Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate
July 14, 2010
“When are you gonna get married?” Ryan’s 6-year-old niece MacKenzie asks, pulling on my sleeve and sort of hanging off it like I am a human jungle gym. She glares up at me, her giant brown eyes magnified through bottle cap glasses, her mouth full of new teeth.
“I don’t know. Ask Uncle Ryan,” I said.
Leave it to a 6-year old to just come out and say it. It’s such a taboo subject that not everyone is as straightforward about it. They might be direct, but that’s different.
Take my mother, for example.
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. You’re engaged,” she’ll say in that know-it-all tone.
“No, Mom. Actually, I’m not engaged. And I don’t think it’s healthy to plan a wedding yet.”
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“They’re just calls. I’m just curious,” she’ll say as if it’s no different than finding out what time a movie is playing.
I was reassured to see the same delusional behavior going on with Ryan’s side of the family. During a recent visit, one of his relatives chimed in with, “Why do you need to bother getting engaged? Why can’t you just go ahead and get married?” Like getting married is the same thing as going out to dinner. Who needs a reservation? Just go!
As if it’s not ridiculous enough to ponder becoming a bride at 40, now I am faced with the dilemma of waiting for it to happen with an audience of people who are waiting for it too.
So I guess you could say I have become a Lady in Waiting.
“So, when is he gonna make an honest woman out of you?” my friend Steve asked. He lives in Fort Collins with his wife and two kids. He got married like, 15 years ago when everyone was getting married at a sensible age, when a bachelorette party still sounds appealing. But I don’t understand this concept of how being married makes you honest. I know plenty of married people who are incredibly dishonest and vice versa. I am somewhere in the middle (I have a few unreturned library books and Netflix DVDs in my possession) and I doubt getting married is going to affect that one way or another.
One thing I do know is the logistics of marriage are a lot different when you are plum middle aged than they are when you’re in your 20s and life is grand and you don’t have crow’s feet and it’s easy to lose weight in a month or less if you need to.
First of all, you have a lot more baggage and a lot more history, which makes combining your lives a little more challenging. There are ex-boyfriends and ex-wives and mortgages and bad credit history. There are the scars and the bad memories that make you understand why people always talk about “young love” with such nostalgia.
“What about the lawn behind Cottonwood Grill?” my mom asked during a recent phone conversation. “It’s so nice, right there by the river? And the food is excellent.”
“No, Mom. I don’t want to get married at a restaurant. Besides, I’m not engaged yet.”
“Oh yes you are.”
“No, actually, I’m not.”
The worst part about not being engaged is the anticipation of this big event that has been further magnified by everyone else’s anticipation. Now it’s impossible not to fantasize about when and how this will occur. And if anyone knows how much these kinds of unrealistic expectations will get you in trouble, it’s me.
I have the tendency to blow things wildly out of proportion and then become devastated with the inevitable disappointment that follows. Even though I am well aware of this problem, I can’t stop it. It’s like, after lightening there is thunder, even if you plug your ears.
So I have watched many major events come and go over the past year. First there was Christmas in Minnesota with the family (good times, but no ring from Santa). Then there was New Year’s Day, which also happens to be our anniversary. (The quail salad at the Pine Creek Cookhouse is to die for and it was very romantic, but all I got was a full tummy and a fat buzz). My birthday came shortly after that, in Costa Rica no less. And it was a rather significant birthday since 40 marks the spot when fun things like aging, infertility, and a slower metabolism inadvertently settle in to make life a little more challenging. Then there was yet another visit with both sets of parents (we got a new couch that Ryan’s parents were kind enough to drive here all the way from Minneapolis) and then the Fourth of July (a reach, I know, but there was a crowd).
At a certain point, I don’t even know what it is that I’m waiting for, exactly. Sometimes the idea of parading around in a white dress seems absurd, like wanting to go back to prom. Of course I want a family, but I’m a little late to be showing up to the starting line of that race. Unlike most of my friends, I love the notion of having a new name and creating a family unit but there are a whole slew of legal issues that come with it (like a fairly uncooperative ex-wife, for starters).
But if I said I hadn’t been dreaming of my wedding since I was however old, I’d be lying.
While I’d hardly consider myself a lady and the term “in waiting” makes me think of a doctor’s office, one thing I can say, despite it all, is I’m just glad I didn’t settle. Regardless of the hoopla over this much-anticipated big event, I’m just happy. I laugh every day, even when I’m trying to be mad (which is so funny it makes me laugh all over again).
I guess good things really do come to those who wait.