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April 16, 2000

Candles #1 Candles #2

Engagement Fever

I think it started around Valentine’s Day of this year. Up until then, I hadn't given much thought to the fact that I have been living with my boyfriend for about two years without any sort of jewelry gracing my left hand. After all, I'm a modern woman. I love him, he loves me, we're happy, we're committed, we live together. What more do I really need? And then the commercials started appearing every time I turned on the television. That sappy cello music sucked me in. The cute shadowy couples kissed. The announcer got a little pushy. Two months salary! Love! Tradition! Bonds! MARRIAGE! BUY ME A RING RIGHT NOW! Excuse me, I got a little carried away.

To make matters worse, a close friend of mine who has been living with her boyfriend for two years – the same amount of time as my boyfriend and I have - got engaged. Her ring is stunning. When she came to visit me for the first time after getting engaged, I dragged her into my apartment by the hand and showed the ring to my boyfriend. “Look honey! Isn't it pretty!” To her (in front of him) I said , “I’d love something like this. Maybe with squares instead of round diamonds.” On the subway one afternoon not too long after that, I ran into another old friend that I used to work with. We were catching up on our lives, and she casually said “oh yeah. I got engaged.” That night a friend of mine who got married a few years ago and who is pregnant with her second child called me up and dropped hints to me about the hints I should drop to my boyfriend. More recently, I got an email from a friend who ended her message with the hopeful “Any news you want to tell me?”

As someone who always proudly considered herself both fiercely independent and strongly against the restrictions of society, I always thought I would never really need to get married. Sure, I wanted to find someone to spend the rest of my life with. And I had the vague idea that eventually I'd want some sort of formal commitment – maybe with a justice of the peace in my living room, or in some cute little spot in Las Vegas. Lately all of that has changed. As Melora, the lead singer of the band Rasputina sings, “I want a diamond. I really do. I hope that you will give me one.” I want the ring to show off to people at work. I want to run around picking out flowers and invitations. I want to try on big frilly white dresses, reject them, and consider going with something tight, short, and red. I want to fight with my parents and his about whether it will be a religious ceremony or not. (I'm Jewish, he’s…well, his parents are Christian.) I want to stand up in front of my family and friends and say firmly “I love this man. I want to stay with him for the rest of my life.”

It's not that I'm shallow. I don't want a big fancy ring. A small one will do. Actually, I'd accept just about anything that was a symbol of the fact that we're moving towards a greater commitment. Because I've done a lot of thinking about what really will change by getting engaged and married to the person I live with, considering there's not much that outwardly will change after the ceremony. But things will change – I'll have rights that I don't have as “just” a girlfriend. I'll have a stronger commitment from him, and I'll give one. What’s wrong with moving forward in our relationship, which happened when we first said I love you, first moved in together, first started talking about the distant future, first combined our CD collections? Plus, the word “girlfriend” – its rather flimsy compared to the status of “fiancé” or even “wife.” A new title implies that I’m here to stay. I know I’m in this for the long haul, I know he is too. Why not just solidify it? And if I want to have kids (and on some days I think maybe I will want to at some point), call me old fashioned, but I'd prefer to be married to their father. I've seen families where that isn't the case, and it works, but it's not for me.

Bottom line, I’m ready. I’m growing up, and I feel that for me at 26, and for him at 30, we're old enough and mature enough to step away from boyfriend/girlfriend and move to husband and wife. I’m not making a rush decision – I've had four years to think about it. I’m not making a forced decision – I’m not pregnant, nor do I plan to be for years to come. I’m not making a stupid decision – I've met someone who cares about me, who treats me well, who respects my ambitions, and someone that I do the same for. I’m not making a silly decision – I’m not doing it just because everyone else is – if that were true I would have been a lot pushier years ago and wound up really really unhappy. And I’m not making a spiteful decision, the way I did when I was first in college and thought it was funny to shock my mother with the people I was dating. I’m making what I consider an adult decision. Yikes. Adult. Have I really crossed over? I doubt it – I've told my boyfriend that I'd accept a ring from a gumball machine, and I’m still planning on registering at Tower Records.

Marla Tiara

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