Friday, February 25, 2011

on dresses and doomsday

Even at the end of all our girlhood hopes, we are allowed to indulge in one final round of fairy tale dress-up; only at this age we are allowed champagne and the afternoon ends with a three thousand dollar price tag. Bridal boutiques exist not just to sell pounds upon pounds of overpriced lace and tulle, but also to give unmarried ladies that one last sprinkle of fairy dust. To sell them on the vows they are about to take. To remind us to believe.

We are all supposed to grow up eventually. To leave behind the schoolyard brooders in favor of a more stable mate, a man who will agree to grow up with us. In this way, babies are made and houses are painted; family portraits fan out across wide summer lawns. We trade in our Tinkerbell wings for something more sensible and then, well . . . may the next adventure be kind to us.

Call me a cynic, but I believe I've stopped believing. In true love, in marriage—or, more particularly: in one man's ability to say "I do" and follow through—for longer than feels convenient. I imagine all the happy endings and the honeymoons, then fast forward to the part where the erstwhile bride has to start all over again in middle age, pulling herself out of the darkness with banal activities and banana coladas while he reinvents the wheel. I dream—oh but I dream—of the man who'll show me otherwise.

That said, my dear friends K and J are both due for a trip down the aisle, on the sooner side of someday, and both have asked me to stand up there beside them. This honors me; I am honored. There could be no higher hopes than for these two unions. Ironically enough, I believe in them.

Two things have forced me to confront my mortality this week: first, the sangria hangover of doom, and second, the biopsy scrape of the lady-parts that leaves me to a week's worth of potentially pre-cancerous limbo. Throw in global warming, world unrest, and any number of asteroids likely to slam into Earth by the year 2039, and you get the feeling life is very short.

As I type this, I'm working across from Jack. He is frowning over his ancient iBook, jiggling a corduroy pantleg, staring hard at the screen through wire rim glasses as he tries to parse a thesis together out of paragraphs. His hair is mussed, his scruff is overgrown, and he is the handsomest thing I've ever seen. His eyes are sea glass green and invariably kind. When he touches me, I swoon like they used to do in movies, the doe-eyed heroines, sharp-tongued vixens in stockings with seams down the back and round-toed heels—Katherine Hepburn into someone worthy's arms. When he touches me, he means it.

If all this were to go away, the boyfriend, the bohemian renaissance . . . reality . . . I've found the peace that says: but at least there was this. There were good times, with mothers and fathers, with friends. Margaritas on the sidewalk on Second Avenue, cupcakes and champagne. There were travels to four out of seven continents, and the pictures to prove it. There were old friends and new friends and people who, when the hour cried for help, had my back. There are kindred spirits to be found, even past your prime, girls you can speak to like sisters and drink sangria on a Tuesday night like a couple of coeds in Cancun. There are women you can go to dinner with who won't mind if you cry into your moules frites the whole way through. And there is Peter Pan, who maybe doesn't always say the right thing, but he is always there—as I am there for him.

And now there's Jack. Who maybe doesn't love me (yet or ever will), but who has taught me how to love. How to wait for it, how give the word its due weight, how to relish the process and enjoy the road. How to see myself through someone who appreciates me, both body and brain, who believes in my ability to rise. I meet this challenge, I grow toward the sun outside the darkest closet. I . . . photosynthesize.

There's an awful lot of talk these days about gratitude. We thank ourselves for coming to the yoga mat, we thank the Universe for the gifts we are about to receive. What I find myself flooded with today is a deep sense of precisely that. This past half year has been a spin cycle of trial and triumph, but I'd be blind if I didn't recognize the sheer force of love that's hit me in the face from the profoundest of places. My mother, my father, my friends. Peter Pan and family. The tango community at large. And Jack. I've been strong enough to pull my ass out of bed every day and make lemonade, to varying degrees of success, but all the same. I made it. And I did so floated by the hands of the aforementioned.

So say the old Lakota warriors: It is a good day to die. If the rug is pulled from under my feet tomorrow, next Thursday, next year, I will have spent my time here wisely. Trying, failing, learning, living, and indulging in a little too much sangria for the sake of love.


Anonymous said...

Simply beautiful. You are perfection and we live and learn, but isn't that the best of life.

Bathwater said...

That you pull yourself out of bed everyday means you are ahead of some. I believe sometimes marriage is for the young. They need to go into it blind before the cynic and the jade get in the way.

It is not only the men that fall short. You of all people should know-- it takes two to tango.

Phoenix said...

Every day is a good day to die - I think that's their point. Especially if we walk through the world with our eyes open, which is what gratitude helps us do.

Beautiful post, Gabby.