List before you leap
A green post-it with my 2012 to-do list looks something like this:
1. Go to Macau.
2. Get a dog.
3. Get married.
It’s so much easier to think of getting hitched as just another item to check off on my to-do’s, because actually committing to someone for the rest of my life is absolutely daunting. Never mind the fact that I’ve been dating this guy for over a decade, or that I’ve known him since I was 10. I am still scared. I am such a wuss. Or am I? In this age of 72-day marriages (I’m looking at you, Kim Kardashian) and of discussions about divorce in our staunchly family oriented country, can one really overthink the decision to say “I do”? Since I’m a worrywart of the highest order, I’m convinced that one can’t.
My boyfriend proposed almost two years ago in Paris. It was early spring; young blossoms were still shyly peeking out from the branches on the trees lining the Jardin de Luxembourg, and I was lucky to be on a school break while he visited me. On our first day of walking on the city’s cobblestone streets, I started sensing he might actually pop the question at any moment. I got so tense that during that evening, while we were sharing a bottle of rosé on a bench by the Seine, I contributed to botching up his attempt. As soon as our conversation took on a quiet, more serious note, I turned to him with saucer-wide eyes and completely froze. So he switched the topic to potato chips, and I remained numb and drunk for the rest of the night.
On the second day, he was more successful. We had decided to end that part of our trip with a visit to the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, atop Montmartre. Standing together on a quiet, hidden spot by the church steps, we could see the descending sun cast an orange tint on the City of Lights below us. What happened next took place in slow motion; at least, that’s how it felt to me. Casually reaching into his bag, he pulled out a blue velvet box and presented it to me. I felt my eyes grow large again. He tried to kneel, but I barked “Don’t kneel!” and he jumped back up. He then made a touching speech, which I’m now unable to recount word for word, but which I’ll forever remember because it was so pure and earnest. My mind went blank after this, and I came to my senses only when he gingerly placed the ring on my finger. We stood holding each other for 10 minutes, not saying anything, but filled to the brim with all kinds of sensations inside. The sun had almost set on Paris. And then he broke the dusky silence by asking, “You said yes, right?” I snapped out of my stunned semi-somnambulism and clumsily nodded my consent. By this time, the neighborhood shops were coming alive with diners enjoying their aperitifs. We walked down the stone paths in an unhurried pace. Around the corner, we found a Chinese restaurant in what turned out to be the red-light district. And so over take-out plates and plastic utensils, with a drag queen getting dressed by the mirror behind us, we celebrated our engagement. (Yeah, we’re classy like that.)
Since that early April day, I’ve had two birthdays, made a career change and tried to reimagine what I’m going to create for the next phase of my life. It’s the 2010s—I’m living in the best time to be single. Twenty- and thirty-somethings now are inundated with choices. Should we work, do business, study, travel, or do all these at once? With so many things to juggle, it’s even easier, and oftentimes it makes more sense, to put “settling down” on the backburner. Young adults today are spoilt for options. So why am I getting married? Why do we get married? A brief perusal of online material leads me to a Psychology Today article suggesting that people started marrying for “true love” only in the late 20th century. However, coincidentally, this was also the period with the highest divorce rate. Correlation may not be causation, but I would agree with the message that, contrary to that beloved Beatles song, love is not everything you need to make a good marriage.
For starters, maybe you would need two people with good heads on their shoulders, who both understand that they are committing (forever, no backsies) and are freely choosing to do so. Maybe you would also need some healthy finances, considering that most of the world is just barely scraping by during this prolonged recession. Maybe some shared goals would help, too. I honestly don’t know what exactly you need to make a good marriage. For me, the one thing that I know I need to give to my relationship is a large degree of surrender. Not the self-obliterating kind of surrender, simply the acceptance of this truth: that my life will never be the same with this person in it, but that I cannot, and will not, imagine my life without him either. It’s scary, but he completes me, Jerry Maguire-style. I’ve finally reached a point in our relationship where I can say I trust him 100 percent. OK 99 percent. Fine, 98 percent. The bottom line is, I have enough faith in him, and in us, to know that we will always listen to each other without being pushed around. Whatever happens, we’re going to make it work. Keri na.
Now that I’m 28, I would hardly call myself a romantic, but I do still want my life to be filled with good stories. I’m happy that, for the past 11 years, future husband and I have started some nice ones. One day, we’re going to sit on our rocking chairs and talk our grandkids’ ears off about all the stuff, great and mundane, that their grandparents did together. He’s the only man with whom I can see myself growing old.
My humble opinion is that marriage is not something that ties me down with the proverbial ball and chain. Instead, I find it freeing to know that, while my soon-to-be husband and I try to maintain some independence, we’ve always got each other’s back. I’m still scared as ever, but now I can’t wait to leap with my eyes wide open, so that I can finally place a check on that green Post-it, and start making another list.
Aimee Mesiona, 28, is a small business owner from Davao City.