Like many people who write parenting columns, I got married. I got married as best I could, meaning I got married with as much understanding as I could about what getting married means, and how you do it, and what the rituals are, and the cake and the flowers and the dress and all that jazz. I did not get married without knowing the rituals and I did not get married without taking the rituals into account. It was as if I were a singer and getting married was a song I was covering. Let’s say it was “History Repeating,” the 1997 song by the Propellerheads. I listened to the original. I studied the video clips. I was respectful of it. I was respectful of the form: the music, the words, Shirley Bassey, Shirley Bassey’s sparkly dress, all of it.
There was a desire, on my part, to be a part of something greater in this act, to be a part of what I understood to be my place and time, to get married as my friends did, so I followed these forms without asking myself too much about what they meant or why. A wedding is its own structure, after all, its own story, with a flow and arc: the walk down the aisle, the words, a kiss, a party.
There is so much focus on what is made visible in a wedding: the details of the dress, the invitation, what flowers, what crowns the cake. And all of it, of course, is a luxury: a lovely luxury for a young woman to get lost in.
I wish I had had the wherewithal then to look at it and know that it was all frosting, that none of those choices meant much, that what I was doing, marrying a man, with this ritual-party, as not-big as it was, was not really even getting close to what was happening: that I was binding myself, not to the man I chose, but through him, as if he were a door I were entering, to the invisible and unknowable.
I know this now because I have been married for a while and I have had three children with this man. I am here, in this place and time, doing the work of mothering, and helping to keep our family afloat, and because I stepped through my husband and kept going, this is where I now find myself, with him, and with these new people, who are small and strange, who slid out of me, and who are ours.
I don’t want to say that it doesn’t matter who you marry. It matters hugely. I want to say that in marrying, you are not marrying the person you choose so much as you are marrying a process, and that process on the day of your wedding, as on most days, is mostly unseen.
I honestly believe this: in the future we will look back on this era as a dark age, an age when we were so married to our vision that we couldn’t get beyond it, that we had to see to believe fucking everything, that we had to prove it all in this one way, visually, and that the rest of our senses were so prejudiced against as to be worthless, that the ears meant so little, that the children grew up howling and pulling their earlobes, with the fluid building up in the tubes like exquisite wind instruments dunked underwater for fun, and we really just didn’t understand it at all.
I believe that in the future the eyes will be knocked off their pedestal as our favorite sensory organ. Maybe this is what the computer is superhighwaying us to. We will have seen everything. We will have witnessed so much sex and open-heart surgery and, um, reality, that we will finally say, OK. Let’s listen. And we will recognize how, all along, the eye and ear were inseparable, that we look at art and we hear it, that we listen to music and see it, and we will at last stop trying to dissect the perfect system and we will experience the whole. We will allow the invisible its place. We will hear it coming, as we stand beside our beloved, saying our vows. We will hear it, even if it is just a low tone at that point, even if it is just our mothers’ murmurs. We will allow a place for it. We will offer a silence for it. We will be respectful of it, and acknowledge where we are going, together, in and out of each other, and through each other, into the future, and we will also know that this exquisite pattern that we are making here is finite. We will know that this is how it is, as we may, finally, kiss. This is how it is. One of us will stay here longer than the other.