, , , , , , , , ,

How did this happen?

This morning I woke up with the same question I asked myself on a morning exactly forty years ago. “How did this happen?” That day, I ate breakfast, put on a wedding dress I didn’t want, got married, and got ready to face the next 40 years.

Today I ate breakfast, put on a great outfit I got on my last trip to India, and got ready to face the next… well, possibly not 40 years. Back then we had to figure out how to cram as many family and friends as possible into the available space—and how to have sex as often as possible despite their presence. Now the Hub and I rattle around an empty house, isolating in place, complete privacy generated by simply turning off Zoom. Back then a single bed and a lumpy pillow was the stuff of true romance. Now our conversation tends to contain phrases like, “If you’re on a respirator, I get your good pillow.” Or maybe speculation like, “For me to collect on your life insurance, it has to look like an accident…”

So… about that happily-ever-after?

I’ve always said the Hub and I have a relationship based on the two purest human feelings: pity and hunger. Back in our college days, I was cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at our apartment when my roommate Max took pity on a pair of grad students she knew would be alone on the holiday, and dragged them to our flat for turkey dinner. One was a tall thin guy who didn’t say two words to me but ate everything that came within reach. We were married two years later. Forty years, four kids, two careers, multiple house moves, and a global pandemic later, you could say we lived happily-ever-after and you’d be right (as I explained here). 

But actually, I’ve always felt a bit sorry for those fairy-tale endings. What really happened after Prince Charming slid on that slipper? Did their kids run naked through the throne room? Did the dog throw up the first time they had the King and Queen over for dinner? Did Cinderella blow her first big powerpoint presentation, or did Prince Charming actually give her a new microwave for their first anniversary present? I really hope so, because it’s the things that go wrong we remember the most.

In the lead up to our own wedding, for example, my husband’s deadline for submitting his PhD thesis loomed. My mother was typing it—yes, on a manual typewriter because we’re that old—and everyone was proofreading. My uncle, an airforce chaplain who was going to perform the ceremony, arrived expecting to discuss the sanctity of marriage. Instead, he was handed two chapters on monetary theory and told to mark any typos.

My soon-to-be Hub would look up occasionally to mutter that if he didn’t get the thesis submitted, he couldn’t get married. Each time, my father would go back out to the garage and start working on one of the cars. My mother took a break from typing to look at the wedding dress I’d found in a charity shop, a retro cocktail-length sheath in pink lace. She cried, gave the dress to the sister who was going to be my maid of honor, grabbed another sister, and they went out to buy a (white) wedding dress.

The thesis was typed and posted by courier to barely meet both academic and wedding deadlines. The cars had never been in better shape. My uncle paused in the wedding ceremony for a little speech about how marriage is like a thesis, which made my father cry and my mother laugh. And every time I looked up during the wedding, my sister would point to the beautiful pink lace dress she was wearing, and mouth, “Mine.” She kept the dress, I kept the Hub, and we all kept the memories.

So how about you? What’s YOUR HEA story?

Please let me know your own love story, or one of your favorite happily-ever-after glitches.