I’m 25, which means I’m of a generation that’s supposed to be super cynical about marriage. I’m totally aware that 50 percent of people who say “till death do us part” will actually part when one of them gets bored and fucks a co-worker or starts spending all of their money on big screen TVs and booze. I know that the idea of monogamy is really kind of crazy and it’s super insane that there could be a person out there I could fall in love with right now and not get sick of over the next sixty-something years slash eternity because I totally expect scientists to develop immortality before my time is up.
I get it, you guys, I really do – the whole idea is bafflingly insane and whoever thought it would work in the first place was obviously nuts.
But I can’t help it. I still believe in marriage.
Two things happened that convinced me marriage is for me: First, I got a Pinterest account and realized that oh my God, having the perfect floral arrangements at my wedding is of, like, utmost importance to me and I cannot possibly die without going to a bridal salon and poo-poo’ing 500 different dresses and making everyone’s life hell for like five hours. Second, I got cancer.
When you’re 25, there’s not a whole lot you can’t do on your own. Now you’ve got a job and it pays sort of not entirely peanuts, so you can do Big Adult Things like buy your own plane tickets, take international vacations by yourself and pay your own cell phone bill. You live in your own apartment and you pay your rent almost on time every month. You feed yourself and make your own gynecologist appointments and figure out public transit all by yourself. And when you’re 25, this kind of independence is new and exhilarating and awesome and you can’t ever see it ending, and who needs to be tied down with a spouse forever and ever?
And then someone calls you one day and they’re like, “Hey, you have cancer,” and you’re like, oh shit, I so didn’t prepare for this.
And the next thing you know, you’re moving back in with your parents, and you can’t cook your own meals because you’re too busy barfing up a bunch of chemotherapy drugs, and you can’t drive because of this one time you fainted in an MRI machine and the DMV heard about it and took your license away, and your long beautiful hair and your eyelashes and eyebrows all fall out and you look like Gollum after he pissed off a SuperCuts employee, and all of that independence is just gone. Just like that. Bye-bye.
But then your boyfriend acts like you’re totally insane when you suggest that maybe he doesn’t want to stick around for the Cancer Show. Even though surgery disfigured your body and you feel like a hungover marathon finisher who got hit by an eighteen-wheeler every day, he still wants to shower you with love and devotion. And he does amazing things like send you cute packages in the mail and call you every night before bed and shave his head for you. He still wants to have sex with you even though you look like a hairless baby mouse.
And then you realize not that you can’t do it all alone, but that you don’t want to. That family – the family you were born into and the family you will one day create – is amazing and beautiful and the most important and supportive thing in this life.
Maybe you don’t need a marriage to have a supportive partnership with the person you love, but when you’ve been as ill as I have, you’re not opposed to asking someone to swear before God that they’ll love you in sickness and in health.
Recently, an old and dear friend of mine said “I do” to the man of her dreams. She walked down the aisle unescorted and she looked like a fucking angel, because she’s incredible like that. But even though she chose to give herself away, she wasn’t alone. A church full of us stood behind her in loving admiration to celebrate as she and her beloved pledged their lives to one another.
Here’s to hoping those lives are long and healthy, filled with both independence and support.