Getting a marriage proposal within two weeks of meeting Mr McRight is fantastic, but it does carry a small burden of social embarrassment. Since I have a foreign accent, dinner party guests at home and abroad ask how B.A. and I met. We tell them the story, and then guffaw nostalgically over the marriage-proposal-after-ten-days bit. The married people and the partner-free Singles laugh too, and the not-yet-married-but-living-with-their-boyfriends-since-heaven-knows-when women go ashen.
I hate that part.
The last time that happened I didn't notice until the boyfriend got up from his place at the table, ambled behind his girlfriend and began to give her a shoulder massage, as if to say, "I'm sorry you are stressed out that we're not even engaged when this strange and churchy couple got engaged after 10 days."
Listen, I'm forty years old, and I live in a cosmopolitan city, and I run around with different of sets of people, so I'm not naive about folks who live in sin. Some folks who live together without marriage actually stay do together. Sometimes they even get married, have kids, and dodge the statistical bullet that says people who live together before marriage are more likely to divorce. I know one woman who hung in there for ten long years and then got the rings, the dress and the baby. God bless her. I would have died a thousand deaths--at least two a week, so that's 1040.
This is something that I think a lot of men don't get. If a woman loves a man, really loves a man, she wants him for the rest of her life. And she wants him to want her for the rest of her life, more than she wants her own liver. Since I was sixteen years old (EEEK!) part of me wanted some man somewhere some day to say "YOU are the woman for me forever." Of course, when that actually happened, I revised this to wanting the RIGHT man to say it. And thus when I fell in love with B.A., I wanted him to say it, and thank goodness he did.
Therefore, it blows my mind that so many women, even Catholic women, will consent to "let's live together for awhile and see how it goes." No. I just don't believe in that. I believe in "I love you, and I want you so bad, I'd lose half my toes to frostbite to keep you, since you love me, too."
The problem is that women are afraid to say No to men they love--that or they think they are "strong", "sophisticated," "modern" women who can "do the sensible thing" and "move slowly to a commitment" when deep down they are interdependent, passionate, timeless women who want rings on their fingers, babies in the pram, and the same men in their beds for the next forty-five years. I mean, hello! We are not all totally screwed up/ rendered tough as nails by the divorce revolution.
Many women cry when their boyfriends propose. I think there's sometimes as much relief in those tears as there is joy. Thank God, thank God, he hasn't been lying all this time about loving me! Thank God, he isn't going to just pack up and leave one day after all! Me, I giggled. There were tourists everywhere, pretending nothing was going on. I had met the man in person, like, ten days before. It was hilarious.
Not so hilarious are women who wait month after month, year after year, for their live-in lovers to propose. "What's wrong?" they wonder. "What's wrong with 'Us'? What's wrong with him? What's wrong with me?" It is particularly terrible when the women come from traditional religious backgrounds and they are with men with traditional religious backgrounds. If you're a fourth-generation Communist and your parents never bothered to marry but are still together, than I guess it might not be such a big deal. But Jewish girls? Catholic girls? Brrr-rrr-rrrr!
"But how do I make him propose?" demands the live-in lover--oh, sorry, partner*--secretly and in agony for fear someone might discover that she is not "strong", "sophisticated" and "modern" but a human female like most human females.
One advice book I know says to kick him out and not let him back in without a ring. If he comes back with a ring, take him back. If he doesn't come back, he was never yours in the first place, which sucks, but at least now you're eligible to meet someone serious. This is not something to say to a woman whose heart has been shattered into a thousand pieces, but it is true--or will be true once she can laugh again.
It makes me supremely angry when I hear a man dither over whether or not he should marry his devoted long-term girlfriend. I wonder where the man's mother and sisters are, and why they are not giving him hell. If one of my brothers announced he was moving in with a woman and there was no ring in sight, I would go mediaeval on his you-know-what. MEDIAEVAL. Why? Because I love my brothers, and I want them to be good men, and I want them to be happy, and to make other women who love them happy. That's what sisterhood really means.
But where other men are concerned, I bite my tongue and scram when I can because unless they're family or my very best friends, it's not my business. I long for this girlfriend or that to consult me, though. I sit at home willing her to call me up, which of course she would never do. But if she did, I would tell her to kick him out of their space, and not let him back in without a ring.
Unless they had kids. Once you have kids, your happiness doesn't come first anymore. Theirs does. And once you've made their bed as well as yours, poppets, you have to lie in it. And I'm really sorry. Be as happy as you can. Royal mistresses often lived happy, dignified lives, and now society doesn't treat ordinary bidie-in women and their kids like pariahs. It's almost like being married, I guess. Almost.
Have I mentioned there are situations way worse then being entirely Single? There are. There's being neither Single nor Married with your heart beating to the silent sound of its wailing.
*Scene: Edinburgh Airport, Friday, June 12, 1:30 PM
UK Border Agent: And is your partner in the UK right now?
Seraphic: My husband is, yes.