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NYNM Chapter 4: A Proposal (Or Ultimatum)

With the introduction of Allen into my life came the disbursal of most all of the female friends I was hanging out with. The rowdy party days had long gone, and the person who was arguably my closest friend had found a boyfriend around the same time that I met Allen, and we basically only saw each other in class. My life was now revolving around this new relationship and wracking my brain for what I was going to do after graduation. Allen and I were both on track to graduate in March of 2009, just about 6 months after we first met, and so the conversation about what would happen after became necessary.

What’s funny is I can’t remember the details of the initial conversation, which involved Allen saying in not uncertain terms that he would gladly marry me. It wasn’t a formal proposal in the slightest; Allen has never been a particularly romantic man, and our conversations were entirely practical. We knew we wanted to continue our relationship. My response to the idea of marriage was pretty much that I didn’t really believe in marriage. I was still hot off the process of rejecting the religious upbringing I’d been exposed to from the time I was very little. I’d walked away from Christianity and all the dogma it entailed years ago, and marriage had always felt like a fully Christian institution. There was nothing sacred to me about marriage, because there was nothing sacred to me at all. If I wanted to live with and love Allen for the rest of my life, I didn’t need a ceremony to prove that to anyone, least of all a god I didn’t believe in.

So, the conversation about marriage kind of fizzled out for a while, up until graduation loomed within the next couple of weeks. Once again, we tried to figure out what we wanted to do. Get an apartment in town? Move away and try living somewhere new? Allen brought up how he’d enjoyed taking trips down to South Carolina as a kid, specifically Charleston. We had talked about how cool it would be to live on the coast somewhere and quickly realized we couldn’t afford to move and live on the West Coast. So, South Carolina became more and more of an attractive option until finally we decided we would move into an affordable apartment down there. He could transfer his position within the company he worked at, which was essential, and I would see about getting an editing internship at a local lifestyle magazine headquarters. Sounded like a plan, and we were both fully onboard.

But my parents were not. And when I say they weren’t on board, I mean they bordered on hysterics at the thought of us living together “in sin.” My brother relayed to me how they were when he was visiting them. Distraught would be an understatement.

So…one night while I was visiting Allen at his apartment he currently shared with a couple of friends, I lay on his bed and looked at him without saying anything for probably a minute. He looked back, and we carried on this awkward staring contest until I mustered the courage to revisit the topic of marriage. More specifically, I said to him, “So…is that offer of marriage still good?” I know, I’m killing you with how romantic this whole thing is.

He smiled, and I explained how having a wedding would appease my parents as well as possibly score us some much-needed funds in the form of wedding gifts. Not to mention I would get to wear a pretty wedding dress. So we agreed. Plans would begin right away, right after we drove to my parents’ house to give them the good news.

***

I’ve known several people now who have done weddings a certain way; namely, spend a shit ton of money and time planning the perfect 20 minutes. Allen and I were not super concerned about all of that. We were more focused on the time and money it would take immediately afterwards to move down to South Carolina. As a result, we spent maybe $50 on each other’s wedding rings, a little bit of money on modest decorations for the ceremony and reception with help from our parents. The biggest expense was probably my wedding dress, which my parents paid for. We had a lovely time shopping for it, and it was a really special thing that my mother wanted to do for me. I have to say it was gorgeous! It had a corset-like ribbon tied up the back and an elegant strapless design.

I use a pen name for my written work, but my real last name is hyphenated using both Allen’s and my last names. It was important to me, though I didn’t really talk to anyone about the change and my family still sends me packages addressed using just my husband’s last name even though I told them I hyphenated. Oh well, perhaps you readers will care, lol.

It isn’t a huge jump to make when you consider that I didn’t really believe in marriage in the first place. Every wedding I’d been to had been religiously centered, and though I know you can get married without a bunch of religious verbiage, it is still an institution that, in my view, is only necessary for practical and monetary reasons. I don’t need other people’s or a preacher’s validation stamp on my commitment to Allen. Much less do I need a new label at the end of my name, as if I’m part of his property now. That just isn’t my view, and quite old-fashioned in 2021 I’d think. But tradition is strong, especially religious tradition, so most people just shrug it off and continue to call me by whatever name makes sense to them as a married woman. It is irritating, but after twelve years I’ve pretty much just accepted that people are going to be jarred at first, even though I’m pretty sure that hyphenating your last name after marriage isn’t an uncommon practice anymore.

Our ceremony was beautiful, though it was a really, really hot day in May and a lot of people were sitting in the sun. I didn’t notice, of course, because I was too nervous. We did things the way other people decided we should, you know—preacher gave a spiel about commitment under the eyes of God, traditional vows, the kiss, the greetings afterward—but our reception was a little more personally designed. Allen had a buddy of his play music with his band, and they were a little bit loud for some of the older folk, including my grandmother, who promptly left after only a little while. Then, Allen surprised me by getting up on stage and singing me a song! It was so sweet…I still remember his face red with sweat and exertion, as he told me later that the band played way too fast compared to how they’d practiced and he had to work very hard to keep up with them, haha! It sounded perfect to me, and in those moments none of the other people seemed to exist. It was just Allen expressing his love for me in his own unique way, and my heart melted. Later on, after we’d had about enough of everything, he literally hoisted me over his shoulder and walked out of the reception area. Outside, we were showered with the traditional…rice? I guess. What a mess that must have made, now that I think about it. We had beautiful pictures taken and everything, and soon we were off to a house on the lake for a short honeymoon, which was another gift from our parents.

That night, I went through our wedding cards and gifts while Allen patiently removed about 14 million hair pins from my head. We shared a bottle of cheap wine on the porch and talked about our plans for South Carolina. It was a beautiful weekend.

In the short time between our wedding and the big move, we saw lots of people and lots of tears as friends and family questioned our decision to move so far away and so quickly. We’d planned our wedding in about a month, and now we were moving less than two weeks later! Some people told us we should stay, others simply wished us well. Allen and I had some plans for what we would do for money down there. Allen’s job would be able to transfer, and I had an internship lined up that I was hoping would turn into a full-time position (yeah, right). But we had things planned so that we would get by fine on savings for a bit until we got settled, and the money we’d received as wedding gifts would help a lot, too.

The night before the move, we stayed at his parents’ house. Allen let me know that his close friend, Miranda, would be coming to say goodbye in the morning. Remember the garage set-up I mentioned earlier? He was sharing that house with Miranda and her boyfriend, and throughout the time we were dating, he’d told me stories about how they met and how he’d had a mean crush on her earlier in their friendship. He’d even been pretty intimate with her in a theater once, I believe…but of course they were just friends now, though she was pretty much the closest friend he had. Nothing about that had been weird or unsettling to me to that point. I didn’t own him, he had lots of female friends, I’d learned, with whom he continued to have close friendships. I’d met most of them, having gone with him a few times on visits, driving an hour or so from campus. They were all very kind and attractive women, and I felt nothing but camaraderie with them. Miranda was someone that stood out from this crowd from the beginning, but when Allen and I were dating, we didn’t go into a lot of personal history. He’d mentioned a few times that Miranda told him she missed hanging out with him. But he had a new focus now, and we spent pretty much every free second we had together. I think there were probably a few weekends when he said he would hang out with her because she missed him, and that was totally fine. Like I said, I knew I didn’t have a monopoly on his life…we were just dating.

Oh man, little did I know how getting married would do a mind-warp on me, and neither of us saw it coming. The first sign happened the following morning, when Allen’s closest friend in the world came over to say goodbye.