I was living in Los Angeles when I met him. He was wearing white athletic socks (hiked up mid-calf) and black dress shoes with shorts. I was instantly turned off. I should have walked away but I married him instead.
My wedding cost a hundred grand, give or take a Benjamin. I was spared this adorable factoid until after I was divorced, and when my parents told me, I almost threw up. When I got married, I was 28, not in love with my ex, and I insisted on getting married where no wedding had gone before. That all came with a hefty price tag, both financially and emotionally.
The wedding proposal had more red flags than the United Nations. After my ex and I polished off a bottle of two buck Chuck wine from Trader Joe's, we stumbled into our bedroom. He threw me onto the bed. "Will you marry me?"
"Yeah, why not."
Not very romantic, but I never saw my ex as my romantic lead. We never talked about getting married either. I didn't believe in marriage, nor did I see our relationship as forever. He caught me off guard.
Why did I say yes? Why wasn't I truthful? Why didn't I listen to the little voice that, upon seeing his white socks and black shoes, say, "Uh, no." I had ample opportunities to stop the train but I didn't think that I had the option. I didn't think that I had a choice.
If I had said no, then my secret of not being in love with him for the last two years would have been revealed. The thought of hurting his feelings pained me, and I sincerely thought that I was protecting him. We didn't break up, so I planned a wedding. Hey Crazy, your table is ready.
I knew that I could be successful at planning a wedding, so I put my producer's hat on and dove into pre-production. I had a purpose, a goal, a deadline, and something to hide behind.
I wanted a low key and casual wedding, but things quickly spiraled out of control and before I knew it, I was getting married on a seventeenth century Dutch farm, in a sausage casing, puffy-sleeved, tulle-infused mess of a dress. The bodice pushed my boobs so far up to my chin, it felt like I was being choked. My boobs were front and center, but I was disappearing.
My hair looked like shit. The tight bun gave me a headache and when I attempted to curl a few tendrils, the curling iron broke, leaving me with half baked tendrils that looked like half-assed payos.
I was playing a role that I didn't audition for, acting in someone else's movie. This couldn't be my life, especially when my mother handed me her white bible (which I had never seen before) and told me to borrow it, and hold it with my bouquet. She gave me a blue hanky to tuck into my thong and old and new jewelry to wear. Now I'm the poster child for tradition?
My ex and I planned to say a few words during the ceremony. When I thought about what I would say, words failed me and I felt hollow inside. Instead, I improvised, "I like myself better when I'm with you." I'd heard couples say this to each other, and I desperately wanted it to be true. When my ex spoke, he was overcome with emotion and cried. I had no tears and I wanted to die. I continued, "You are my knight in shining armor, coming to my emotional rescue." A playful song lyric that I thought would make him happy.
I said, "I do", when I didn't.
We returned to Los Angeles and began our lives as husband and wife, which brought further dishonesty, fear and rationalizations. However, a funny thing happened along the way. We became best friends. I was attracted to his loyalty, and talents, and he loved me unconditionally. He also stopped wearing dress shoes with his shorts.
There were months, perhaps years, where we lived contently, even happily. My ex and I shared similar professional dreams and we were each other's cheerleaders. But I always wanted more. I wanted to be in love.
I had imaginary conversations with my ex, rehearsing my breakup speech. Only in my head did I find the courage to end what should never have begun. I tortured myself constantly and I cried silently into my pillow at night, while my ex slept beside me.
Over the years, my ex would question our infrequent sex and I made excuses. It was work, lack of work, depression, a marital speed bump or something that I ate. My verbal paralysis made me physically ill, and it was now profoundly affecting my ex. The guilt, shame and selfishness was too much to bear.
In our last year together, we took a trip to Italy, as I still held out for something that would make me fall in love with him. I hoped that Venice would be the proverbial baby that would save our marriage.
When we got back to our hotel room one night, in Venice, I snapped. It wasn't planned but my betrayal was about to end. My tiny voice, the one that always speaks the truth, had been screaming for nine years and she was pissed. I gasped for air. "I don't want to be married anymore. I can't do this. I'm so sorry."
I was lucid and straightforward. It must have been all the rehearsing. My ex cried and this time I joined him. We held each other in silence as I let the relief of the truth wash over me.