(Originally posted on BrightRock Change Exchange)
The best way to describe my attitude towards marriage and relationships is curmudgeonly: I am bad-tempered, difficult and cantankerous, just as the dictionary defines it.
My past is littered with failed, unhealthy relationships. Like water carving its way through a canyon floor, they have conditioned me into cynicism and commitment-phobia.
Marriage seems to me to be a trap. All around me, I note marriages failing, falling apart and hurting people I love. Second marriages astound me. Have these people not learned from the first marriage?
But this isn’t about second marriages. This is about a very unsettling first marriage. Maru and Vince have just tied the knot and they are as happy and content and as blissful as you could possibly wish for anyone. No, it’s not Maru and Vince that are unsettled – it’s me. Rattled. Thrown.
I met Vince and Maru when I moved to Stellenbosch and worked at the same company. Maru and I were colleagues and her quirkiness, wit, intelligence and ability to make a pun meant I needed to make her a friend, and fast. And so I did. I have a gaggle of besties, and Maru is right up there in that pantheon of friends that make life properly proper.
Maru introduced me to Vince, her boyfriend, soon after we met. Here’s a chap who speaks in code. Mobile phone code. He tinkers and fangles-for-new-fangled stuff and potters and builds and deploys mobile phone apps. Vince is as quirky and funny and bright as Maru. In many ways they are like WALL-E and EVE.
I paid little attention to their relationship. I don’t get involved in this sort of thing.
They bought a house together, “Because it is inevitable that we will get married” Maru said. And that is Vince and Maru through and through. Calm, logical and just so. No dramatic nonsense causing neighbours’ curtains to twitch. Just rock solid just-so-ness. Stable. Secure. Also, not romantic.
“Well, why bother if there’s no romance?” I often thought to myself. I could only see the duty and the routine, and I could only project my own sense of being stifled in a set-up like that. But romance has a funny way of being everywhere, if you just let down your cynical guard a bit.
As time went on, all around us our friends and colleagues were getting engaged and dropping anchor. With every new announcement, Maru would sigh and say “Perhaps I need to remind Vince.” Of course I took that to be proof that I was right about marriage. It was not to be considered.
But then one day last year, Maru arrived at the office with a thin band of roses fashioned out of red gold on her finger. “He proposed!” she beamed. And how! Some folk to go extremes, contriving ridiculous set ups with flash mobs and social media consultants to record, for Facebook, the moment when they pitch their hopes to their significant other. Not Vince.
Maru walked into the kitchen, after trying to pump new life into her old car battery, when Vince ambled in, showed Maru the ring and quietly popped the question. Maru told me she wasn’t really sure if Vince had proposed to her, or to their new oven. (To be fair, it is a very snazzy oven.) And then just as quietly, she said yes.
The next few months were not dramatic months of planning and chaos. In true Vince and Maru style, they went about their lives and made lists and phoned a few people and roped in Maru’s sister to do the creative stuff. It was all very quiet and proper, right up to the big day, in a private garden, surrounded by family and a few lifelong friends.
It was beautiful, simple and sincere. And it was utterly, utterly romantic. Maru wore a vintage dress she bought at the mall for under 500 bucks (take that, Kardashians!) and Vince wore a casual get-up. It was exactly how they are in their everyday life.
It didn’t need an explosion of taffeta, chintz and tuxedos. Maru told me “This is exactly what we both wanted. When people ‘dress’ up their weddings, they’re really just doing it for the photos. For what? Just so you can look back at it and think, ‘Geez, what the hell happened!? We changed sooooo much.’ That is why we did not go on crash diets or dressed in a way that was not us.”
This punched me in the heart. It was beautiful. It was human. It was not what I have experienced or witnessed before. And it has unsettled me. I lie awake at night, thinking about it all, questioning my stance on relationships and marriage.
It’s quite possible I have been wrong, all this time, and that some people do get it right, first time around.
And this makes me happy.
© Dave Luis for BrightRock