How to Tell, Part III

How to Tell if You Should (Not) Marry Him

I met my now-ex husband in law school, where we were part of the same study group.  There were six of us in the study group; four of us married each other.  I’ve said that so many times over the years that it might as well have been engraved on the inside of my wedding band.

Andrew and I were friends for most of our first year of law school; remained friendly as my relationship with George Meredith ebbed into a churning pool of nothing.  Andrew went home to Connecticut for the summer between 1L and 2L, and when he came back in the fall, one thing led to another, and we started playing tennis together.  We were the only two of our friends who played, and I’d been a strong junior player; was the co-captain of a state-ranked high school team.

It was a civilized way to meet one’s future spouse — and he was perfect on paper: Connecticut born and raised; son of a Daughter of the American Revolution; brought up on dinners at the club; Ivy League education.  And I missed tennis; I missed golf; I missed that life that I’d had when I was younger where there had been cocktails and parties and poolside laughter late into the night.  I missed the days when drunks were fun people, and they were not the raging bulls that George was, spouting holier-than-thou philosophy, and rage, and ultimately, an unimaginable quantity of emesis.

So my relationship with George ended with a bang and a whimper; George kept my dog; and Andrew swooped in immediately; Arthur to my Guinevere, moving me out of George’s townhouse and rescuing me from the fate of an unhappy future with an unsuitable man.  We spent late nights driving around town listening to Billy Joel and talking; playing tennis on Sundays; kayaking on the Potomac; and I felt listened to for the first time in a long time.  I cherished those things that he gave me.

I don’t know what to say about Andrew, since my life with him has been public knowledge over the last seven years of my blogging experiment.  When asked why I married him, the truth is, I really thought we had a chance.  One doesn’t marry a man because she thinks he will look good in her living room; thinks he would make a splendid addition to the heavy nautical New English furniture, perched beneath the landscape paintings done by a long-dead relative, sitting beside the carefully curated decoy ducks.

No.  One marries a man because she thinks it might work.

I willfully ignored the warning signs that it wouldn’t, I admit that freely.  He proposed by simply handing me the ring; he told me it was my fault that he didn’t do more.  We were driving around that night, like we’d always done, usually to have a bit of privacy from his roommates, and as we drove down Connecticut Avenue NW, I heard the snap of a jewelry box.

Oh God not here not now; please God no; don’t let him do it like this.

But he did.

You’re not a romantic, he said, so I just did what you wanted.

As we prepared for our wedding, and commenced the journey to Cana, I remember the card from his mother, a thank you for some gift, where she listed all of the many lawyers in their family.  Like a page from the Bible: And So-and-So begat So-and-So.

We were very important in Blackstone, Massachusetts, I recall her saying (though I am obviously paraphrasing, and taking liberty with the recollection here).  I remember when Joe Kennedy asked Granddaddy if Jack should run.

Somehow, that Camelot kept creeping into our consciousness, instead of our own, despite my monumental efforts to keep the Kennedys at bay.

We are Republicans, for Christ’s sake.  Enough with this romanticising All That.  Go read some medieval literature if that suits you.  But no more of this political nonsense.  (I’m not sure I ever said that out loud)

We did our pre-marital counseling at St. Matthew’s, where Kennedy’s funeral was held, and where I sat in the basement for many weeks among others eager to become fresh-minted Catholics.  I was not so eager.  And on alternate Wednesdays, Andrew and I met with the Monsignor in his very Protestant study one floor above the pulpit.  The whitewashed walls; the crown moulding; the banker’s lamp…it all gave off the unmistakable air of Presbyterianism.

The kindly, balding Monsignor put us through our paces; subjected us to more counseling than we were required to undergo.  Perhaps he sensed my doubt; perhaps that yawning Catholic compatibility index that the Church forces upon the newly betrothed revealed a hesitation of which even I was unaware.

But the Monsignor finally released us, and shortly thereafter, we were married in front of nearly 200 of our nearest and dearest.

On the day of our wedding, in the basement of an entirely different cathedral, 3,000 miles away, my best friend said, “You don’t have to do this; we can leave.”

I replied, “We don’t have a car.”

And that was that.

This is not to say that Andrew and I were unhappily married — because most of our married life worked.  But I think, where I cherished that he was different, he wanted us to be very much the same.  Where I wanted us to forge our own path, he was still quite content to cleave closely to his family.  And he wanted to engage in an arms race between us in which I was quite unwilling to participate.

After a while, it was unsustainable.  And others had begun to take notice.  Like a debate between two equals, but with one turning pale and uncomfortable under the cameras’ glare.

I read back, and I look at when it started to crumble; when anxiety, and — dare I say the dirty words — mental illness crept in and consumed us.  I can pinpoint the day before it fell apart — quite literally — the things I wrote before the dark spiral began.

I could go on and on and on.

Things malingered for a year until I moved out.  By August of 2009, we were legally separated, and as the story goes, I was on a call to Hong Kong the following day, and off like a shot after that.

Our fourth wedding anniversary would have been September 10th of that year.  But that night I was far away from Andrew; at a Best Buddies benefit in Carmel; sitting a table away from Maria Shriver who had just lost her mother and who had arrived without the Governator in tow.

The pleasures of the party were swoonworthy — star-studded sky and company; sticky seabreeze lilting in off the rocky coast.  After the dinner, my companions and I retired to the bar with the odds and ends leftover from the event.  Kennedy cousin hangers-on: the singer who told us all about his escapades at Esalen; the bankruptcy lawyer who indulged us with promises of rides in his private jet.  We huddled close around the stone hearth of the bar’s fireplace, enveloped in leather chairs, while the jovial men bantered back and forth.  My semi-husband texted me hateful messages from the opposite coast, informing me that he didn’t care to care that it was our wedding anniversary.

I think it was the tall, handsome Scotsman who finally flipped over my phone.  And so it went.

I returned to DC; I returned to New York.  My life went on.  I still wonder what comes next.

I read, the other day, that Maria Shriver had separated from the Governator; that her marriage had malingered; was stagnating even on that night under the stars in California.  That she didn’t know what the future held.

As I perused the news of the Schwarzenegger split,  a strange chord struck in me as I remembered Ms Shriver’s angular face from the night of that party.  I had taken note of the look of loss, then, and had not been surprised by her solo appearance.  But I laugh when I see the papers call her split a curse; when they refer to her legendary romance.

I have learned over these few years that there is no Camelot; no legend; no curse.  None of us is married to a fate; or fated to some kind of familiar future.  Without care and tending, love is lost; the circle breaks.  The storybook romances that look good on paper are just that — tree pulp and ink.  Paper boys, paper girls — things that cannot possibly stand up to the pressures of fire and water and time.

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