October 12 Prompt: Promises
Thoughts over a bottle of champagne…
The Wedding Planner
So my best friend Amber just recently attended her ex-boyfriend – Earl’s wedding [See post Eventually]. Having been a part of the wedding industry for about three years or so, we pretty much know how everything looks like from a short distance. The bride will be in between euphoric and delirious as soon as she wakes up and the groom will pretty much feel the same way, only that at the back of his mind, he just wants the whole carousel of preparations to stop spinning cause it’s somehow making him dizzy. Elation starts to swell from the bride once her entire team of bridesmaids and delegated friends – mostly replaced by -us- a hired OTD (on the day) squad to facilitate her every need; wardrobe, stylist, flowers, photographers, videographers, wedding singers, caterers, wedding car, wedding invitation and her entire entourage. We are her tool guy running with poised in a laced pencil dress. I still remember our first wedding event. We hauled Amber’s old-fashioned printer and her brother’s projector in the hotel lobby to save the day, hoping to at least meet if not exceed the standard measurement of a happy wedding day. Amber and I made things happen despite the unpredictable hurdles. We exist for the simplest most significant reasons. We need to flag down all the jitters and make sure our most beautiful bride enjoys every single moment with -Vera Wang.
Real weddings are far from perfection. [Unless you’re Kate Middleton.] It’s mostly just families of both sides anxious to get the big day done. Spilled tea. Broken vases. Children running around in circles. Screaming babies. Late suppliers. Wrong flowers. Deflated balloons. Uncooperative weather. People who you don’t even remembered being invited. Last minute cancellations. So on and so forth. But these are the things that makes up a good memory. Just as we often describe love, it always perseveres. We may have not printed the missalettes on time or failed to isolate the mother of the bride from her ex-husband who happened to bring his new wife on the wedding which ended up with both of them sitting across the table with reserved animosity on their faces, but we have accomplished to bring all our clients together in the Holy Matrimony and as a bonus, a laugh-bursting party with lots of champagne and dancing. Overall, it was fun fun run for me and Amber. It’s one of the most happy place you can live in a day. Laces and silhouettes. White roses and tulips. Scented candles and crystal centerpieces. Soothing playlist. Heartfelt wedding vows. Hilarious speeches. And a crazy fun-filled barefooted guests on the dance floor.
The Wedding Guest
So there was Amber sitting comfortably in one of the guest tables sipping champagne on a glass wine, with fellow colleagues and friends when a tidal of emotions hit her. Well first, she saw Earl bawling like a baby at the altar when he saw his bride marching towards him. Like – does that really happen? At this point of course, she was watching as a spectator who doesn’t have a million list of things to be attentive about unlike when she was coordinating events. She doesn’t get the crying part. Before, it didn’t matter that much because she was getting paid for making her clients feel things. Now she can entertain all her utmost and honest opinion on weddings. Why is everybody crying and I am not feeling it? Has the groom not anticipated that her bride can be this angelic with a twenty thousand grand worth of make up artist and stylist? It’s the same girl. It’s the same face. Only maybe prettier than the usual. I mean who wouldn’t be gorgeous in an expensive couture gown? This confusion isn’t because she and Earl have a history together. That was so old school. She is now happily committed, traveling with her fiance in every continent there is. She just don’t get the emotional outburst [and neither do I]. The waterworks are so overrated. Is this bitterness or Maturity? Have we become both bitter on the ever after promises and spectacular ensemble of a wedding day just because we’re in our thirty’s now and still waiting for the real glamour pack fancy ritual to take place? Or have we simply outgrown the little girls within us and have become more reasonable with our individual goals? I mean, I think I am now more concerned and focused on having an elegant marble countertop and dark hardwood floors.
More than a Girlfriend, Less than a Wife
As soon as Ally reached the altar, Earl pocketed his dampened handkerchief promptly to take his lovely bride from her beloved parents. Amber suddenly realized why everyone was becoming emotional. She has forgotten for a while that this couple [Earl & Ally] don’t see each other very often. They don’t wake up in bed with each other. In short, they were in the entry level of the entire course. It’s almost the same feeling of excitement when you watch the first Harry Potter or LOTR franchise. The same feeling you get on your first day of class. It’s all about the new things and first times, wonders and adventures, curiosity and fascination. You don’t know what’s coming so you’re rib cage swells with thrill and expectations. They haven’t been there yet on the tricky part of the road; the flaws. Discovering, unraveling, excavating the deepest darkest portions of your partner’s behavior, quirks, opinions, reactions, expressions, beliefs and background. All these were held suspended every time they’re together. Suppressed. Bottled. Protected. Guarded. Of course there are innumerable things as well that are too wonderful, delightful, heartwarming that were kept unexplored and unexperienced. Beautiful and profound revelations that they will soon uncover. But right there as Ally was walking towards Earl, all these things remained a mystery. This is why these kinds of weddings [specially the ones who have never done it yet. I mean sex.] are so special, so sacred. Mystery overwhelms us with desire. The desire of the unknown.
One of the most important things that we easily end up losing once we jump into living together before marriage is the power of this marvelous word. Mystery.
Somewhere in the middle of growing the relationship, we become too familiar with each other that, yes as the saying goes, it breeds contempt. Sadly. Unfortunately. Inevitably. The engaging, exhilarating, stimulating feelings are compromised. Everything can easily shape up into a routine. Even the borders of respect, freedom and privacy also remained at risk. Now that fences have been raised, there’s nothing much left to do but to guard your own heart. Sometimes you will feel like sleeping with your bestfriend. Sometimes, with your enemy. And the worse thing is that it’s not everyday you can pack your suitcase and leave in the middle of the fight, in the middle of the night.
But then again, unlike married couples, the living together couple will always have the infinite ability to walk away without any binding. No obligations. You are not in debt of delivering divine promises in the presence of a hundred witnesses whom you fed and entertained on a million worth of frolic. You are not made liable for any signed document that abolishes all your rights as a single independent individual. Variety of options are always laid on the table.
On her second cocktail, another questionable feeling swept her in. Sandwiched between women in different life stages, she got so confused with her own phase. On her left were single women who’s ages under the same bracket as hers and are enjoying the best times of their lives, solo traveling and doesn’t have whatsoever plans on settling down. And on her right were married women talking about feeding bottles and living an organic lifestyle. She was rightfully at the middle. She is neither married nor unmarried because she is Practically Married. When you’re living together (which is not so common in the Philippines. I mean at least not with our generation.), it hurls you in a different kind of motion. You are technically assigned a wife’s role without the title. You are doing all housewife duties to a man that is not (yet) your husband. It comes to a point when the term “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” to address each other becomes inappropriate. You are more than a girlfriend but less than a wife. You are technically free but undoubtedly living within the borders.
She realized later on why she doesn’t feel like crying at the wedding. Perhaps because she saw a reflection of herself, so different from Ally. When you’re in a regular girlfriend boyfriend relationship, you are most excited to see each other because you feel like your still living worlds apart even if he’s just living in the next block. You may have slept together a few times but not so very often you spend twenty four hours together and it gives you the this unyielding taste of longing. [Again, in my country where conservatism is still a major thing, we don’t normally go for “living in together” because society dictates that sex before marriage or living together prior to marriage is a bad thing. And considering finances and all that, we prefer to still live on our own or with our parents until we really are sure to tie the knot and spend money on something really grand.] So I guess all these emotions are derived from the most basic idea, that as Ally was walking down the aisle, [Earl’s girlfriend of maybe three or four years], Earl finally come to realize that she is finally his for the taking. That he will now be spending the rest of his life being loved, adored, respected and cared for by this beautiful person in front of him. That they don’t have to live worlds apart now. That he doesn’t have to be alone from now on. That having been lost for so many years, he is finally found. He is finally home. How romantic.
These thoughts doesn’t flow the same way with living together couples. It sort of jumps from that stage. There will be no childlike wonder that is mostly just present before or on the day of the wedding because you will suddenly be very busy packing your stuff and organizing your new life on someone’s shelves. The smitten stages are spent in the first few months. And then months start to feel like years. You grow together in a breakneck pace. You will see the ugliest most grotesque parts of each other. You will fight several times on different occasions and on different issues. To sum up, you will get to know the person well enough to ask yourself; Is this really the direction I want to go to? Living together couples are given a gift of chance. A chance to breath, sleep, eat, bath, shit under the same roof. A chance to taste marriage without getting married. A chance to want or not to want it.
However it can always be confusing. Specially if you both decided that you want to settle down soon and raise a family. Every time you see a happy single, you are clouded with the idea of what freedom and independence feel like. And you tend to lust over it. The traveling. The decision-making. The financial ownership. The lack of responsibility. The control over your time and efforts. All the things tied up with marriage begins to be unappealing. Worse, suffocating. Every time you end up fighting, you get upset and emotionally injured, you are rendered with options. An option to leave, get a fresh start and live a life the way you want to. Just walk away from whatever that hurts or weighs you down. And this my friends, can be a cycle of fluctuating despair. You will find yourself always questioning your decisions. Having been given a “choice” to stay or to leave can be taxing. Great power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes. A choice is a great power. It can either rule or liberate you.
Compared to a girlfriend – boyfriend relationship, you have invested a huge portion of yourself here. When you live together with someone, you also bring the integral part of yourself with you. You leave home and you take with you ever inch of your being. Do you think you can still be the same person that once left? No. Somehow once you live together with someone, you change completely. He becomes your home and you become his. And now that you have built a home together, an emotional and physical bond that you cemented, painted and made whole, it would be so difficult to tear the structure down in one blow. It’s not a Lego made up of plastic building bricks. It’s the real thing. And though it’s possible to declutter you own debris and rebuild yourself, it would look so unfathomable from a far.
The question now stands before every living together couple. “This is what I look like.” says Marriage, baring its flesh and removing its mask. “Do you still want me?”
Although the entire exposition feels unnerving, as if I’m underselling the entire idea of living together, there’s one significant thing I’ve learned from experience. Living together couples like us, are more equipped in surviving a storm because we have far encountered the realities of marriage. We did not start with promises or daydream wonder, we started with a decision that everyday we will commit ourselves in building a life together. We pretty much try the best we can to live with the vows that were left unspoken. And we do this everyday. On our wedding day, perhaps someday, we can honestly say that this is the life we chose despite of. He has seen me in my worst and I have seen him in his, and yet here were are, signing papers to make it official and standing in front of the altar to receive God’s blessings. If we have managed to survive the many challenges we have had faced through the years, I think we can pretty much handle all the dizzying spin of a carousel.
John Legend fades in the background and Amber was left staring at the bottle of Merlot. “One more glass please.” And she continued pondering some more…