“So what would you like to do ultimately?”
I was asked this question a few weeks ago by a colleague and without thinking too hard, I said: “Get married!” And then I said: “But don’t tell my Beloved.” “Then, finally be a Campus Minister and use my degree.” And then doubt possessed me and I said: “Oh I don’t know.”
I thought about it a few days later when I was busy orienting first year students to the campus. Was that really what I wanted? A few more days later, while talking to another colleague whose husband is actually a colleague of my Beloved, I said I had come to the realization that being part of a dynamic duo such as ours meant that one of us would almost always have to take the lead and I was happy to do the following. Given my background, I can fit in a variety of Student Affairs positions. My Beloved however is limited to just a handful of specific positions if she wants to stay in academia. As much as we could try a dual-career search, it seemed that ours would be one in which one person’s job (her’s) would most likely take precedence. And I acknowledged to this other colleague that I was realizing that I was ok with this. I was not just willing, but happy to make that concession.
Today a good friend of mine made a big announcement. It wasn’t news to me; however, her piece detailed her own musings around the subject of babies and how she came to be where she is now. As she usually inspires me, I found myself sitting on the couch and revisiting my subject again. Was it true that I would really like to be married?
I’ve been the flag-waving poster child for feminism and choice and independence and sex-positvity, and…you name it. I was anti anything that supported the institution. I saw it as the ball and chain in much the same way as most men I grew up with saw it. Life was over once you married. In addition I didn’t see successful marriages in my family; all I saw were previously married, single mothers raising children, and fathers cheating or walking away from responsibility. My mother often joked that being single was having it made, once the children were all grown, that is. No one to leave a dirty laundry trail or ask where his dinner was. No one to have his friends over and have you entertaining them while they sat watching the game. No one.
In this void of having it made, I was not encouraged to try my luck. Sure aunts and cousins in their numbers tried to set me up. Most of them were single mothers themselves. What was in it for them? I thought. Finally, I figured that they must have harbored some hope that what did not work for them, would work for me. Maybe I would find that magic guy that had escaped them. Eventually some folks gave up and just begged me to have a baby. That’s another conversation for later.
In any case, after folks gave up, I was consoled with: “You’ll marry when the right man comes along.” “Nyame dzi wo dzi reba.” God was often brought into the conversation. On the flip side were those who thought I was being too picky. I however, could not be budged. Mom had said over and over again, she had it made. I had solidified her opinion as mine after 25, post my first devastating break up. I was planning that dream white wedding while he was advancing his career and life in another country. When after 5 years, I was not chosen to be the lucky bride in that fairytale, I took to the streets figuratively and literally. Before him, I had only dated and kissed one other boy. At 25 and newly single, I was determined to find out for myself what it felt like not to “belong” to anyone. My what freedom! I got to be so good at it, I think I forgot that a sense of belonging to someone could also feel good.
So I think, what mom forgot to say and recently acknowledged was that sometimes having it made was lonely. When I told her Beloved and I were getting serious, she asked if I was sure this was right for me, and then she said something like, I don’t have much experience in that field but I want to make sure you are not making a mistake. What I said to myself was, I think I am ready to make my own mistakes, mom.
This is not to say that being with Beloved or wanting to be married to her and proclaim to the world that I too have it made, albeit in a different way than my mother deems it, is making a mistake. I just meant and mean, that I have found the one I want to negotiate and make love promises and contracts with. This does not mean that I have stopped being a poster child for feminism or independence. It just means that thirteen years later, I’m have found that one to whom I wish to belong. As Beloved put it the other day: “cast my lot with.”
This is huge! Especially given the fact that we have been through IT! With my illness and eventual hospitalization. With being back on meds and dealing with their side effects. With mania and depression as my wingwomen. With adjusting to living together after having my own place for a long time. Talk about learning to redefine independence and space-sharing (my weak points). Through it all, somehow we have come out ok.
This is not the official proposal, but it is the official pronouncement.
*thoughts of singlehood and independence: