The Married Song
There is a song that keeps echoing in my ears from my friends. They are usually from the ones in their early 30s who are brilliant and strong in different ways from each other, but it is the same song. The verses are not the same, but the chorus always is: “I have to get married!”
Usually I let this fade into the background of my life as the world keeps singing its own songs. There are times, however, where I can’t drown it out. Nothing can.
“I have to get married! I have to get married!” The song is like a screeching hawk call from multiple angles, and one that I know all too well. But it’s not a song in my vocal range. Not anymore.
It manifested itself when I was talking to a guy off of OKCupid, a boy whose story is so strange that I said after it was all over, “Well, now I’ve seen everything.” (That’s probably worth its own blog post, or at least a Moth-style story.) But when we were talking on the phone, I asked him what he wanted.
“Marriage,” he said curtly. “I’m 34, I want to get married.”
I swallowed a bit and said, “Okay.” He continued his diatribe about marriage and this pie-in-the-sky thought process that I recognized. It only comes from someone who has never been married before, who doesn’t know about it.
“I’m going to stop you and be completely honest with you,” I said. “I’ve been married before, and there’s more to it than that.”
He paused a bit and then started asking me the questions that people who have very little experience with divorce ask:
-How long were you married? (Four years, but we were actually together for seven, from 22 to 29 years old)
-Why did you get divorced? (Um, how about it’s none of your damn business until you know me better?)
-Couldn’t you save it? (Seriously?)
The married song was reverberating so much in his head that the idea that it might not work out was a foreign concept. For him, marriage was an endgame; once you got there, it was done and you didn’t have to do anything else for it. It was the mentality of my ex-husband, and one of the many reasons why the marriage failed.
After I left, it was torture. When my ex and I got together to discuss the divorce paperwork, he spent most of the time talking to me about all my girl friends who he wanted to date, obviously to find a new wife. He even stalked one of them. It was a desperation not to be alone that had a strong similarity to rabid hunger. He tried hunting for it and failed, eventually caving in and buying McDonald’s to curb his appetite.
I dated quickly, but I made a promise to myself: For the first year after the divorce, I would stay 100 percent single. No relationships, period; I didn’t want to risk the dreaded rebound. I wasn’t even sure at the time I wanted to get married again. Sure, there was a nibble here and a nibble there, but it was more the trial and error of someone who had barely dated before she met her ex-husband and now approached the world like a 22-year-old in a 29-year-old body. I didn’t even know how to go on a dinner date, and had to call a friend and have him tell me how.
Naturally, it made sense that since I made this policy about three months into divorced life I would be confronted with a test. Later I realized that guy I called for advice was someone I wanted to be with, someone that I loved. If my ex had settled for McDonalds, this guy was a fillet mignon. He was that rare delicacy of a truly good man, but it was something I couldn’t stomach just yet. With these new feelings for him came guilt, fear, shame, self-doubt and total insecurity. I knew deep down I wasn’t ready to be with him because I wasn’t ready to be married yet. It became a ticking time bomb, and it exploded in both our faces. But looking back, if it played out any other way it would have been much worse for both of us.
As the first year died down, my life changed from destruction to rebuilding. It was like in the first year after being married I had to learn how to drive. Now I was hitting the open road, and I didn’t know where it would take me. I saw some amazing sights along the side of the highway, and eventually I found a place as a fun single girl, who would flirt with a step of fun, have sex as she pleased and, when a guy would call her girlfriend, joke and say, “Hey, I’m nobody’s girlfriend! I’m my own woman!”
Settling into Los Angeles, the rebuild wasn’t always easy. There were financial difficulties and obstacles that were tricky at best to deal with. If I were married, these things would be difficult to learn from. Kissing my mother’s bald head in the hospital and repairing wounds with my family would have taken on a different flavor that shouldn’t have been there had there been a person by my side. I wouldn’t have known what it took to hustle, to save myself financially and learn how to survive at all costs if there was a knight in shining armor. And in kissing the Kotel in Jerusalem and feeling the Middle Eastern winds whip around my body, this pleasure was something that had to be done as a free woman who owned her own existence.
The events that transpired came with incredible people, some of whom sang desperate married songs but others who sang other beautiful melodies in their own unique voices. They sang songs of artistic exploration, spiritual adventures, self-discovery and ambitious adventures. Some voices were always there but now had the volume turned up. Some were newly found, but all of these songs were stunning.
And as their melodies encircle me, I remember six months before my divorce. I was married and lying in an emergency room in Newport Beach around 7 o’clock at night. I was alone. There was no music, not even from my then-husband, who said he was too tired to come to the hospital to be with me. The only sounds came from the beeping of nearby machines. Married. Yet still alone. Now, unlike the past, there was always a friend to call, a place to be, someone to catch me if there’s a fall. It flows like a symphony.
As some of my friends are left singing the married song, I’m left singing with Mandy Moore’s “Gardenia,” a love song dedicated she wrote to herself after a breakup. As she sings about how she loves gardenias and making love on the floor, I sing in my head about how I love the purple flowers of jacaranda trees lining the streets of Los Angeles and having my face cradled when a boy kisses me softly. It harmonizes as I muse about getting onstage to make people laugh and how I have learned to write all over again. It’s a song that is uniquely my own, and that’s what makes the melody shine.
In order to be with a quality man, I had to learn how to be a quality woman — specifically the woman that I am, who would rather watch Game of Thrones over Grey’s Anatomy, yet still loves When Harry Met Sally and twirling around in white flowing skirts. It was in embracing my unique song that has made me the woman I am, something that I could have never been had I settled in my relationship life or compromised my needs.
Do I want to get married again? Yes, absolutely, if the right guy comes into my world I will. But until then, I’m way too busy having a good life to be preoccupied with the idea of putting on a white dress again. And it makes me happier than anything I have ever known, even being married.
So yes, my friends are singing the married song, and nothing I could tell them from my past can make them stop the siren call. After all, none of us really want to be alone. But as I look at the life I created for myself, I realized something: No matter if I’m married or not, I’ll never be alone again.