The Bitter and the Sweet

My mom still likes chuckle about the fact that when I was four I announced one day "I don't ever want to get married and have babies--it's too much work!". Well, here I am, married and having babies, and it is a lot of work. There are a lot of days where I step back and can't believe that this is my life. I never really thought much about getting married while I was growing up. I found my journal from junior high, and in it I mused often about living alone on a remote island in Alaska studying whale migration patterns. I never babysat as a teenager and generally didn't like little kids very much. The honest truth is that I still only really like kids in small doses and am not a big fan of them, especially the ones who aren't related to me. Matrimony and maternalness weren't really part of my dreams as a youth. I think that part of this aversion to marriage was a defensive strategy; I've known since I was quite young that I'm not the type of person most guys desire. Too geeky, too unconcerned with my appearance, too clueless and too honest to flirt, too independent to see a need for guy in the first place. Not only do I not want to play the game, I have no idea what the rules even are or why we are playing it.

I also went to a high school where little dating took place. I know that people went to parties and hooked up and had sex, but that wasn't what I wanted to do. There were very few Mormon boys my age at school and I was too scared to date anyone else. I just hung around with my friends from the Knowledge Bowl team and the Future Business Leaders of America club. We had a lot of fun, but none of it involved boys or dating. I went on a grand total of three dates in high school. The first two were my junior year: I asked a boy I knew from my ward to go to the prom with me. I asked him in January just to be certain he would be free. In March I thought it would be a good idea to go on at least one other date together before the prom, so I called him up and we went to the movies together. My other date was my senior year after I moved to another state. That guy brought along his little brother to the movies with us. That was the first, and pretty much only, time a guy asked me on a date.

When I got to BYU I was terrified because everyone had told me about the predatory RMs that married freshman girls. Luckily I lived in Heritage Halls and there were only freshman boys in my ward. And I soon found out that, even at BYU, I was still not the type of girl that guys asked out on dates. My first semester I had a roommate whose boyfriend had a roommate that was just as geeky as I was, so they decided to set us up. We went on a few awkward group dates and got to the point of holding hands before I left for Christmas break. After we got back to school I never called him and he never called me. I think we were both relieved to never hear from each other again. My second semester of my freshman year I kind of dated a boy I knew from the College Bowl team (yep, I still hung out with the geeks in college). He lived in DT, so we walked home from practices in the Maeser building together. We had a lot of good times together and he was (and I'm sure still is) a very sweet person. Instead of buying me flowers or chocolates, he bought me a copy of Pride and Prejudice. My roommates all thought he was cool, and I think they were all frustrated that we never got anywhere besides one awkward hug before he left on his mission. We wrote each other during our missions, but after I got back to Provo several years later we never met up and I started dating Master Fob instead.

For the two years before my mission I lived in the same off-campus apartment. My dating life was still pretty pathetic. I don't think anyone ever asked me out, as far as I can remember. I would develop crushes on guys and occasionally ask them out or cook for them, but I still kept my reputation as the nerdy girl with the hot sister. (By the way, my sister is just a nerd in a hot disguise. She's smarter than I am and ten times as gorgeous). The summer after my junior year I decided to go on a mission and ended up in Spain. I endeared myself to the elders by kicking some of them in the shins (well, just one of them), beating them at belching contests, and occasionally making cinnamon rolls for them. I was too into the rules to be one of the "cool" missionaries, but I made a lot of friends, worked hard, and enjoyed my mission a lot. Now that I'm home I don't care so much that I wasn't "cool" and feel a little embarrassed that I ever worried about it.

For some reason the few months after I got home from my mission were suddenly filled with male attention. I was shocked; I still had no plans to get married. I wanted to finish school and either get a good job or go on to graduate school. I lived at home in Maryland for about three months before I went back to BYU. Shortly after I got home I emailed an elder I had served together with for a number of months back in Spain. I also tried to get in touch with a bunch of other people, but this particular elder emailed me right back. We began a regular correspondence that expanded into phone calls. At the same time I was also fielding phone calls and emails from my freshman year guy, a random Nicaraguan I'd met at a singles dance, the Nicaraguan's Peruvian friend, and a fellow missionary's ex-boyfriend who lived in DC. I went on a few dates in DC with the ex-boyfriend, and he was a very nice guy but "just not that into me". I also managed to shake off the Nicaraguan and his friends; I have nothing against Hispanic men, just the ones who invite me to go meet grandma in Managua after the second phone call. I looked forward to getting back to Provo where as a 23-year-old returned missionary I would now be even more undesirable to the male population.

While I was attempting to settle into my new home in Provo my very first day back in town I heard a knock at the door. It was my former district leader and phone buddy, although nearly unrecognizable in baggy red pants and spiky bleached hair. He took me out for Jamba Juice that night and showed up the next morning to walk me to the class we had together. The next day also happened to be my birthday, so he brought me flowers, a book, and an invitation to lunch together. I was astounded by the attention--after so many years of total rejection by men, here was one who was obviously crazy about me. Master Fob will tell you that I spent a while trying to resist the pace of our relationship. I wanted to go a little more slowly, but it didn't really happen. Those months of emails and phone calls had helped us get to know each other as friends, and now we both wanted to be more than that. As much as we tried to avoid it, the topic of marriage kept coming up. And then one night we went to the temple together and after the session he shared his biggest secret with me. I've already blogged about that. The truth is, we didn't discuss it too much after that. We did come close to breaking up several times before we got married. I remember one time after we'd been discussing things, he left and I knew he didn't want to come back. I was really conflicted because by that point I did want to get married. Part of it was the social inertia--the wedding plans were very much underway, but most of it was the fact that I loved him very much and wanted to be together. At the same time, I knew how serious it was to get married when you weren't ready and that marriage is a big decision. I didn't need to get married at that point in my life, but if I wanted to, it needed to be a wholehearted endeavor on the part of both people. That night I cried and prayed a lot. I finally felt some peace and knew that whatever decision Master Fob made, I would be OK. I was actually pretty sure he was going to come back the next day and want to postpone or even cancel the wedding. I was fine with that decision. It wasn't what I wanted, but I wasn't going to force him into anything. The next day he was happy, calm, and excited about getting married. From that point on we didn't have any doubts or difficulties (well, at least not before the wedding). On our wedding day I mainly remember feeling happy, calm, and excited. I thought I'd be nervous or anxious about getting married, but I wasn't at all. I didn't regret my decision to get married.

I still don't regret or question my decision to get married when I did or to the person I did. I do question most of my other decisions, like going to grad school and having kids. The funny thing is, though, sometimes I feel guilty about being married and having kids. Maybe it's because I know a lot of people who are still single or who are unable to have kids. I feel weird around them because I have the things they want but can't have, while I never thought I wanted them in the first place. It does seem a little unfair that someone who never seemed marriageable has become so domesticated while so many of my eminently more qualified friends (and my gorgeous, smart sister) are pining away in singleness. I do envy the singles sometimes; I wish I could move away to Morocco or even go out to eat on a regular basis. But I also don't have any regrets about the life I chose. It's a happy life. A fulfilled life. All lives involve choices, and while each choices opens some possibilities, it closes others. In some respects my choices have closed things off for me. But more than anything, they've opened more doors than I ever thought they would. It's now been nearly five years since we drove away from the Salt Lake Temple together, after we each said "yes" to God that we would give ourselves wholly to our partner. I don't think I knew then what kind of adventures we would have together. I still don't know what adventures we're going to have in the future. I'm still glad I chose such a wonderful person to share the ride with, and I'm grateful he chose me.

Comments

Master Fob said…
I like this post. One of your best, I'd say--and contrary to my narcissistic nature, my favorite parts were the ones that weren't about me.
Kengo Biddles said…
I love your honesty and sincerity. I hope you recognized my joking response to your post on my blog ... and I fully recognize that the lack of further commentary is mostly due to the fact that you have rugrats and their recent sleep patterns. Miki's going through much the same. :)
Anonymous said…
This is a great post. I have a lot of respect for you for putting your kids ahead of your other desires. It always makes me sad to see parents who are to involved in having a good time to be good parents.

It's also reassuring--I've never been that excited about having kids, myself.
skyeJ said…
Sorry. Just to make that clear. Also, I am also NOT smarter than you. :-) I'm just packaged differently. Never feel guilty for having what you have and making the choices that you made. I never do. I could've chosen to marry some of the guys I'd dated, but for various reasons I didn't. Mostly it was because I wasn't ready to get married. I'm sure there are friends of yours who sit around pining and wasting their lives, and I think that's sad. I pity them. Don't get all mopey on my account, I'd never forgive you. ;-) I'm secretly thrilled I get to have your kids to play with all the time without having the responsibility of taking them home with me forever. P.S. In all the years of dating guys as a "hot girl", I've learned that only dogs go after pieces of meat. Real men date real women, and it's up to us to decide to become women or meat.
skyeJ said…
I love you!

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