A Thank You to the THING

When I was in my 20s, I used to hear about the THING that would happen to me when I was in my 30s. The THING would cause me to put away such childish notions as “it’s me against the world” and the rather irrational theory that modern day feminism translated into a complete refusal to compromise with any male person (PARTICULARLY the male person you were sleeping with). It would also slowly chip away at my refusal to pick up a pot periodically, throw some food in it and put said food-filled pot over some fire. Because of the THING, I would cease to mock the girls who had spent countless semesters in college grooming their boyfriends for husbandry and would (like magic) obsessively begin to hoard bridal magazines, finally understanding that it was my destiny to wife. To mother.

The THING did eventually happen. Kind of. I realized that isolation
from other humans was merely cowardice draped in the fancy dress of “independence.” Once I stopped working so hard not to allow my Self to be swallowed whole by romantic need, I began to enjoy the comfort and safety GOOD men brought to my life. I even took up cooking. If only because my 30ish body held onto restaurant food a lot longer (and positioned in disturbing places) than my 20ish body did. The THING didn’t do much for my indifference to marriage, though. Six years into my 30s, I have only managed to graduate my “Marriage? Hmmmm….I guess” to “Sure, if I met a cool guy…who I loved…and who was an adventurous eater/traveler…with an acceptable FICO score…yeah, Dude could talk me into marriage…why the hell not?”

I have ruminated on whether I am just too stubborn in my indifference to matrimony to ever be fully won over by the THING. I have been attending weddings for about a decade now, devoid of the latent animosity I hear women who have been gripped by the THING feel. Amidst my happiness for the couple, a silent “When will it be my turn” has yet to whisper its way into my psyche. When I am at the beginning of a new relationship, I don’t ask trick questions that are designed to decipher if the object of my affection will be ready to walk down the aisle in roughly a year or two.

I figured this was one battle of modern single womanhood from which I had been exonerated.

Until….

I attended a very symbolic wedding. The bride was a friend and former colleague whose presence at the school where we both taught has been missed since she left. The other bride was this friend’s girlfriend of 5+ years.

There was nothing particularly unique about Monique and Michelle’s wedding. A get together at Monique’s childhood home the afternoon before the ceremony in which she and her future wife gave out gift bags to all those who had helped plan their wedding. Loving wise cracks from one of the bride’s father at the reception, where he admitted: “the only time Monique disappointed me was when she went to that college in Ann Arbor….but she met her life partner there so I guess I can forgive her for that.” There was a meticulously planned ceremony that expressed the personalities and cultures of the couple. There was an endless parade of professional and amateur photo sessions that made me wonder just how stressful weddings are for the people who star in them. Food. Grown up beverages. Lots of smile. Lots of love. Nothing too unique as far as weddings go.

Except….the state of Michigan didn’t deem Monique and Michelle’s commitment worthy of legal recognition.

It was this fact that made me truly envious of the love that marriages, in their purest form, represent. Monique and Michelle decided to follow the African-American tradition of “jumping the broom.” When this tradition showed up in the ceremony, I naturally assumed it was just another standard way of honoring the Black American experience. Until the minister explained the tradition to the uninformed. “Slaves’ marriages were not legally recognized in this country. They developed this tradition of jumping over the broom as a way of having a concrete symbol of being married. As the brides honor this tradition today, they want you to reflect on the reality that their commitment is treated with the same disregard as the marriages of the ancestors of one of the brides here.”

So, Monique and Michelle spent thousands of dollars (and twice as many planning hours) on this wedding to stand in front their families and friends, committing their lives to one another with the complete understanding that they would not be “really” married? What was the point of this ceremony?

The answer to this question is what I now realize the women who have been completely gripped by the THING really desire. It is what I and every other living being intrinsically seek the older we become. Love that goes beyond fickle feelings of passion and romantic euphoria. Love that even extends beyond the two people who are at its center. Love that connects two families; thus making the two individuals in the love responsible not only for each other, but also accountable to the many people who were instrumental in forming them into the people who had the courage to commit to each other.

So, this matrimony thing is much bigger than the wedding dress? It is of much greater significance than the exchange of rings and vows? It is two people saying, “We need you here to witness this. When arrogance, selfishness, doubt weasel their way into the life we have created and try to convince us that we don’t have to bother anymore…we brought you here so you could remind us that we promised each other and all of you to do the hard work of loving.” It is that sentiment, that unabashed need for the kind of love that requires the love of extended family and friends that almost brought me to tears. Here, these two women understood the REAL reason why we marry. They understood it so much they took it on with none of the built in safety nets that their heterosexual counterparts receive with no questions asked.

The THING has won. I want to love that completely. Whether or not I marry is still irrelevant to me. What has become more relevant is my desire to become the person who accepts that such a level of love is what contributes to my humanity. It is what makes me like every other human being. Perhaps, that is what the THING ultimately does to you. It shakes you out of your youthful delusions that you are somehow different. That the way to do adulthood is to reinvent the wheel. Redesign the whole entire bike until the ride is much more difficult and complicated than it need be.

The THING is over 30 itself. (It is probably well into its 40s, actually) It likes things simple and plain. When people are in relationships, they compromise. When people are hungry, they cook. When people love, they commit.

3 Responses

  1. Well said, Keturah.

  2. Made me cry…and I NEVER cry at stuff I read. Brilliant.

  3. Here’s the musical equivalent:

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