Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Love

I have set a date for marrying my husband. Yes, it sounds silly enough till you hear the story.

My husband and I met after four years of being in the same social circles and remaining completely unaware of each other. We didn't meet, in fact, until I put in a special request. I tell him this all the time, and he thinks I'm silly for it. But it fills me with wonder.

I was, at 34ish, ready to give up. I had, in most ways, given up long before. At age 10, along with a deep wish to have twins when I grew up, I had a deep down conviction that I would never marry.

But, there I was, coming up on 34, having been the official "Old Maid of Honor" at my sister's wedding. Having been at my brother's small but lovely and quiet wedding. My other sister had eloped. Most of the people I knew in high school had married by their mid-20s. Heck, my own grandmother asked once if I would ever get married; "I mean, to a man." she added as if the question weren't rough enough.

So I decided I was done with it. I thought about the men (and boys) I had dated over the years and what had drawn me to them. I am grateful to them for many things--in particular for teaching me what I needed to know to be in the relationship I am. I actually, literally, no-I'm-serious-Oprah-would-be-proud-ly made a list.

I knew that humor and intellect tied for first place. Part of the joy of intellect is the ability to use it to laugh at the world. Part of the joy of humor is the ability to use it to make intellectual commentary without inducing coma. I wanted one of those.

The rest don't follow any particular order.

I wanted a man who could appreciate music--on a deep level: I trained in Opera and Jazz, and was raised by eclectic-minded people, listening to everything from classical to pop to rock. I wanted someone who could appreciate that.

I wanted a man who appreciated the world beyond the borders of this country: as much as I love America, I love Israel, and Europe. I am sure I would love Africa and South America. More than anything I love travel. I wanted a man whose idea of travel wasn't just a day trip to Tampa.

I wanted a man who wasn't threatened by my intellect. Sounds snobby when I read that line. But when I was 15 my older sister pulled me aside to explain to me the reason she was followed around town by guys and I had no boyfriend was that I refused to act stupid--or even pretend I didn't know something. "For example," she started. "If someone said to you, 'I wonder how far it is to the sun...'" and I responded "About 93 to 94 million miles, but it's called a light year." She stormed off, yelling at me that I had just provided my own example of her lesson.

I wanted a man who was kind. There are different levels and types of kindness (lots of kinds of kind). To me, kindness is not about being soft, it's about having compassion--empathy. I wanted a man who could interact with others at a level that was imbued with that kind of kindness.

I wanted a man who was not afraid, ashamed, or guilty when it came to sex. One who understood it as the deepest form of physical intimacy, who could respect me as a lover and open himself up to me as one, too. I was raised to believe that sex, when meaningful was a beautiful act, not a secret, shameful unnecessary part of life, but one of the most important and meaningful ways to fully and truly share intimacy.

The list went on. I was making my impossible man list. I had to include everything. Unlike Sandra Bullock's character in Practical Magic, I wasn't looking for real impossibilities so as to ward off love, but my list was impossible to fill--I was looking to set high standards.

My husband and I began dating a month and a half before I turned 34. By my birthday, people were asking us how long we'd been married. We were amused. I was besotted. By our second date, I knew I would spend the rest of my life with him. At the end of our first month together, I told him I loved him (having first told him I would prefer if he did not respond to what I was about to say).

Is he impossibly perfect? Nope. He's marvelously human. Does he meet my list? Far more than enough of it. Are we a problemless couple? I doubt that monster exists, and even more deeply doubt I'd want to be in it. We are, however, in it for good--and always remind ourselves when it's tough that it's the hard things that make us better. We are a team. Like our dogs (each of us brought one into the marriage) we have bonded. We are family--in deep, permanent ways that no state approval can change or improve upon, that no disapproval (were we to be of the same sex) could have ever torn asunder.

But he wants a wedding, too. He wants to have a ceremony and a party. And now that I'm getting the planning ball rolling, well, so do I. We will be announcing to others what most of the people who know us have known all along. He was born before me, so technically I was made for him--but I think he was made for me. Special tailored to my impossible list. Meant to amount to the best of every guy I'd ever loved. My miracle man.

Most interestingly, to me, is that while it took him a few months to come to terms with "us," I felt a certainty I had never had in my life. I had loved before--and deeply, too. But I had never known, before, that I was with the love of my life.

Worry not. By tomorrow I'll be feeling cynical and depressing again and write something about war and blood. Today, though, as I pack for Spain, well, my life feels like love, actually.