Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Stephanie over at Creature Bug recently wrote a really sweet post about her husband on their anniversary. They met in high-school, and got married at twenty-one.

Whenever I hear stories like this, I shake my head in disbelief. How can you know who you want to spend your life with when you are so young? I'm convinced it must come down to emotional (and other) maturity. Some people are just more sure of themselves, more convinced of who they are and who they want to be than I ever was until my late twenties. (Or have I figured it out even now?)

Many of you--my loyal readers-- have shared your stories with me, and a surprising number of you met at a very young age, and are still together. My own parents met in high school and are still married today. A good friend of mine met her husband at camp when she was 15 (Hi, Lori!). I know this happens, but I still find it hard to wrap my head around.

When I think about the first boy I ever loved--Anton--all I can think is, "Thank god I didn't end up with him!" Not that he was a bad guy; on the contrary, he was hysterically funny and sweet, and he loved me deeply. Until the end, then . . .well, things ended badly. There are many reasons I am glad I did not end up with him, most importantly being that I would never have found Lance, would never have birthed the two best children in the world. But also--had I stayed with him, I probably wouldn't have moved to California, I wouldn't have had so many of the experiences that shaped me. My kids, if we had them, would have red hair! Not that I have a problem with red hair, but that doesn't make sense to me now, looking at my two blondies. Of course, if I had stayed with him, I would have a whole myriad of different experiences that I couldn't imagine my life without. I just wasn't ready at that time for a lifelong commitment. I could barely commit to a major, or to staying in school, or to a mountain bike at that point in my life.

After Anton, there was Andy. Andy is the sweetest boy on the planet, and I think my one regret: I wish I stayed in touch with him. (Though it should be said that he really lost touch with me. And perhaps he does not regret it.) I miss him. But again, I am glad we didn't end up together. He is probably playing his bass guitar in a pick-up band in San Franciso or Austin, living out of his green VW van, smiling at everyone who walks by these days. Or maybe not. Maybe he's in suburbia somewhere, with two kids, like me--still smiling at everybody who walks by. Or he could be painting, or writing--not for anything commercial, though, I just can't picture that. He would probably shake his head at my life, with a smile, and remind me how we used to laugh at people who owned houses and nice cars, how once we drove past a mailbox that had the name "STUCK" scrawled on the outside, and we thought that was just the absolute perfect symbol of what we considered to be middle-class boring lifestyles. Look! The Stucks! They're stuck! Oh, how we laughed!

After Andy, I moved to San Francisco. And then came Paul. Oh, Paul. The one that I am SO GLAD got away. Paul who never had a job, Paul who could charm anyone he wanted, Paul who mooched off anybody and everybody, Paul who insisted we not be in a monogamous relationship because that would just be NO FUN, Paul who I allowed to break my heart into millions of tiny pieces over and over. Though even now, when I think back on those months with Paul, I smile, because despite everything, we did have fun. I had more fun with him than I'd ever had before in my life. Nothing like being young and in love, in a new city, making new friends and being on your own, 5000 miles away from Mom and Dad. I was making some horrible pittance at the abortion clinic where I worked--$500 every two weeks, if I remember right--and still we laughed and partied and carried on daily. How many times did he call me at 7:00am (or more often, just roll over) and say "Hey, call in dead today, okay? Let's go to the beach." Luckily for me there aren't a plethora of 22 year old college graduates willing to work for less than $10/hr "counseling" women through abortions, or I would have been fired long before I actually quit.

Then finally, thankfully--Lance. Whew! Still, when we met, I was not looking for a life partner. I didn't want to get married, didn't want kids, I just wanted a date for parties, someone to go to dinner with when my friends were busy. And that's what we did, at first. Just dated, casually. Though we were quickly spending every moment together, we still--both of us--denied that there was anything serious going on. I'm not even sure at what moment it changed for us, but here we are, and I can't imagine being with anyone else. I am so glad that he is the one that "stuck" for me. Because, certainly of the 3 men I loved before him, he is the one most suited to me. But also because he is Lance, and it is because of him that I am able to be who I am.

Thing is, if we had met in college--and we could have, there were plenty of boys like Lance at UNC-- I wouldn't have married him. (Though now that I think about it, those were exactly the kind of boys I avoided like the plague. The dreaded "fraternity boys" with their envy-inducing trust funds and fancy cars. Yuck. Okay, but here I have to add--for a frat boy, Lance is a really good guy. No trust fund, no fancy car, just the Jeep he had to pony up half the cash for.) Where was I? Oh yes, college. If Lance and I had dated, if I had fallen in love with him then, I still would not have married him. I didn't want to get married. I wanted to GET OUT INTO THE WORLD. I wanted MY LIFE TO BEGIN. (I am using all caps here because that's how strongly I felt at the time. Do I need to explain that? Why is this post so meandering and insecure??) The last thing I wanted was to settle down.

So maybe that's it--that's the difference. Maybe some people are not so afraid of missing out on things by "settling down". Maybe some people don't see getting married as an end to their life, like I did at the time, but as a beginning, like I did when I finally got married. Though I still think that points back to emotional maturity. I just didn't have it at 18, at 20, at 23. Not 'till the ripe old age of 28 was I willing or eager to commit to anyone long-term. Even as I type that 28, it seems so impossibly young. How did I know Lance was the one? How was I able to make that leap? Baffling.

I guess it comes down to timing: you have to meet the guy that you can love at the same time that he can love you--not too soon, not too late. Not only do you have to find the person who will love you with all your flaws, but you have to meet him at a time when you both can commit. Fortunately, we seem to be given more than one soulmate per lifetime, perhaps because it is precisely so hard to make all the variables line up right. And I suppose it is evidence of my immaturity that each of the 4 men I have loved in my life are so different from each other. Fulfilling a different need for me in each case, I guess, but also fulfilling a different me. It has taken me a long time to become the person I am today, and I guess I'll keep changing. So there's another variable: you have to find someone who can change with you. Really, when you start dissecting it like this, it's a miracle anyone ever gets married at all.

And one more thing: For those of you who are still with your first love, tell me, what is it like to live your life, never having had your heart broken? This always astounds me, when I think about my mom, for example. No one ever broke her heart. Though her heart has been broken in many other ways--when her father died last summer, for one. I don't know, I just feel like having my heart broken twice (Anton, and Paul) and breaking one (Andy) are such HUGE parts of who I am. Life-changing, personality-altering experiences.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. Though it's been a really fun post to write--reminiscing, and all that. (If any of you got through it without nodding off to sleep, however, I am humbled and amazed.) So, do me a favor and kiss your husband/partner tonight and be thankful for how you got there.

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