anniversary

Eight minutes, eight years: tale of a Victorian wedding

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It feels as eight minutes, but it’s been eight years. This afternoon, in 2005, I walked down the aisle to marry a guy I barely knew, having spent with him less than 30 days over a year’s time. It wasn’t love at first sight and we weren’t carried away by passion. Impulsive marriage was probably the only way out for the strongly independent, easily bored, constantly challenging characters we were at that time.

It certainly was the only way to go for me: after an endless list of unreciprocated romantic interests over teenage, my 20s were punctuated by a series of wrong affairs. They tended to be so wrong one could easily explain them with coffee-time psychology: I wanted them to be wrong, so that I could keep being on my own AND talk and write about my bad luck to anyone who’d listen. Just before meeting my husband, I remember confessing to a friend, over a Cosmopolitan (oh yes, I love Carrie Bradshaw’s favorite drink, I am THAT lame) that I didn’t care about love. And even less about passion or commitment. I just wanted someone to travel with, to eat and drink with at night and smart enough to keep me intellectually stimulated. It sounds like a checklist but it’s what 20s are after all: a list of things you think you need in order to be happy. I never found that person.

I did a bit of traveling alone in order to show off my independence: I hated it since I find no satisfaction in experiencing something I can’t share. But it was good to lose weight: I never ate at night, finding it depressing to have dinner alone.

Many of my friends discovered the pleasures (and sorrows) of being a couple early on: they started kissing on the school’s steps, went on going out together, partying, driving the first car, graduating. They lived everything with their companion. Then, usually, sometime after graduation all these happy couples started to get married. Some lasted, some others split shortly after tying the knot. It’s the story of the world.

I never thought of marriage as the natural conclusion of love, mutual respect, common projects and whatever you think a shared life should be about. I wanted it to be the beginning of love, and not its evolution.

In order to accomplish my plan, I had to marry quickly, trusting my instinct and without a safety net. Some called me crazy. Some others asked if I were pregnant (I was not). I loved the idea of knowing only a fraction of the man I was going to spend my life with: I knew he was decent but I didn’t meet any of his friends or his family till after we were already engaged. It was a huge risk, but one I rationally thought worth taking.

I don’t believe in marriages based on passion. Passion sweeps you away but it can’t last. None would survive longer than a few years with butterflies in the stomach, anxiety attacks and the constant fear of losing the person keeping us on a constant high. Passion tends to diminish over time, love tends to flourish. Love grows with mutual knowledge and understanding, it increases with the time spent together, it alleviates bad moments and underlines the most joyful ones. This being my personal take on marriage, I was extremely lucky in finding someone who shared a Victorian idea of all things related to love.

I knew my husband so little when we tied the knot that I ignored if he took his coffee black or with milk, what sport he played during childhood, where did he study and how was his childhood like. I had to learn all of this, and I still am.

It’s been smooth sailing, through so many different times. The early years’ freedom, traveling, dining, holidaying. The following first worries on work, getting our place, having children. The sleepless nights, the doubts, the extreme happiness of child rearing. Moments of grief, when we lost people dear to us and we learnt that life gives and takes in the blink of an eye, and so we better start savoring the present, without worrying about the future. Moments of relief, once the storm had passed and we realized we were still here and we were safe.

It’s a special anniversary, this 8th one. Thank you, my Victorian husband, for being with me through this amazing adventure that life is.

A quiet romance

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The coffee shop where it all started

Bad romance. Cursed romance. Sick love. I have just completed my overdose of tv and finished watching season 2 of Homeland. (I went through 12 episodes in 2 days and a half, basically sleep deprived and kind of tense, dreaming of CIA chasing me and bombs exploding at every corner). I am partially relieved, thinking that I can now resume my sleeping habits but also in need of some kind of fix because I can’t get enough of the Carrie-Brody romance. Which is the very definition of BAD ROMANCE. Two fragile, complicated, flawed characters connect on the deepest level, only to get separated every time they’re about to have it all. Tragic. Shakespearean. Irresistible.

So I went to bed at 1.30, thinking of him them and trying to convince myself it was just another show. As a child I used to fall in love all the time with fictional characters, mainly those in my grandmother’s favorite films. We used to watch tv together (a lot! way too much by modern parenting standards) because she was 60 and 30 years ago 60 was today’s 80 and I guess she needed some daydreaming. So I spent primary school thinking that Rhett Butler and the Count of Montecristo were actual people, living somewhere far away, never getting old. It didn’t get any better over the years and I clearly still have a thing for very bad love stories.

On Feb 9th, 2003, though, I bumped into a quiet romance. Brussels was still a cool city back then and I felt about to conquer the world, looking down at it with my 24 years old enthusiasm and confidence. I went to a photo exhibition in a fancy, international, coffee shop. And I found my husband. First time I went anywhere in the new city after moving.

Of course, I didn’t know it. It wasn’t love at first sight. I thought him plain, and boring. He already was husband material (in a Colin Firt-ish kind of way) and I needed the bad romance. I made a few poor choices on the way but he had the stubbornness to wait and a couple of years later we were married. I often look back and think how comes that you meet for the first time someone you’ll eventually marry and you don’t know. There are no signs, no bells, no serendipity elements.

Bad romances, on the other side, always come with an endless list of coincidences, signs, destiny calls and so on. All stuff your foggy brain probably makes up to shut down any residual logic you may still have.

If I ever have a daughter, I’ll tell her that. Don’t wait for a sign, don’t expect the bells. Beautiful gifts come unannounced.