my first engagement, part 1
This is the story of the first time I was engaged to be married. When I say “first,” I am not counting my tenuous engagement to Leslie Hammer from my class at Steven’s Crossing preschool, or the time when I was nineteen when I, stoned and having just finished a Tom Robbins novel about women’s lib, considered getting a tattoo symbolizing my marriage to myself. I am only counting those occasions when another consenting adult was involved. That means the the short list is merely three entries long; three engagements formed over a span of four years. But I reckon that’s a pretty respectable rate.
And at 22, I was the first of my sisters to be engaged. I remember calling my dad from work to give him the news.
“I wanted to tell you that me and D are getting married,” I said.
Now, to represent myself honestly, I should admit how long I’d been with D at this point. If you think it was probably longer than 3 months, you are mistaken, and have underestimated my capacity for Romance.
We had been together for three months. And here’s my dad’s response to this news:
“I was thinking you might do that,” he said.
*(An aside— Hey you, future parents: You do not get to pick who your children turn out to be. As an outspoken pretend-bisexual pothead with a non-specific Artist’s Temperament and a moral-political agenda condemning traditional grooming practices, I had already conditioned my father with respect to what he could expect from me. That said, I was disappointed that he wasn’t more surprised.)
“We know what we want to do for our ceremony,” I added.
“We’re going to hunt and kill a deer. As our ceremony. And then we want to roast it for our family and friends, as our reception.” Yup.
My dad: “Uh huh.” And, “I take it your remaining grandmother is invited to this?”
I’d considered this. I wasn’t sure. My fiance, as I’ll call him for the sake of simplicity (with the possible side-effect of creating a blur around the meaning of a nice useful term), definitely thought she should come. What was the point of killing a deer at your wedding, he reasoned, if you don’t force your square relatives to participate, presumably blowing their minds? But the fact was, I like my grandmother. She was and is a totally neat, sarcastic old lady who for 40 years owned and ran a hardware store, and I wasn’t sure I needed to teach her a grand lesson.
“I’m not sure she’d like it,” I answered my dad. “I’d like her to come. I’ll think about it. I mean, this is all a ways off still. I’m not even sure when hunting season starts.”
“Hunting Season. Yes.” my dad said. My dad is an excellent sport.
To rewind a bit, let me tell you: the idea of getting married had sprung up very innocently. About a month earlier, ol’ what’s his name had teared up over appetizers at an Indian restaurant.
It was sweet. “I can’t imagine ever wanting to be with anyone else,” he’d said, voice cracking with sincerity. “I feel like I need a ceremony. Could we have a ceremony?”
And listen. I was just a 22 year old pretend-bisexual with hairy legs and a head full of Tom Robbins and weed and free love. And if I was not quite ready to get married, you better believe that I was even less ready to ruin this moment. Besides, I was head-under-water over this thing too, so maybe he was right, and just being brave. Scared, but drunk on love and excitement, I managed a “We can do that.” We shared a tearful handshake over the table.
To my credit, I think I waited until the entrees had arrived before inquiring about whether our ceremony would mean that I could never have sex with girls. I hadn’t gotten around to it yet, and it seemed hasty to sign away my chance to prove my bisexuality to myself and the world. The two of us negotiated that point for a few minutes and decided that, if by the time I was thirty I still felt the need, we’d surely figure out an arrangement that was agreeable to both of us. We also agreed that we’d think about what sort of ceremony would be suitable, and that we shouldn’t settle for any plan that was less than a Revelation.
And after a few weeks I (yes, I) gave birth to the deer hunting idea, and we were off. It was inspired. Neither of us had ever killed anything before, and we knew we’d be preternaturally bonded by such an extreme experience. You try and show me a City-Haller who had to chase down their marriage certificate with a borrowed rifle! We’d be the married-est.
I figured I’d probably cry for the deer; D didn’t think he would. This was a good, good idea. There was probably something Native American about it, right? This deer’s sacrifice would really mean something. Meanwhile, the plan was grizzly enough to fly in the face of convention, even if that face suspiciously resembled my grandmother’s. Well, so be it. We were meat-eaters in love.
(end part 1 of 2)