A few weekends ago, I had the chance to attend a friend’s wedding shower. It was a pretty formal affair, thrown by her mother-in-law and full of the local cousins and aunts from his side of the family. Lots of skirts and lipstick, a plated lunch, and more booze than I typically drink while the sun is still up.
My friend and her fiance were all dolled up and gracious small-talkers and made the appropriate couple-y jokes while unwrapping gifts. They were comfortable in their fancy clothes, at their fancy lunch; much more comfortable than I could imagine myself being in their shoes.
But these were my friends; I could see through the act. Earlier in the week, while we stood wine tipsy in the park at Boston Common after dark, slipping on our flip-flops after an impromptu picnic, my friend was shocked and excited I was planning on attending the shower in the first place. “I’m so glad you’re coming!” she said. “I need you to sit next to me so we can make snarky comments and make fun of everything!” Earlier, her fiance got a bit huffy about being coerced into attending the event at all – it was a bridal shower. Why on earth would any Manly Man Man be seen at a bridal shower? My friend rolled her eyes. Her fiance balked and made a sarcastic comment. They both pulled on their sweatshirts and took the train home to their apartment in the North End, to walk the dog, to get ready for bed, to go to work in the morning.
They walked around the event room at the Marriott looking nothing but happy and grateful and composed. Their parents and families and relatives all saw a happy couple, getting ready for their wedding day, but only your friends know what their life, together, is really like.
But even then, your friends only know as much as you reveal – any relationship is so much more complex than any outsider can imagine. There are things that you hide, yes, there are things that stay behind closed doors, there are things you can only share with each other. You can smile and look happy. You can wear a three carat diamond, plan a lavish honeymoon, put on heels and sip champagne at 2 in the afternoon at the Marriott. But eventually you have to change back into your sweats and be with the person you love – and nobody knows exactly what that looks or feels like except you and the one you love.
More than eight years ago, I fell in love. I fell in love for any and all the reasons that eighteen-year-olds fall in love with other eighteen-year-olds. Because he drove home for his birthday to see his mom. Because he ordered hot chocolate on our coffee dates. Because I liked the sound of his name. Because he laughed at my jokes and his friends liked me and he was a good kisser and we stayed up late every night talking about what movies we liked to watch when we were kids. We used to eat in the cafeteria together, go out on the weekends together, sleep in the same tangled-limb twin bed every night, together.
We didn’t look like that forever. We’ve looked like a lot of things, and for eight years I spent a lot of time thinking about what we looked like, to other people. When we were 19 and my shampoo and toothbrush lived in his apartment, I worried about what my parents would think if they could see my life, minute by minute, with him. When we were 22 and we lived three hours apart, my family and friends were surely skeptical – we were adults now, in a long-term relationship… so why were we living with our parents? Why weren’t we starting our lives together? There must be something wrong. They must not be a good match. Their lives going in different directions. When we were 24 and we moved in together, unmarried, we were obviously sabotaging our future. When we were 26 and still without a plan, I think it became clear that we would just never be able to grow up.
But only your closest friends know what your life, together, is really like. Moving to Boston, I met so many friends who had just arrived to the city with relationships in tow – short relationships, long relationships, complex relationships, long distance relationships, marriages and engagements and everything in between. Smart, talented women, all placing substantial bets on the men they loved and the futures they’d chose.
And only you know what it’s like on the very inside of love.
There were times when our relationship looked different than what it looks like today. There were times when maybe we looked like we weren’t going to be together forever. Times I worried about it.
But in eight years, one thing has always been the same. Whether we were together or apart, happy or sad, I have always just plain enjoyed this boy, this boy I love. The future hasn’t always been clear, but I have always wanted to be happy with him. We’ve made bad choices, but we have always come back to being good because we just want to talk to each other. To laugh at each other’s jokes. To sit next to him the car while we drive somewhere – anywhere. To tell him about my day, even if last time we talked, I was mad at him for something. I always want to fix, to forget, to do whatever it takes to get back to being happy together.
It doesn’t matter what we look like from the outside, whether we are dolled up at our wedding shower or wearing last week’s dirty laundry, whether we are eighteen or twenty-seven.
I will always want to be eighteen or twenty-seven or one-hundred-and-seven together, happy, with him.
I am so happy that on February 14th, 2012, he asked me to marry him.
So happy that I said yes.
But from the very closest inside of my heart, I always knew.