Intersections – I do
By Nicki Salcedo
I wasn’t a girl who dreamed of being married. I wasn’t the woman who put her dating life on a timeline, but I’ve always loved love. I was a tomboy who religiously read romance novels. I’m an authority on love and love stories.
Marriage is different. I have no idea why I got married.
When my boyfriend was in grad school, he visited me one Saturday and asked me a question.
“Should we get married?”
We were prone to abstract conversations. I thought he meant should people get married. It took me a moment to realize that he was talking about us specifically.
“To each other?” I responded. “Maybe. I don’t know.”
We were in Redwood City, California. We’d been dating for seven years. Some of my college years and some more years after. I liked him better than everyone except Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
Later that day, the subject came up again.
“Are we engaged?” he asked. Even thinking about marriage, it was hard to think about marriage.
“Have you called my dad?” I asked.
I couldn’t get married without authorization from my dad. I was a modern woman who suddenly wondered about my dowry and if we should have feats of strength to prove my future husband’s worth.
It turned out there was no dowry. There would be no jousting tournament held in my honor. I reluctantly agreed to proceed with the sham of a marriage based on love. We settled on a date and location and a minister. A priest from the Episcopal Church was to preside over our wedding. The priest was a woman.
I can still hear my dad’s voice on the phone from Georgia. “Is she gay?” He said “gay” in the whisper way that you say “cancer” so you don’t catch it.
“I don’t know? Does it matter?” We were having the nice conversation between two people with opposing viewpoints. We liked to challenge each other with as few words as possible.
“I think she’s married,” I said. My dad was relieved, because the word marriage meant specific things to him. But honestly, I didn’t know if she was married or not. I didn’t know if she was a lesbian or not. She was a person who loved God and loved people and loved marriage. That’s what I cared about.
I’m not the right person to ask about marriage. I write novels with romance. I get married to the hero every time I read a book. I go to church, a traditional Christian church, and I still don’t think a marriage is valid unless the groom is a Viscount or has time-traveled from the future.
I didn’t know it definitively on the day I got married, but I’ve since learned that the priest who married us is a lesbian.
When people discuss gay marriage, I smile. Technically, I had a gay marriage. I didn’t know that she was gay because I didn’t ask, and I don’t have “gaydar.” I have no ability to detect who is or who is not gay. This means I’m not for or against gay marriage. I don’t even know if I’m for marriage at all.
We had a friend who got married in New York, and when he posted his wedding pictures I was surprised.
“I didn’t know that Bob was marrying a black lady.”
I knew Bob from early morning runs in Piedmont Park. I affectionately referred to him as my boot camp husband.
“Bob married that guy,” my real husband said as he pointed to the other man in the picture. “The lady is the judge. She’s wearing a black dress.”
I would’ve worn a black dress as my wedding dress. I wanted them to play Darth Vader’s “The Imperial March” as I walked down the aisle in my wedding.
Best. Wedding. Song. Ever. That was my only marriage dream as a young girl. Maybe I should become an authority on marriage.
Bob is still my boot camp husband. There are some relationships that cannot be defined by convention. I never noticed he was gay in the years I’ve known him. Doing sprints in the wet grass at 6 o’clock in the morning is the great equalizer. Bob remains my friend even after hearing this story. There’s always that one straight friend who isn’t right in the head. That’s me.
I’ve thought of all the reasons why marriage is important. Marriage granted me certain legal rights. Marriage granted me the privilege of having sex and making babies without my mom getting angry.
Marriage is important because it is a tradition.
The day we walked out of the church, I felt an intense happiness. But why? Because marriage helped me mark my territory? Sorry, ladies. You can look, but not touch. He is mine. Boom. Marriage certificate.
I still refer to my spouse as my boyfriend. When we gaze lovingly at each other, I gently touch his face and say, “You are the least irritating person I’ve seen all day.” That’s love. That’s marriage. This is my wish for everyone.
Seven years of dating, 14 years of marriage, one cat, and four kids, and I’m still learning. Marriage is serious. You should be serious about it. You don’t have to get married. Ever. If you get married, you should be with someone who makes you a better person. Someone who respects and challenges you. Someone who wants you to respect and challenge them. Someone who doesn’t need a wedding registry.
I love love. I love marriage. If I ever renew my vows, there better be a joust. And Darth Vader’s theme song will be playing as I walk down the aisle.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.