I am not one of those who had multiple opportunities to marry throughout my life. I know people who could have married anyone. Had numerous suitors and sorted through them like a closet stuffed with clothing. Not me. I can count on one hand the number of men who were even remotely attracted to me and not one of them saw me as a take home to mom prospect. For me there has only been Will and now Rob.
My first engagement was storied. Surprise. One knee, rose, wine and a ring in a box. Very school girl fantasy.
Rob and I were not school kids though I was hardly a girl with Will either being 35 and all. But Rob and I came to be engaged after knowing each other for just a tad more than three months, and I would characterize the courtship as not usual.
The third anniversary of our betrothal is tomorrow – sort of – and I don’t think I have every really written about it.
Rob came down to Iowa to pick me up for a Spring Break trip. He actually began planning this vacation for me early in our friendship when we were still just friends. Destination – Arkansas. We took Dee to my folks but had headed back to my home in Des Moines to visit with BFF and her husband before heading out. We went to dinner and saw the raunchiest comic/hypnotist show at a local comedy club before getting home around midnight.
A couple of weeks early, we’d talked about my coming to Canada. I made it clear that a move of that magnitude was not whimsical nor could I do any “test-driving” of living together. It’s not that I am old-fashioned. I just think living together is not a test for marriage compatibility.
“Let’s see if we are compatible by playing at house.” is a stupid idea that is mostly doomed to failure because I have rarely witnessed two people do this having discussed in advance what they want or where they are really going. And playing is how children learn things. Adults at play are … well … adults just playing. Nothing more or less.
Before you wonder, I told Will the exact same thing when he was basically spending every minute at my house within a month of our dating. I don’t live with someone unless we are getting married in the very near future. I don’t believe that two people learn anything from the process that simply having frank discussions about wouldn’t reveal and compatibility is like happily ever after – a matter of mindset and resolve. If I am in love and committed, do socks and underwear on the floor or snoring or never remembering to start the dishwasher before bed so there are clean dishes for the next day really matter all that much? Shouldn’t tightwadness or ditzy behavior have already been apparent? Sexism isn’t something that is easily cloaked until close quarters flushes it out and if you need to “test drive” someone, isn’t that really a red flag?
I knew that Rob and I were compatible. I wasn’t so naive that I believed that marriage is some flower and singing animal strewn forest of nuptial bliss. I didn’t need a test drive. Do you test drive friendships or do you just have them?
Before we went to bed, Rob took a box out of his suitcase and showed me the rings. An engagement band and a wedding ring.
“I’m not ready to ask the question, but I want you to wear this,” he told me.
I protested. I didn’t want this until he was ready. I could wait. He insisted.
We headed out the next morning to stock the ice chests for the trip and then hit the highway south with me ringed. It felt strange to wear a ring again. I’d taken my wedding ring from Will off the day after his funeral and it took months of rubbing my ring finger raw to get used to it being gone. Now it felt funny to have the finger encased again. I chalked it up to my whole thing with jewelry in general. I just am not meant to be adorned.
The second night in Arkansas – and again we were in bed – Rob said,
“You know what I wasn’t ready to ask? I’m ready. Will you marry me?”
And I said yes because I was too.
On the way back to pick up Dee at my folks’, we had a marathon discussion session. I don’t think I knew as much about Will after several years of marriage as I did about Rob after Arkansas. Very little was left unsaid. Full disclosure then and since. Too often we fall into this trap of believing that all will be revealed over time through gestures and situations and that another person can be learned through proximity. But I lived with my parents for 18 years and I don’t think either one of them ever really knew me. And it wasn’t for lack of time or love. We just didn’t talk. Really talk.
Closeness is more than sharing a bed and bath.