I wrote this piece earlier this summer before I really had anyplace to put it.
I just got back from my cousin’s wedding. I flew 3,000 miles to be there, and I was thrilled to do it. But, now I am puzzling out my thoughts on the whole affair. You see, my cousin and I were born only a few months apart, only an hour apart by car, so we spent lots of time together every summer and all the major holiday of our childhood. But, at some point in the last few years, while I have been far away studying the works of Darwin, Fisher and Wright, my cousin found God. And, today she married a minister.
While I certainly know other people who care deeply about their own religious beliefs, my own work and social life revolves around people working through the mysteries of the universe with science. When God (rarely) enters the discussion it’s almost always more philosophical than personal.
So, it’s always a little shocking to find myself in the midst of a group that talks incessantly of “love for Jesus” and prayer, but, while I find it a little silly myself, that sort of thing doesn’t really bother me. I just sit quietly and watch the little kids twitch and fidget. That’s pretty amusing. I recommend you check it out sometime.
So, the praying doesn’t bother me, and even though the minister (the father of the groom) used some blatantly sexist metaphors for marriage that did bother me, they were so tired and obvious that deconstructing them would be an exercise in redundancy. He should be her shepherd and she should be his cheerleader, apparently.
No, the part that I am mulling over is sex and romance. They’ve been together for nearly two years now, but they’ve been waiting for marriage before having sex. I have no idea about the groom, but I know that the bride was not a virgin. Still, I am told that tonight, probably as I type this, they will be consummating their marriage for the first time in the traditional Christian sense of the word. And, there seemed to be this idea, that it would somehow be extra special because they waited for their wedding night.
There was just this feeling that their wedding was terribly romantic in a way you don’t see that often in the circles I travel in. We are cynical about marriage in my circles. Sure it’s about love and sex, but it’s just as much about mortgages and health insurance and raising children. It’s mainly a practical matter because you can love anyone you want, sleep with anyone you want, but you only marry the person you want to love, fuck and file taxes with.
In my world you marry someone you’ve known for years, slept with hundreds of times. You merged your shit long ago, traveled together, fought about dirty dishes and dirty laundry and what color to paint the kitchen. You’ve probably even screamed and cried and thought about leaving each other. The new and shiny is gone by the time you get to the alter (if you even have one), and friends and family pretty much greet the engagement announcement with “Finally! We’ve been wondering when you were going to get around to that.” Or else they ask if you’re pregnant.
Unless I dump my boyfriend of seven years and take up God, I am not going to have a wedding night full of highly anticipated sex. If I have wedding night sex, it will be comfortable, familiar sex. Good sex, better sex than we used to have seven years ago. But, not new sex, not the sort of sex that makes you tingle all day with sheer anticipation.
And, I am not going to follow my honeymoon with all the shiny new excitement of moving in together. We’ve done all that already. The sex that makes you squirm in your seat all day, the official moving in, the merging of stuff, the dividing of chores, the ongoing attempt to find the balance between incessant, irritating nagging and silent, seething rage.
I think this wedding catalyzed a feeling I’ve been having lately that my life lacks romance, and the cheering section you are apparently entitled too if you time your wedding just right– long enough to actually know each other in the public opinion, but not so long as to be a forgone conclusion by friends and family. I am a little sad that if we ever get around to having a wedding, I think it will feel more like an afterthought than a fresh start. I like fresh starts.
I wonder about the sex too. As I recall, there is something hot about anticipation. I’ve heard from a Catholic friend and the formerly Mormon dooce that the celibate are excellent kissers. I believe it. Thinking way back, I think the kissing was better when sex wasn’t a given. The anticipation, uncertainty and adrenalin made the epic make-out sessions and the awkward fumbling sex of my teens and early twenties almost unbearably hot.
Of course, things can be overly hyped, overly anticipated. And, there will obviously be a day when any new couple is not a new couple. So, perhaps I am just a little jealous of that energy that new relationships always seem to have. Maybe that is what we romanticize in a new marriage, a fresh start and a shiny new love.