It took me a long time to warm up to the idea of getting married. Twenty-five and a half years to be exact. Part defense mechanism, part sheer terror, marriage always seemed like some kind of twisted, societal prison sentence. Something imposed upon us and inherently doomed for failure, tossing its victims to the fate of the cosmos and drowning them in a sea of nagging, co-dependency and epic unhappiness. To me, a marriage certificate might as well have been part of a package deal with my tombstone: Here lies Alison Henry, who signed her life away... with a kiss.
I'm not sure where I got these ideas from, exactly, but I seem to be growing right out of them along with my former affinity for bad men – an association that, I'm sure, isn't the least bit coincidental. And in defense of the men I once knew, I'm not exactly the same woman these days, either.
This past year I've grown by leaps and bounds – most of which seems to have occurred in the last few months. I often find myself wondering aloud just who the heck I am anymore – and I love it. I feel more myself now than I ever have in my whole life.
It all started with a sudden genuine curiosity for this whole marriage business. Who would have thought that a year of independence would have caused me to crave companionship? If anything I thought it would have buried me further down the rabbit hole of resistance, leading me to join feminist rallies and start burning my bras. (Just kidding – I need those.)
Instead, I have found myself on occasion gazing at issues of the very magazine I plan and produce, sighing and saying to my co-workers, "I'm never going to get married!" before tossing the issue away and gasping, "My God, what has this job done to me?!"
But it's really less about the job and more just a pleasant side effect of growing up. I can honestly say that this newfound interest, in fact, has little to do with working a nine-to-five that requires me to be up to my eyeballs in other people's wedding photos on a daily basis. Sure it's increased my propensity to daydream – and made it virtually impossible for any man to surprise me with a proposal I haven't heard yet. (Hence my "just-propose-to-me-right-when-i-wake-up" proposal proposal.) But aside from that, the real change seems to be that I'm finally OK with the idea of it happening to me.
You know, when I'm 40.
As such, I've been enamored lately with the secrets and how-we-met stories of happily married couples I know in my own life, so when it's my turn, I can see the signs – or at the very least, keep daydreaming. I've read hundreds of stories of high school and college sweethearts, Match.com-ers and the diamonds in the rough (i.e. the "I met her at a bar while she was riding the bull" crowd), but what I'm really interested in are those simple yet perfectly fated occurrences that have more to do with true love than the echo of bells and whistles.
Like one of my fellow Observer columnists, who went to the same college and even worked at this very newspaper with his future wife for two years before coming in contact with her on that always malfunctioning escalator between the second and third floors. Before their first date, he wrote a note to himself saying he didn't know exactly what was going to happen, but he had a funny feeling they would get married someday. They got engaged on that very escalator and were married eight months after they met. He read that note at their wedding reception.
It's stories like this that renew my faith that true love isn't necessarily some sweet, rosy-cheeked baby in a diaper with wings that shoots you in the face with an arrow while you gaze longingly at each other over a bowl of popcorn and "When Harry Met Sally." I'm actually somewhat predisposed to believe the opposite. Sometimes it's really as simple as crossing paths and just knowing – before the butterflies – that you've found the one. And at least now, I'm ready. Well... almost.