I’ve spent the last decade of my life in two long term, exclusive relationships. The first one ended in a sensational, public debacle — one that, as many of the objective, surrounding parties to the situation would eventually come to point out (I mean, better late than never, right
assholes loved ones?) was as inevitable as it was austerely ominous.
The second one materialized into the great love of my life. And before you start dry heaving, let me just say this: I know how that sounds, but it’s the utmost truth, and it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. Still though, I’ve consistently prohibited my brain from even considering the idea that I might aptly fall within the purview of a relationship type of a girl. Labeling myself like that felt like tossing up a billowy white flag of defeat and acquiescing to the widely held public perception that as a young, well-coiffed female with a guy in her life – any guy, really – I must be frivolous, absurd, weak, dependent.
In a world that doesn’t take women who wear too much makeup all that seriously (and really, who’s to say how much is “too much,” and UM, why does it matter in the first place?!), how could I cop to the fact that I consider my bond with my fiancé to be the single most fulfilling aspect of my life? That although I’ve been blessed with a satisfying career and a number of longstanding, wildly-inappropriate-inside-joke-laden friendships, at the end of it all, I’m most eager to come home to my hubby, forcing him to the watch The Affair with me on Showtime, while cuddling on the couch and downing various forms of toxic corn syrup (Starburst, Skittles, Swedish Fish) out of an oversized, multi-colored plastic bag?
As a child, I picked up on the idea that becoming anything other than a completely financially and emotionally independent woman was the equivalent of transgressing into a sad, harrowing cliché of a thing. When I’d go to work with my mother — think shadow day – I’d observe that she occupied one of the most impressive offices in the space. It had a large desk that travelled up the wall and around the room, a white marker board with important red notes scrolled, and a sky high, sprawling view. More often than not, I’d roam the entirety of the floor, introducing myself to what appeared to be a sea of employees (I was four and cute, so this was substantially more permissible than it probably would be now), who would entertain my zealous, self-imposed “Hellos!” with declarations like “Oh. This is Jan Vilim’s daughter.”
And I was proud. For a hefty chunk of my formative years, my mother was a single parent. She had a top tier education, a prestigious corporate career and a well manicured home in an upscale neighborhood on Long Island. Recently, she mentioned that, in those days, she wasn’t particularly interested in finding a partner or getting married because, as she noted, “I had my own house. I had my own job. I had my own car. I even…had my own kid.”
But was she fulfilled? Was she complete?
I don’t know; that isn’t for me to say, I guess. After my Stepfather entered the picture, though, things did become noticeably more peaceful for a time. At six, I was able to observe my mother having fun, being carefree. She seemed significantly more at ease, taking the time to travel, grappling with the idea of relocating to the West Coast, contemplating the addition of a second child to the family. During an argument that I witnessed between her and my Stepdad, though, I remember her storming into the living room — tense, overwrought, tear-stained – and declaring, “I made a big mistake here. I was doing fine on my own. I’m just not the type of woman who’s meant to be married.” She wore a reddish/pink scarf with small white polka dots tied in a knot at the side of her neck. My Stepfather, I worried, would soon be a goner. But I also wondered, “What type of woman is meant to be married?”
I graduated from college a year and a half early, attended law school in Boston, produced, reported and fought with fire to ward off the idea that I might actually be that sad little cliché of a girl. When I first started dating my fiancé, we’d already been friends for a number of years. During one of our earliest lunches at a small café uptown, I remember thinking I’m having so much fun. And instead of experiencing that intensely awkward, stomach churning, God-where-is-this-going-feeling that often coincides with first dates, I felt like I was spending quality time with the only person who has ever made me think that maybe being soft is being powerful.
My fiancé is meticulous in his cleanliness; I’m a walking disaster. He’s an intensely, painstakingly private person; I’m a notorious over-sharer who’s willing to spill my guts to anyone who will listen. He’s quiet (at first); I’m a chatterbox. He’s steadfast in his decision-making skills; I vacillate between options until I work myself into a panic attack. It’s not that we’re identical to one another — because we’re not. It’s that he is the somebody who gets my soul, and I’ve come to believe that a soul is a far more powerful and enduring thing than a pedigree could ever be.