why follow suit?

What a sweet love story and explanation for commitment.  

Hear That Wedding March Often Enough, You Fall in Step

By Larry Smith
Published: December 26, 2004


ES, we were on an idyllic rock on a postcard-worthy cove on the New England coast. O.K., I did have a ring — seven actually, none with diamonds. Fine, there was fumbling and nervousness and the oh-so-slyly stashed champagne in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator back in the cottage. 
But let's get one thing straight: I didn't say the words. I didn't need to ask. She didn't need to answer. It never mattered.
Will you marry me? Who wants to know? Who cares? Not me. Not her. Is there anyone else, really, whose opinion counts?
Piper and I had been together seven years. What with medical advancements, free-range chicken and Pilates classes, I estimated we were good for 50, maybe 60 more. We didn't need a piece of paper to make what we had more real.
What we needed was to learn Spanish and surf in Costa Rica. We needed to buy an apartment together and discuss light fixtures. Maybe we even needed to breed. We didn't need to get married.
This troubled the usual suspects (our grandparents, our mothers), but it also, to our surprise, concerned the unusual suspects (the pierced, the gay, the younger siblings). At a coleslaw-wrestling contest in Daytona Beach, Fla., a grizzled biker told Piper she was nuts ("What are you doing with this guy, he got money?") and called me an idiot for not sealing the deal ("You better hold on tight, boy, before someone takes her away").
What, exactly, was the problem? We didn't have one.
This wasn't a political statement. We'd been to 27 weddings — 27! — in our seven years together. We'd made toasts, danced with stray cousins, coaxed extra bottles of booze from busboys. No one could accuse us of not supporting, with gusto, this hallowed tradition.
This wasn't the fallout of family trauma. My folks are high school sweethearts, married 40 years for better, for worse. Her parents divorced when she was in high school; not ideal but not exactly unusual for someone born in 1969, nor, in her case, the cause of large therapy bills later.
She'd tell you her dream as a young girl never involved a man whooshing her off her feet, shoving a rock on her finger and sending her down the aisle. She'd tell you she's always been tough-minded and independent and never expected to be in a relationship this long. She'd tell you she's shocked it's working out so well. I saw no reason to rock this boat.
Cut to the night before our wedding: let's call it May '06. A cool breeze greets the guests at the rehearsal dinner in a funky cafe in Key West. The mixing and mingling subsides as a playful pastiche of our previous, separate lives is screened at the front of the room. Roll video.
Mine comes on first. The Dennis the Menace youth. Inappropriate uses of the high school P.A. system that would make the Desperate Housewives blush. Kooky Atlantic City summers at my grandmother's house and staying out all hours with a series of playthings she and her best friend, Bunny Bookbinder, definitely didn't approve of. A theme emerges: girls. He loves them. Short, tall, big, small. White, black, Asian. Older, younger. Laurence David Smith is girl crazy. What's more, he himself is no big deal to look at, so he works a bit harder. But he loves it. Look at him chase! Why give this up? Ever?
Now we see him in his mid-30's, living in New York, best place on earth for a dude with a good job and no discernible drug or anger management problems to become acquainted with a lot of women. He could go on like this for years — 5! 10! — before settling down with a choice woman in his target demographic. Fun!
Her life story has real glamour, though. Here she is, being born to hippie parents, San Francisco. The brief but memorable child-modeling career. The slow, sure development of a stubborn streak and indifference to boys. The years at an all-women's college. Jobs at rollicking bars. Exploits in Indonesia. Dangerous love. Make no mistake, she's the one always being chased (and rarely caught) in this movie. Theme: Don't fence me in. Marriage? Don't bet your lunch money on it.
The man who loves women and the woman who won't be corralled — makes for great video.
You say: Tigers never change their stripes.
We say: We're together, we're happy.
Survey says: If it ain't broke, don't marry it.
What happened?
I'm not entirely sure. My path to carrying seven gold rings (one for each year we'd been together) in a hermetically sealed bag as I cautiously kayaked out to that rock was subtle, a combination of personal outlook, impossible-to-define emotional pull, and gut instinct that even now I am still piecing together.
THERE was never a tipping point, no eureka moment when I realized that doing the most traditional thing possible was a good idea. Some guys say they know immediately She's the One. Not me. Whether it's a sweater or software, it takes some time for me to know if I want to keep something, one reason I always save receipts. I can't say there was an instance when I looked into the pale blue eyes of the girl I met over corned beef hash at a cafe in San Francisco and thought, "This is it." Now, after eight years, I know. 
When did I know? Was it the way she helped me deal with the death of my grandfather? The relief I felt when she finally answered her cellphone on Sept. 11? That great hike in Point Reyes? Because she sobbed with joy when the Sox finally won? The way my nephews greet her like a rock star when she walks into the room?
Perhaps I should have known right from the start, that morning in the middle of our cross-country trip, when she required one last stop at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City for a half slab of ribs for breakfast (and 10 minutes into the feast saying to me, "Hey, baby, why don't you pop open a beer?").
Or did I not truly know until seven years later when we found ourselves forced apart for more than a year? Who can say? It's the big moments, maybe, but it's the little moments as much or even more.
I do know one thing: Those 27 weddings had a lot to do with it. They were joyous, righteous, nup-tastic affairs. (As Woody Allen said about orgasms, "the worst one was right on the money.")
The idea of putting our own personal stamp on a tradition we've now seen take so many shapes and forms — including but not limited to full masses, lobster bakes, white doves, exploding huppahs, gigantic soap bubbles, freezing-cold skinny dipping, and one quasi-orgy — has become more appealing, not less, with each one.
And what else started to happen at those weddings? More little moments that began adding up to a big reckoning. She pinched the skin of my elbow during a recent "we cannot be hearing this" toast from a father of the bride, and during a particularly beautiful ceremony she gave my hand a little squeeze, her quiet tears landing on both our fingers. And I swear I saw an ever-so-slightly different look in her eyes the last time a perfect stranger questioned my sanity for not locking this lady up.
Slow as ever, yet indeed as sure as it gets, it dawned on me: She wants to get married. And if that's true, then I want to get married. To her. This is perhaps the least original idea I've had in a long time, but I needed to get here myself, on my own terms. And after all these years one thing I actually had going for me was the element of surprise.
So what the hell, let's do it. I still don't believe marriage is the only path to happiness or completeness as a person, but it's the right thing for us. So I asked her. Or, more accurately, what I said, sitting next to her on that silly island in a scene straight out of Bride's magazine, was something about love and commitment and not going anywhere and here's these rings I got you, and if you want actually to make it official, that's cool, and if you don't, that's cool, too. And if you want to have a wedding, I'm into it, and if you don't, who needs it. She's still unclear what it was I was asking, exactly, but when she got done laughing, she said yes. And then she threw off her clothes and jumped in the water.
My friends joke that I've been to 27 weddings and now it's finally time for one funeral — for my singlehood. Which is sad like any funeral, sure, but this death is no tragic accident. I look at it more like euthanasia I'm performing on myself, a mercy killing.
I'm ready, babe. Pull the plug.
E-mail: modernlove@nytimes.com

via {ny times}
photo via {brittle paper}


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