Tom and I traveled to Florida this weekend to attend the wedding of a very good friend of mine, R. I've actually known this guy since my first year of college, which is 12 years ago. I still don't feel that old.
I've known R through a lot of ups and downs for us both. We've both been in not-great relationships. He had personal stuff to sort through, I did too. He knows some deep, dark, ugly secrets of mine, and I know his. We've shared real joy and real sorrow. We've exchanged a lot of advice. He knows to call me out on my crap, and likewise me for him.
I'm a pretty big introvert, which means that I'm perfectly content to call almost never. For my friends who are long-distance, and they are numerous, this makes me a pretty poor friend in general. I keep meaning to rectify this, but then on some days, like today, I find I spend an hour after work walking home (up and over Queen Anne hill, with a view of the lake) instead of trying to take the quickest bus home to make phone calls. Maybe I'll figure it out.
The nice thing about R, though, is that he and I have history. When you share old stories with someone it means you can pick up right where you left off. Only for us, I get to see him now as the great man he's become. A little kinder, a little softer. Calm. He's always been knowing, but he puts a little more weight behind that now. Years, and knowledge, and peace about things.
And when I talked to his wife for the first time, I just knew she was the one. First of all, we weren't even 3 minutes into the phone conversation and she was "busting his balls," as he puts it. Which is appropriate, and funny. And she's smart and insightful, yet patient and loving. R is a strong personality. He needs someone who is firm, gentle, and loving.
Every once in a while I'll read something about marriage being an archaic institution, or how it's inherently sexist (and certainly in today's society, inherently heterosexist). But I think for some people, when they find someone, and they're wonderful together, and they start thinking about how they're going to build their life together, it's a wonderful thing to get married.
When I get an opportunity to give marriage advice, which is rightfully infrequent because I've only been married a year, I always say that you have to marry someone who has your values. Unfortunately this term has been co-opted for negative reasons, politically. The fact of the matter is that the person you intend to marry needs to share your views about children, finances, fidelity, careers, travel, family relationships, friends, free time, and the like. Whatever those views are. After all, we're not just talking about someone to canoodle with. You're going to share your LIFE. These things needs to be sorted out before the jewelry and the cake and the dress and what color it's all going to be. And these values need to be discussed in detail, and seriously.
We're hanging out in the hotel room the night before his wedding and his fiancée mentions that she doesn't think their daughters will ever do gymnastics, and he agrees, and they discuss why, and we all laugh in the context of the conversation and move on to the next topic. But there was none of what you sometimes see with people, either ignoring the comment, or "oh gosh, I couldn't have kids in a million years," or the discomfort because perhaps kids had never come up before. It was just another topic, something they'd discussed before, something they already knew about each other and their future. Which is good.
A few weeks before R's wedding he was talking about stressors in his and his fiancée's life and he was lamenting about how difficult it all was at the time, and how it would be nice if he could go into his wedding with it all being easy instead of hard. I took the opportunity to remind him that marriage is about having someone who's your rock and your comfort when times are hard. That anyone can be a good-times girl, and this is what marks most dating before people decide to get serious. And that hard times are strengthening.
If anyone knows about growing strength through difficult times, it's R, who's had more of his share of tough stuff. And as you'd expect, he's a wonderful person. He found someone wonderful for him, which makes me so happy.
Cheers to you, R, and your lovely wife. Thank you for inviting me to the first day of the rest of your lives together. May you find a little more love, strength, hope, peace, and happiness with each other every day for the rest of your lives.