For the last thirty-something minutes I have watched my sister-in-law-to-be put on one bridal dress after another. I am sitting on a pink fluffy chair which would fit perfectly anywhere in my flat. My mother keeps shooting me warning glances whenever I let my hand run over the pseudo-velvet.
No, I am not allowed to bring it home.
The curtain opens and there she is. Again. She gazes over us, wrapped in ivory lace. Her smile outshines the pearls and all the glittery stuff sewn to the dress. My mother sighs. Everyone says it’s a beautiful dress. Of course, but we have to see the other hundred dresses, too. The curtain closes. I dart forward to pick some more chocolate from the kitschy étagère. I slide back onto the chair that should be mine and slip the sweet prey into my mouth.
“Seeing this, I want to marry again”, I hear my mother declare.
I almost choke on chocolate.
Once I have re-established my countenance, I pull a face that is asking all the questions her statement requires to ask.
She dismisses them with the wave of her hand. “Just look around. All those dresses. I never had one like it.”
My mother has been married for 42 years. To my father. I am one of those lucky kids. They still even laugh together. I know exactly what my mother wore on her wedding day. Her white skirt matched his jacket, while his black trousers matched her blazer. I have always loved that photograph. The framed copy next to my record player is blurry, black faded to brown. Taken in 1977 they couldn’t have known how symbolic this picture would become for their marriage. They complete each other. I once asked my mother how they came up with the idea. The answer didn’t live up to my expectations, but symbolises my parents quite well, too. They didn’t want to go completely in black or white. Compromise.
Still, the woman who chose new bedroom furniture over a fancy wedding party states now, she would love to re-marry her husband, just to justify wearing one of those dresses. I cannot blame her. There must be something in the air. Even I am affected. An hour before I would have sworn if Darcy ever asked, I’d wear Converse and Jeans. Cycling to the register office, committing to my man officially and then going over to the Biergarten. But here I am. Among silky dresses, cursing about Darcy not even wanting to marry and secretly planning my parents next wedding. There must be something in the air.
The curtain is slowly drawn open. She looks gorgeous. She smirks at me, in a lovingly way, and throws me the question I have dreaded all day.
Yes, sure, I’d love to slip into princess dresses and be the centre of attention.
Yes, sure, there is a slight chance I might ever be insane enough to marry again.
Yes, sure, I know he is the one.
“No, I’ll pass. That’s not us.”
She shrugs, casts another smile into her little audience and disappears behind the drapes to leave me with my emotions.
There is not enough chocolate on that étagère.
It’s really not us.
He tried to ask my predecessors, while I already answered incorrectly to his predecessor.
Logically, I should drop the thought exactly here.
It’s really not us.
Emotionally, the ride on my favourite roller coaster begins.
Join the ride?
I am divorced. Marriage felt like a cage to me. I was trapped, controlled and bereft of my autonomy. The day my father drove me to court to have my divorce finalized was the most liberating of my life. I spent it with the one man who always has my back. Always encourages me, never disappoints me. He accompanies me when I knowingly walk towards the next disaster. Offering a shoulder to cry when I fail, cheering with me when I succeed. My father raised me to be a bird. He raised me to be me and free.
Darcy, on the other hand, declares to be like the wind. He claims to be the personification of independence. He uses his freedom to part-time raise twins who aren’t genetically his, but he commits to as their father. He is his own boss. And he values his sovereignty by finding time for them, for us, whenever we need him. He is the kind of man I’d love to share my life with.
Actually, I share my life with him. I have all his love and devotion. He has already promised to stay until the end should I not burden him with a ring. I offered to carry the ring for him. Still not sure how to interpret the crooked smile my generous proposition earned me. Romantic as it appears to be married and bound to each other, is it not even more romantic to be with each other without any obligations? Do we need a piece of paper to remind us of the feeling we share for each other? Not at all. We have shared moments and memories. We have problems, children and a constant lack of money in our pockets that let us know that we are in this whole going-through-life-as-one thing together. We do so voluntarily. We don’t share a flat, bank account, not even the genes of our children. Still, we walk side by side and face the whole shit called being-grown-up as partners.
When my aunt died, I thought about marrying Darcy for the first time. Just to grant him access to my hospital bed. Legally, we are nothing to each other, if disaster came crushing down on us. I wanted him to take care of my belongings when I died. To allow him to decide in my interest. He wants to hear nothing of it. My father has to pull the plug should there ever be a need for it. I can relate. Do I want to marry for legal status? Not really.
Marriage, as an institution, seems to be outdated. Useless. I do not need my husband’s salary to support me. Funnily enough, I earn more than Darcy. My grandmother once pointed out, I should marry him, so that he can have my pension when I am gone. To be honest, marrying Darcy would not be a financial benefit. On the contrary.
Nevertheless, here I am sitting on a pink fluffy chair, my mouth stuffed with sweets, green with jealousy that we are not picking my dress, but hers.
Why do I want this?
He does not want to.
Of all things, it is the only thing he is not willing to give.
I have his time, his love, his commitment.
I have it all.
I have a man who makes plans for our retirement.
I have him.
Once upon a time it was men courting women to lure them into marriage. They sought coitus, women all the things we do not need to seek anymore.
Nowadays, the only thing women seek is to tempt men into marriage. We have nothing left to convince them.
I have no persuading argument left.
The curtain opens. She shows us the dress she has chosen. It’s beautiful. Very Grace Kelly. In every possible way. We leave the fluffy pink chairs and go over to the pay desk. While my sister-in-law-to-be faces financial ruin with as much dignity as possible, I let my fingers run over the dresses nearby.
There has to be something in the air.
I turn to see my mother do exactly the same thing. I can’t help but sigh. My hand stops on a beautiful dress. Creamy, silky cloth. It is short. I could ride a bike with it. It is off the rack before I know. There are tiny pearls. It even glitters a bit. The petticoat would fit perfectly with pink chucks. I turn again to tell my mom.
She is right behind me.
I do not have to tell her.
No, I don’t need a ring. A dress. A husband.
What I still need is the dream of once being asked by the right man.
The dream and maybe that dress.