Friday, January 9, 2009

Not Marlo Thomas, But That Other Girl


In the past, I was never one to picture getting married. I never went husband hunting. I never accepted dates with the thought in my mind that I would potentially marry the suitor. I never swooned over white dresses and flowers and never felt even the slightest bit jealous during the seven times I have served as a bridesmaid. I have even been proposed to before in a young, dumb, lovestruck moment, and as young as I was, I still had the wherewithal to say no. Then I broke up with that guy a week later because it was just too much pressure.

I planned on making my own way in the world. Living the single life, getting a couple more dogs and a house with some land, maybe adopting after forty, traveling the world, writing quietly in a sunny corner of my own house, on my own terms, doing things my own way. In fact right now, as I type these thoughts on to the screen of my little MacBook, it all still sounds really appealing.

I’ve changed though.


I don’t know what the life-altering event or moment was, but I have definitely had a serious change of heart. Maybe it was meeting the right guy, or reaching a certain age, or becoming the recipient of a ticking biological clock that I never asked for or expected. Maybe it was seeing my niece and nephew and my best friend’s daughter and how they become more like those people that I love each day--- yeah, I’ll take some of that. Maybe it was realizing that sad and scary things are going to happen in life, and while being independent and self-sufficient will always be considered virtues in my mind, I now know that there will be times when I need a true teammate and he needs me back. Maybe it is a combination of all of the above. I just never thought I would turn into that girl, but I think it may have happened while I wasn’t paying attention.

Maybe just a tiny little bit.

Mike and I are going on four years of togetherness. We are in our early thirties. We love each other and want to be together. We share a home and a budget and chores and furry children. We both want children of the non-furry variety. I was ready just to dive in and start with the babies, but Mike thought we should be all traditional-like and get married first. This discussion took place about a year ago. We’ve looked at rings. We’ve talked about potential wedding venues and styles. We’ve talked about the future children we would have, potentially redheaded, and definitely tall, and surely with golden eyes. Daniel (if I get my way) for a boy, Alexis for a girl. These are real discussions we have had. He even screwed himself by setting a deadline, stating “We will definitely be engaged by the end of the year”

Then my friends started to get in on the action.

Mike and I went backpacking in July and all of my friends convinced me that he was taking me out into the middle of the woods to ask me to marry him. I bought into that theory. It made sense, right? Just the two of us and our trusty dog alone in the wilderness. Side by side climbing mountains, making macaroni and cheese, and sipping whiskey from a flask by the fire. The blue skies, the birdsong, the majestic Colorado mountains on all sides. What a perfect place to propose. Ok, except for the shitting in the woods, and the dog romantically sharing our two-man tent. Giant blisters? Check. Dreadlocks forming in my formerly cute hair? Check. Both of us smelling very similar to large farm animals. Check and check. Maybe the backpacking proposal scenario wasn’t the way to go.


A couple weeks later, I raced in a triathlon on my birthday. A girlfriend became convinced that Mike was going to propose as I crossed the finish line. She spun a romantic tale of me triumphing over a major physical challenge on the same day I turned 32, and then being rewarded at the end of it all with a giant romantic and public gesture from my ultra creative and adoring boyfriend. I was horribly sick during the race, and it was 97 degrees outside that day. There were a couple times during the last stretch of the run where I thought I might not make it. The thought of Mike asking me to marry him as I crossed the line pushed me through. As I finished the race, Mike was standing at the line poised to go down on one knee, when suddenly he whipped out his effing iPhone and began telling me what my splits were (worse than last year when I was not in the throes of bronchitis, and when it was 70 degrees outside). My dad stood beside him and said “You don’t look so good, Cara; you’re very red.”

Needless to say, there was no romantic marriage proposal.

There have been other opportunities over the past few months, too, but no such luck. However when the holidays rolled around and Mike voluntarily booked a romantic, secluded, riverside cabin in wine country where we would stay for two nights before heading down to his parents’ house in San Francisco, I knew what was coming. He did this voluntarily. He PLANNED stuff out that didn’t involve purchasing furniture or six hundred-dollar ski boots. He did it all on his own.

I told friends and co-workers that this was it. That was a really dumb thing to do.

Upon arriving in the Russian River Valley, we stopped at the grocery store before heading to the cabin so that we could enjoy a light dinner of wine and cheese and fruit and dark chocolate. It was all very romantic. I began to analyze every move furiously. I applied lipgloss approximately every three minutes. I fussed with my hair and tried desperately to make my 22-hour-roadtrip sweatpants look as sexy as possible. We sat in front of the fire. We sat in the hot tub. We snuggled up on the couch. We gazed into each others eyes. And then... nothing happened. Except for that I started to get a little tired of being so polite and ladylike.

The next morning we were going to taste wine at several vineyards. I put on a little extra mascara and actually blew out my hair.

I wasn’t real smart at the first tasting. Mike was buying wine from the guy behind the counter, and apparently when they find out you’re buying, they start to get a little more liberal with the pouring. I was really enjoying myself. I was sampling champagne and pinot noir one after another, a lethal combination. As we were leaving, I stated tipsily that I needed a sandwich to which Mike replied, “You are so cute.”

Ummm, just for the record, neither one of us say things like that very often. I mean we both dish out the compliments on a regular basis, and we are affectionate and loving, but we really don’t dote that much. I knew it was a sign. But first, I needed that sandwich.

That night, back at the cabin, we cooked together and talked and laughed and joked around the way we do all the time. After all that fun, we went to sit on the couch in the living room in front of the fire. Mike dimmed the lights and handed me a glass of wine. I got super nervous. This was it. I was going to get engaged right then. I was going to say yes and spend the rest of my life with this crazy redhead whom I adore. I was going to get jewelry! Mike sat down next to me, threw his arm around my shoulders, kissed me haphazardly, half on my cheek, half in my hair. Then he said the words I will never forget.

“Packers-Bears have Monday night, wanna watch?”

And under normal circumstances my answer would have been a resounding yes. Do you know why? Because unlike so many other women, I actually know football. This alone should be grounds for proposal! But alas, it was not to be. And so I did what any other low-maintenance, sports-loving, marriage-quality girl would do. I shrieked at him. And I teared up. And I became everything about being a girl that I have always hated “What in the hell are we doing here? We came here to watch FOOTBALL!?!?” I was aghast and Mike was, well, he was simply floored. Needless to say, it was a long discussion that followed.

His beloved Packers lost to Chicago that night, and I lost the game I had been playing with my own emotions. I admitted defeat, and gave up trying to control everything. I am not proud of my behavior. I am not that girl. Adding insult to injury, a girl who is dating one of Mike’s buddies told one of my best friends that all I talk about is getting married. I don’t think she realized she was talking to one of my closest friends and that it would get directly back to me, and you know how girls can be sometimes. But still, as a smart woman with what I believe is a lot to offer intellectually and conversationally, it stung a little bit to hear that. (in my defense, another girl at the table had just gotten engaged, and we were on the subject, but whatever)

So, I am going to take a moment to write my own vows. Only these aren’t wedding vows.

I am vowing to let it go.

I vow to not mention weddings or marriage to Mike or to anyone else until I actually have a wedding and a marriage to plan. And even then, I will keep it to a bare minimum, because everyone knows that girl, too.

I vow to wait patiently for what I know will happen in due time, even though it makes me feel like one of the secretaries from Mad Men waiting around for a man to save her. Still, I vow to enjoy the moments we have together as a young, childless, unmarried couple while I still can.

I vow to not again, in passing, say things to Mike like, “Did you know that babies born to women over the age of 35 have a forty per cent increased chance of Downs Syndrome?” and then glide effortlessly out of the room, leaving him alone with his thoughts.

I vow to be the low-maintenance girl he loves, and I vow not to put pressure on him.

I vow not to be that girl anymore.

Till death do I part.


10 comments:

Cara said...

This was weird coming upon your blog. My name is Cara. My boyfriend of almost 5 years is named Mike. We live together, have furry animals, and talk about marriage and what not. I also did not dream of marriages and weddings and what not, yet I am feeling a little strange about not even being engaged yet. hahah. We can't even afford a wedding, yet i still want to be engaged asap. hahaa.

Glad I found your blog through sarah (chocolate ramblings, etc). :-)

I hope I am not creeping you our by showing you our similarities. heh. ;-)

Cara said...

Hi Cara! Thanks for stopping by. How funny is that? Our parallel lives? As much as i seem to be hurrying things along, I am also so happy with where they are. Sounds like you are too! It's nice to be "gotten" :)

Mommy Writes said...

Well written. Can I suggest an additional vow?

Vow to tell your friends to back off and stop putting ideas in your head. Tell them it will happen when it happens and you will let them know after the fact. But all this "ooh, ooh! He's going to propose!" is making you nuts.

Lucas said...

Cara,
Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one and they ususally stink. That being said, here's a nice whiff of mine and you can totally ignore it if you'd like because that's probably what I would do if someone said this to me but.....

How come Mike gets all the control? If getting married is something you have come to realize that you want, having kids is something that is important to you and you'd like to do both these things with him, then why can't you approach it as a partner? You're in this thing 50%, you should get some say, or at least let your desires be known.

Maybe you already have and if so, that's great! I knew I wanted to marry my guy after 4 months with him. It took him 2 years to come to the same conclusion. He knew what I wanted because we talked about it (without me being the whiney, clingy THAT girl) and when he was ready for it too, he let me know. But we each knew where the other stood.

All I'm saying is there is low maintenance and there is people pleasing. It's your life. You only get one. Just make sure it doesn't pass you by while you wait.

And now, you may tell me to go straight to hell!! :) (Although I hope you don't because I think you are hilarious and an amazingly gifted storyteller and writer and I just want you to get everything you want out of life.)

Cara said...

Do you know what is so funny? Of everything I have ever written, this one has drummed up the most emotional responses! Lucas, you are in first place :) I have an inbox full of email from friends who are going or went through the same situation. All of my friends are strong women, but there is still that part of us that wants a little bit of romance in our lives. I think there is a right situation for everyone. As much as I feel entitled to, and am tempted to, just ask him myself...I just can't make myself do it. I just want a tiny piece of the fairy tale for my own...just one little piece, and then I will go back to being the ball buster I know I can be :) Thanks for all the great comments. Lucas-I would never tell you to go straight to hell. I fear that if and when I am able to write a book, you might be the only one who buys it :) You are so loyal! Plus I totally agree with you! :)

ThickChick said...

Hey, I haven't checked your blog in ages and after reading a few entries I deeply regret it - your writing is fantastic and I've missed reading about your adventures.

Off the top of my head I can think of sooooo many smart, beautiful, independent, successful women who have gone through this to some degree.

Live those vows and everything will happen as it should.

Lucas said...

Cara,
I would knock down the disabled and women with small children to get at your book! Perhaps you should mail me an advance copy so I can avoid the clink? And I'm only loyal because you write so damn well. If you sucked, well you're cute and all but...... ;)

Thanks for responding to my comment. I get that you want the the fairy tale. But, wouldn't it be nice if Mike would say something like "we will be engaged within 6 months!" and then one day when you weren't paying attention, he rides up on a white horse with the roses and the ring and sweeps you off your feet??? You get your committment now and your fairy tale later. I'm always conjuring up the most optimistic scenarios!

Bex said...

Cara - I have been so self-absorbed with our move to Florida and have just now stopped to check in on a few favorite blogs. I laughed out loud at this wonderfully written entry.

It happened to me, too! I became convinced it was coming and turned into this tightly-wound and SNEAKY snooper girl who looked through underwear drawers in search of the ring.

In hindsight, my desperate behavior took away a lot of my own enjoyment when it DID finally happen. And, although it was sweet and perfect, it was also anti-climatic because I was so tuned into EVERYTHING. I put the ring on my finger and then was filled with a sense of "...ok...now what?!"

I wish that I had had the sense to just let it BE. I'm glad that you've been able to do it. I'll be back SOON!!

Anonymous said...

There's a great book called Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others by John T. Molloy. I think it would be a really good for you to read. It definitely changed my life for the better. Best of luck to you on your romantic journey (:

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