Somehow, it got to be May.
I have finished Mass Effect, all three games, and have started branching out into other video games in my (somewhat less than copious) spare time. Nate and I are both working a great deal, spending time with friends, and oh, yes, planning a wedding.
There are times when I just want the wedding to be over. I am being asked to render opinions about things for which I honestly have no opinions. “What kind of vases do you want the flowers in?” or “What color should the runner be?”
Some parts have been fun. I’ve bought beautiful shoes that make me giddy every time I see them – a sort of girly response to this that I didn’t expect. I’ve been working on mock-ups of my wedding dress that improve with every iteration, and in the last iteration, I feel that it’s nearly perfect.
We sent out invitations in a single afternoon push, but still have about a dozen for which we need to fix labels or get addresses. RSVPs are starting to come in and it thrills me that people want to come to our wedding. Our wedding.
One of the things that needed doing was to get the wedding bands made. Because my ring is custom made and unusually shaped, the jeweler had to take my engagement ring to build the wedding band off it.
When I first started wearing the ring, it was heavy. It felt strange on my hand to have this weight always present. I found myself constantly looking at it, admiring it, contemplating what it meant.
Eventually, as these things happen, the ring stopped being such a weight. The idea of marriage became a comfortable one, and as we get ever closer to the date, I found myself not forgetting that it was there, exactly, but the ring simply became a part of my hand. I know it’s there, what it means. No longer simply comfortable, it has become comforting.
Nate travels a great deal in the course of his work, and it’s not uncommon for him to be gone for a week or more at a time. Those trips are usually bookended by long days at the office, such that I don’t see him for more than a few minutes when I get up in the morning or when he comes to bed at night.
When we handed the ring off to the jeweler, Nate started in on a very long week at work immediately followed by a week in Rome. Two weeks without the ring, without my fiance, and over my birthday has been challenging. I have a placeholder ring, a titanium band that I usually wear on the other hand, but it’s not the same. Every time I think of Nate, my fingers go to my ring – and it’s not the ring I expect or want.
Nate returns from his trip tomorrow and hopefully soon after, so will the ring from the jeweler.
In my entire life, my family holidays have always been filled with people I’m not related to. Thanksgiving always had my mom and dad… and my step-dad, sometimes my grandmother, sometimes my grandfather and his partner (who was always a second grandmother to me), my step-father’s engineering professor from way back in the day, his wife (who was my Auntie Mame growing up), a variety of aunts and uncles that have no blood relation, but always turned up at every major holiday that my mother hosted.
As such, family always had a little bit of a weird flavor for me. Family isn’t comprised of the nuclear ideal of mom, dad, and 2.3 kids. Family has always been a weird, quirky array of people I’m not related to (except the ones that I am) but fill all of those important familial archetypes. It’s no wonder, then, that I acquire people who become part of my larger family. Despite being an only child, my mother only having one blood-relation sister, and my not knowing my father’s people at all, I have sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews aplenty.
I went to Sacramento to spend Thanksgiving with these people, my family. I brought my fiance and one of my sisters with me. My family had met the fiance the prior Thanksgiving, but not the sister, and in the way of my family, they welcomed both with open arms, as if they had always been part of the greater family, but just hadn’t met them yet.
On Thanksgiving and every day, that is the thing I am most thankful for: my weird, quirky family full of people I’m not related to (except the ones that I am) and their complete willingness to open the door for one more or two more or a dozen more people to become part of our family.
A highly confusing thing to me about the modern Love Industry (and the historical interpretations of the same, if we’re being honest here) is the pervasive opinion that each person has One True Love and further that when you find your One True Love, they will be the piece of your soul that’s missing and only by being together will you be whole.
This is actually mildly horrifying and I don’t entirely understand why anyone would find this state desirable. Isn’t it better to be a whole person on your own, independent, happy of your own volition, and wishing to share that state with someone else? Is it fair to make your happiness someone else’s problem? Are you unwilling to take responsibility for your own life? What happens if/when something happens to you or your partner?
Occasionally, though, I’ll find evidence that not everyone thinks this way. Since this getting married business started, I’ve been collecting quotes and images that work with my interpretation of what marriage is and should be: a partnership between two whole people. We don’t have to be entirely independent and we don’t have to always stand on our own, but the choice to do so or not should be just that: a choice.
One of the most notable and probably one of the quotes that has stuck with me for over a decade is from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:
Then Almitra spoke again and said, “And what of Marriage, master?”
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve always been very independent (my mother tells a story that when I was a baby, she would know that I was awake in the mornings not because I would cry, but because I would be entertaining myself with my busy-box – one of those contraptions that you put in cribs with bells and rattling things that move and make noise – and she could hear the ringing and clicking from the other room as I played with it) and a bit of an introvert besides, but I am fond of my own company. I like being by myself, I enjoy reading when no one else is around, and when given a choice between a loud party or an evening in, by myself, there’s a solid 75% chance that I’ll choose the evening in. I don’t require another person to be content in my life.
However, I love being with Nate and I love seeing him and doing stuff with him, and when he travels for business (which is quite a lot), I miss him, but mostly because I occasionally find myself wanting to turn to him to tell him something that I’ve thought of or show him something I’ve found, or see what he will do when I tell him something ridiculous.
Randall Munroe of XKCD, of course, managed to sum it up brilliantly.
Nate is not the whole of my life and I don’t want to be the whole of his. I want us to have separate interests, to be separate people. I don’t want to always know how his mind works because part of my interest in him is that we are different, separate, and utterly fascinating apart. And I want to spend the rest of my life figuring him out.
Not a lot of people know this about me, but I’m secretly a hopeless romantic.
This romanticism is carefully hidden away and packaged under layers of pragmatism. I like things and people to be direct and am often confused by people who don’t just say what they mean. I am infuriated by media romances (TV, film, novels) in which the principles can’t seem to get their shit together enough to just say, “Hey, I like you. Do you like me?” and instead spend their time hopelessly mooning over someone who doesn’t know they exist. What’s wrong with them that they can’t just march up to the object of their affection and say something?
There is this notion (driven by those media romances) that romance happens without verbal communication. They will look up from their respective books in a coffee shop, their eyes will meet, they will realize that they are both reading the same edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, and then they’ll drop their half-caf-soy-lattes (hers with a shot of almond syrup) in the rush to fling themselves into one another’s arms.
This is ridiculous.
And yet, I still love romance novels and romantic comedies (the romantic tragedies usually involve someone doing something stupid for “love” when what they mean is “gross obsession”) when I can find the ones that aren’t utterly insipid. The trappings of romance are ridiculous. Love never is.*
Most of all, though, I love stories of romance between real people.
My family doesn’t have a lot of these stories (or if they do, no one ever tells me about them). It’s one of the reasons I’m writing this blog: to tell the story of a romance, one which is silly (because Nate and I are nothing if not a bit silly), sweet, funny, and more than anything, full of love and laughter** both in copious quantities.
Every time I encounter one, it gives me hope for the future, for humanity, and such a spectacular fuzzy feeling inside. This one has been making the rounds of the internet, and I’ve bookmarked it and read it over and over again because it’s both funny and sweet, and it’s worth sharing. Without further ado, I share The Second Date Story.
And if you have a romantic story (or several) to share, do so with abandon. Love is always worth celebrating.
*Except sometimes when it is, and then it’s hysterical.
**My favorite Irish toast is, “Here’s to me and here’s to you, and here’s to love and laughter; I’ll be true as long as you, and not a moment after.”
Or: The Hookup
Or: Why Life Isn’t and Shouldn’t Be Like a Romantic Comedy
Nate’s and my official courtship started over carrot cake, as has almost every major milestone of our relationship.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not one for mincing words or circumlocution and our relationship is, at least in part, a product of my desire for extremely clear communication. I try to say what I mean and mean what I say. There’s a tendency to assume that men are very clear communicators and women are not, but in our relationship, much like our wedding and hopefully, our marriage, we’re tossing out all the things that don’t make a great deal of sense. And not talking about the shit that is going on is one of those things.
So when Nate and I had been meeting for a swing dance class and coffee and carrot cake afterward (or more often, working our way through Au Coquelet‘s jabillions of italian soda syrup flavors) for awhile; after we had disentangled ourselves from our prior relationships; after we had been going over to each other’s homes and just as often crashing (platonically) in each other’s beds for months; and just before we went on a trip to Chicago together, Nate and I were sitting in the coffee shop, sharing a piece of carrot cake, and laughing about some of the hijinks we planned to get up to in Chicago.
To something I had said, Nate replied, “Well, it’s not as if we’re dating yet.”
If this were a romance novel (with which I have unfortunate and embarrassing love affairs) or a romantic comedy film, one of two things would have happened:
Option 1: We would have stared across the table at each other, forgetting that last little piece of carrot cake that prior to this moment we had been carefully taking little pieces of, until it was just a tiny speck of frosting, trying desperately not to be the one who ate the last bite. Our eyes would have met and we’d lean across and kiss each other, knowing, without words, that this was the moment that everything would change!
Option 2: I would have changed the subject and pretended that nothing happened. Later, over a pint of ice cream, I’d have carefully and cautiously dissected every word of the conversation and quoted High Fidelity at myself while I determined what Nate had meant when he said, “yet”. I probably would have called my Best Friend ™, who would have given me terrible dating advice while simultaneously proven that she was more of a whore than I could ever hope to be. (Unless she was the ugly best friend, in which case she would have given me slightly better advice, but would have been jealous of me. Later she’d try to undermine my relationship, but the power of love would have persevered and I’d have forgiven her perfidy because I’m a better person.)
Fortunately, this is not a romance novel nor a romantic comedy. Instead, I placed my hands down on either side of the plate, leaned forward, and said, “So, I can’t help but notice that we’re moving in this direction. Are you interested in pursuing this? Because I am.”
Given that you’re reading this on our wedding blog, you may take it as given that it all worked out from there.
Nate and I probably met a couple of times before we actually met.
Nate went to college with his best man, Matthew Marovich. Matt is a brilliant guy, funny, sweet, talented, and prone to hysterical ranting and raving, usually while muppet-flailing.
Matt and I met through our Renaissance faire guild while we were both in college (although going to different schools), although I made it down to Santa Cruz a few times to hang out with him. He swears that we hung out while he was hanging with Nate. There is photographic evidence that Nate and I were at the same parties at the same time, but for whatever reason, we didn’t quite ever connect.
And then in August of 2008, Nate and I really met at a renaissance faire that Matt and his (then fiance, now) wife were working with me. They had dragged Nate along to guest with our guild, and had evidently spent the entire drive to the faire site warning Nate that we’re a hard group to break into, but just be friendly, helpful, and respectful, and maybe, just maybe, we would warm to him. Maybe.
It’s a thing about working faires the way we do, which is to say that we work really hard and play only slightly harder than that. Our guild likes people who are useful before they are nice, and in the division between “nice” and “interesting”, we’ll almost always pick “interesting”.
Nate is unusual in that he is genuinely kind, has a wicked sense of humor, and is competently helpful.
Sometime on Saturday while I was tipsily wandering around our faire yard and after Nate had cheerfully acquiesced to being a beast of burden for the Ladies ™, I asked him to pick up a chair or bring us a drink, or something equally useful to someone who was wearing more velvet than any human being rightfully ought to. After delivering whichever slightly ridiculous request the Ladies had made, I pointed at his chest and said, “I like you.”
I am known for not liking many people and certainly not enough to want to spend time with them intentionally. When I meet people I like, I don’t believe in dicking around with half-assed looks from afar or wondering if they like me, too. I liked Nate, so I told him then and there.
Later that weekend found us working hard shoulder to shoulder and exchanging email addresses. Soon after we discovered that we have similar hobbies, and a friendship was formed.
Nate and I were both dating other people at the time, so our relationship started with a friendship. We were both trying to identify what we wanted in our lives and it was sort of inevitable that when we both finally found ourselves single at the same time, we looked at each other and realized that the answer to that was waiting right there.
Being the sort of nerds we are, Nate and I have a lot of catch phrases that we use in our lives. These are phrases that allude to other conversations and act as a sort of short-hand in our day to day existences. Rather than relate an entire story that we’ve already told each other a million times, or worse, we were both there for, but don’t really require an entire rehashing, we now have entire conversations with nothing but punchlines.
In a weird way, this is one of the ways that we know we’re good for one another.
This sort of behavior is common among our friends. Among geeks, it’s common to reference movie quotes or obscure song lyrics that will only make sense if you have shared context – everyone has seen that show or movie or knows that band or was there for that moment. In the same way that our generation talks about where we were on 9/11 and our parents’ generation talks about where they were during the moon landing or JFK’s assassination (one of the ways in which we establish our shared context), it is common for geeks to talk about the Princess Bride or Holy Grail or the Goonies with many of the same reverent tones. But because we have all seen those movies, we don’t need to ask whether we remember them; they are indelibly part of our cultural context. We establish that by shouting, “Inconceivable!” or inquiring after the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.
Shared context is the cornerstone of understanding. Nate’s and my understanding of one another is filled with pop-culture references, past conversations with one another, and characters we’ve pretended to be during the course of the games we’ve played together and separately. It’s not that we don’t have important conversations about politics and economics, religion and social policy. It’s just that even those conversations are filled with lines like:
* That guy? Fuck that guy.
* I’m thinking about cheese.
* And that’s when the fight started.
It’s the code of nerds and more specifically, our special, secret code that we share with one another and our closest friends. Newcomers know that they are not yet part of the club because they haven’t been invited into our in-jokes.
I don’t think that Nate and I are particularly alone in this. Many couples have their shared jokes and weird quirks known only to each other. However, Nate and I have acknowledged them and made something of a study of them. Occasionally when we realize we’ve made one of those jokes or had a conversation that code breakers would be scratching their heads over as seemingly no actual information was conveyed, one or the other of us will stop, look at the other, and say, “I love you,” which in itself is code for, “We have just successfully had a meaningful conversation that would have been impossible if we did not think in some fundamentally similar ways and had the shared context to understand one another. And that’s pretty fucking awesome.”