How to Write Your Wedding Vows, Sophie
It is a month before my wedding and it is happening: I’m having wedding stress dreams. Of course out loud I knew this would happen, but internally I believed I would be different from literally every other bride who has ever been, and that I would not have a single wedding stress dream, and that the wedding would be only as stressful as a birthday party or a presentation at school. But here they are, night after night: the dreams.
My dream is basically always: The wedding is today, and everything is not done yet. One time I had a version of this dream in which I was marrying Terry Bloomsfeld (not his real name at all), who was a small-for-his-age kid I sent semi-flirtatious emails to in the sixth grade. It isn’t that I had a crush on him — it’s just that email was a new thing then, and he didn’t feel like a scary person to e-flirt with. I have literally not talked to this person since SIXTH GRADE. In my dream we were getting married and I was puzzled about what to put in my vows. I settled on saying something about how our relationship was like Ren and Stimpy’s relationship. “Ren and Stimpy,” by the way, is my least favorite television show that’s ever been made. Yes, even more than “Friends” or “Riverdale” or the early 2000s seasons of “SNL.”
My nightmares are pretty much always about my vows. It’s the day of the wedding, and I haven’t written my vows. I guess I think that the vows are the most important writing assignment I’ll ever had. And, supposedly, I am a WRITER. My vows need to be GOOD.
Last week, I thought maybe I’d just copy Topanga Lawrence’s vows, because, in terms of my relationship with Luke, her vows are true:
I wasn't sure this day would ever come, but you were. I wasn't sure love could survive everything we put it through, but you were. You were always strong and always sure. And now I know I want you to stand beside me for the rest of my life. That's what I'm sure of.
Topanga supposedly got into YALE, and she came up with FOUR SENTENCES. Those aren’t even VOWS. They’re just statements of fact.
But nevertheless, they worked for Topanga, and they could work for me. I looked back at my old journals to see what it was like to be falling in love with Luke, and one thing was clear: I was consistently figuring out reasons why we were going to break up, and then coming up with ways to deal with this inevitable break-up once it came. I would get a single cat. I would join a women’s lacrosse team. I would knit in public.
Luke was too beautiful and too impossible. I admired him for such a long time, from such a distance. I was eager to know what was wrong about him, and I was good at anticipating how he was going to hurt me. Because most of the time, in relationships, you get hurt. That’s the deal you make when you decide to be in love: Either you are going to be heartbroken, or you are going to die.
I kept deciding not to be in love with Luke. I don’t have any regrets about this period, by the way. This was the appropriate caution a person takes when they are a former serial monogamist — one who has historically repeatedly loved big and lost and lost and lost.
But when you lose, you also don’t: You learn all this STUFF. It’s frustrating to acknowledge how much failed relationships teach us, but there it is. I learned not to trust something that seemed too good to be true, and that was smart. There were lots of times — carefully chronicled in my journals — that I was prepared to walk away from Luke, because I was calibrating what I was willing to sacrifice. Like, when Luke was not super into talking about feelings, I decided that we probably shouldn’t be boyfriend-girlfriend, because HELLO — read my blog, I’m a total slut for feelings. And that was not an empty threat; I figured I would walk away. But Luke would not let me walk away, over and over again, and we both found ways to be flexible. We found ways, too, to take care of our own needs when we had to, and I found other people to supplement my feelings talks with to satisfy my emotion tooth.*
I’ve been struggling lately with the fallout of writing a book about polyamory. People look at me like I have written a book about crystals, or astrology.** It's like this is some kind of non-scientific, woo-woo, out-there way of thinking that is so far beyond what they will ever entertain as containing even a grain of truth. And those are the people who are not going to read the book. They are the ones who say, “Well, that’s fine for you, I guess, but I know I could never do it. I have enough to deal with with my ONE husband, thankyouverymuch.”
The irony is that I love Luke — this one person, whom I am going to marry — more than I thought it was possible to love a person. I am aware of him every minute of every day; any time something bad happens — my headphones are stolen, my bike gets a flat — there’s this soft spot in the back of my consciousness that says, “Yes, but Luke. And who gets to have something so good, even for a short time?” My suspicion is that most people don’t. I live with a person who is kind, funny, smart, beautiful, warm, strange — he goes beyond my wildest dreams about what a person could be. I wouldn’t change anything about him. The fact that he does not always want to talk about feelings with me all the time makes space for me to have other relationships and engage with new perspectives. His willingness to be exactly the crazy-wonderful human he is, with total openness towards the regular-crazy person I am, leaves me open to have so much MORE love in my life. I wish I could explain it in a way that would make sense.
This is the challenge about writing vows. I wrote a whole book about love, and I still don’t have the words for it. At least not love this size; not love that fills me and overflows and transforms not just my life but the lives of everyone I know by extension. Because I am so much better for knowing this person. He is not my ONLY person, but he is agreeing to be a partner of mine for the rest of our time on earth, and there is truly nothing at all that could be better. Not even being an ultrafamous disco dancer. Not even getting six free houses and a champion stallion for free. This is the single best thing there is.
So what do I promise this person? What do I tell him in front of our families? I want it to be the inside of my heart. I want it to be bigger. I want it to be galaxies.
There’s this one journal entry that I found; I wrote it as fast as I could because there was this tiny threat that every second I would be losing the memories, and I was selfish — I wanted to keep them ALL. When I read it now, I remember the feeling — this huge, sleepless, falling-in-love feeling. It’s the chemical feeling that I thought would fade over time, but it’s only intensified.
There’s a part of me that feels ashamed that, right now, it’s so rom-commy after all. But also, IT IS NOT. Because people who love each other just as they are have space to love OTHER people just as they are. And love is powerful.
I have still not written my vows. But they aren’t going to be good enough. All I can promise is that everything is going to change, and that’s going to be ok. I can promise, too, to keep staying with moments that feel too good to be true, as long as they keep coming. So far, they keep coming.
April 17 (?), 2015
I am pretty happy & itchy, having spent the weekend with Luke. We went birding; left @ 5something on Friday & listened to tapes & talked about racism, Detroit, disaster, gentrification SAW A ZEBRA A ZEBRA laughed & laughed got in @ 8ish made camp, it was WET, piled into the tent & out of the tent & used the stove for sweet potatoes garlic cucumber ginger, cut it up, heated it, walked on the beach saw little night crabs mosquitoes like you wouldn’t believe, unrelenting & feet in the ocean & sex, wine, sleep, THUNDERSTORM @ 3AM everything getting WET, peeing out in the rain naked luke said, “you’re so SLIMY.” couldn’t sleep held him talked about the bad bead birthday @ multnomah art center. then @ 4:15 LIGHTNING. woke up coffee coffee, flooded parking lot, stranger restroom, driiiiiive to BIRDS, & men w/ southern accents who caught them in NETS — wood thrushes — & put them in white cotton sacks & then we went off on our own: rufous hummingbird, cowbird, INDIGO BUNTINGS MIGRATING, little yellow warblers & TERNS. it started raining again, we met the audubon society girls & talked about flickers in michigan & and ate at the starfish, gritseggsbiscuit$5, we went home i drove feeling CRAZY!!!! tired. home. sex. sleeeeeeep. then walking down esplanade avenue, “scandal” by shonda, more STEW & i want to write it all down because I feel in love. I want to remember it. I might not even care someday — I won’t, I’m sure — but the time stretched out & it’s like … I want to save it.
It’s like getting something to click you’ve been using the wrong way your whole life. I still look over at him & can only think, “Really? You like me? Are you sure?”
*This should be a thing. Sweet tooth, savory tooth, emotion tooth.
**Ain’t nothing wrong with crystals or astrology, either. Sorry for implicating these. I will read your book about crystals or astrology with an open heart, I promise.