each other's biggest support. They promised to love each other, to be faithful, and to care for each other*.
*This promise extended to an indefinate time in the future when they might not look so great in white or in a tux. When they are old fat ugly bitter sunspotted toothless, for all I know.
And I suspect that a draw of this marriage thing (openly for the realists and probably secretly for everyone else) is that at some point the promise of being faithful will be fufilled not from constancy but from lack of opportunity. We will lose our looks and men will stop checking out our butts and the women with the butts will stop laughing (at least earnestly) at our jokes. And we will be old and we want someone (someone!) who is roped into that decrepidness with us.
I know I am selfish, I am needy, I am manipulative, I am emotionally defunct. Just ask the people I live with.
So as Carrie walked, with her white and the flower in her hair and her father and her intentions, towards the man with the gaps in his smile (and she in enormous wedges so that when he kissed her as his bride he had to lean down four inches instead of eight), I thought about how unlikely it was that for generations people have been walking down that aisle. People have known for centuries what I know about myself and what my realist friend knows about himself, and yet they line up to make these unrealistic promises. Faithfulness to, honesty towards, and support for another person even when it's inconvieniant to one's self. Even when they didn't hardwire my emotions into anybody but me. So brave to get all dressed up and to promise in front of other people those things.
And I thought that what I needed was to put on that lying white and walk down that aisle every single day.
It reminds me of what my friend John the Lutheran says about sin. And about how we need to die to it every day. Hang on that cross every day.
I think then maybe I could get somewhat close to working on that hardwiring. Get somewhere close to loving another person. I've never been a very good realist.