Get Thee a Husband

“Don’t wait for money to get married. You’ll never have enough.” –Zia Maria

Zia Maria, my father’s sister, has been planning my wedding since I was 17. She envisions me in a big white princess dress carrying a pretty bundle of fragrant flowers with her grandchildren – seven in all, so far – clearing my path, dropping rose petals and smiles as big as the Nile. We’ll eat. We’ll dance. And I’ll finally be able to “live” – and then she and my parents and everyone else in our circle can start hounding me to have a baby.

My dirty secret is that the idea doesn’t sound so bad to me. It’s romantic and easy. I wish my life could be as simple as white wedding cake and some bubbly. It would be peaceful, the kind of life that allows you to sleep a full eight hours without waking up. I’d have a project – a house to decorate, mouths to feed, children to raise, all lovely distractions. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so alone.

But there is no peace, not for anyone, maybe not ever. Zia Maria knows this, too. But we have our little fantasy. It works for us. And she does believe – at least a part of her does anyway – that marriage gives you some security, some order in a chaotic world. I hope she’s onto something. She means it when she tells me not to wait for money to get married. I know she’s right when she says we’ll never have enough.

Still, my boyfriend of almost two years and I are not rushing to the altar. Far from it, in fact. If Antonio and I were in a race down the aisle with turtles, we’d still come in last place. We live on different continents, literally in different worlds – he in Italy and I in America. Long-distance relationships are hard and take time – if they work. Right? I tell myself, “That’s okay. Maybe we’ll be ready next year. We’ll save up some more money and be better prepared for the financial burden of marriage. More cash in our pockets will give us less to worry about in those first years, which are supposed to be the hardest anyway. For now, we can keep traveling to one another and having fun.”

The truth is I’m always ahead of the curve when it comes to career. I was editor of my high school newspaper as a junior and held the job for two years. I wrote for my college paper immediately, and I was interning at 18. By the time I was 22, I already had a byline in BusinessWeek and a full-time job at Ladies’ Home Journal. Climbing the career ladder – and socking away money – has never been a problem for me. True, as a freelance writer and editor, I probably never will bring in the big bucks, but I make enough – and I save and I worry and I save. It’s what I do.

In the rest of my life, I wait for everything. When the other sixth graders were playing spin the bottle for the first time, I ran across the street and back to my house, where I accidentally (and humiliatingly) set off the alarm. The kissing kids thought I had called the police on them when the cops showed up in my driveway. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t even have my first smooch until I was 17, and I stopped that boy almost as soon as he started to lean in because I knew he had a girlfriend. I was one of the very few in my family allowed to go away to college, but I didn’t get kissed again until long after graduation, until I met Antonio (see us in photo below). There were boys at university, but they never really wanted me. I could tell. And I could wait and wait and wait.

That’s what I do. I wait. Zia Maria could replace “money” with anything. “Don’t wait for time to get married. You’ll never have enough.” Or “don’t wait for sex to get married. You’ll never have enough.” (Actually, she’d never say that last one, but other, less-Catholic people would.) Or even “don’t wait for love to get married. You’ll never have enough.” She’d be right. These are all just excuses we use to avoid the things we fear – like marriage. Getting married, after all, means becoming an adult, compromising, sharing, losing a bit of your independence, promising to love someone unconditionally and forever. That is scary stuff. Waiting seems safer.

As long as I wait, I – and Zia Maria – can hold onto the fantasy of the perfect wedding day, the one time I’ll feel truly beautiful, the best day of my life. Sometimes, Zia Maria thinks it could be real, that it could actually happen. She gets me to believe it for a second, too. Last October, at my cousin Michelle’s wedding, Zia Maria made me go outside (on crutches no less because I had just had my third knee surgery in two years) to interrupt the bride’s photo session.

Apparently, if I twisted the bride’s diamond ring, said Zia Maria, I could increase my chances of being the next in line for a white dress. Of course, the photographer hurried to put me (dressed in all black mind you) in a photo with the happy couple. He snatched my crutches, and I would have fallen if Michelle hadn’t caught me. With her arm around my back and the cameraman giving the order to “Say cheese,” I turned that ring a full 360 degrees. My cousin probably thought I was trying to lift her bling. Really, I was just keeping the dream alive – for Zia Maria and me.

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