Posted by: lolalately | August 2, 2012

I should’ve known better

For me, watching wedding shows is a bit like gawking at an accident while you’re driving down the highway. You know it’s going to be grim, maybe even haunting, but you can’t stop yourself from looking. I should know better. Nearly seven years after my own wedding, it’s still tremendously painful to recall the event, and it’s equally painful to watch tv shows about proposals and weddings. But I do it anyway, rubbing salt in old wounds that will not heal.

Like many girls I grew up with, I dreamed of meeting my Prince Charming, falling in crazy-mad love, eventually having him present me with a beautiful ring and a heartfelt proposal, and the dream wedding that would follow. Only it didn’t happen that way, and it’s something I still have not made peace with. I should’ve known better than to hope for a perfect day. Back then it’s fair to say there was little perfection in my life, and expecting my wedding day to be the exception was foolish at best.

My husband and I met online. We met when I was at something of a crossroads in my life. My career was going well, but my personal life seemed to be on permanent hold. I’d stopped dating altogether after a disastrous end to a brief relationship with a worm of a man who’d hidden the fact that he was married. The entire year that I did not date anyone was spent in serious introspection, not to mention repeated testing for HIV. Thankfully the sob didn’t leave me with a disease, just a broken heart, and a renewed lack of trust in men in general. Still, loneliness is a powerful motivator, and when a co-worker announced that she was entering the minefield of on-line dating, I was curious.

After reviewing my on-line options, I decided to follow her lead, and I signed up with the website “Date.com”. I posted a fairly brief bio, without a photo, and sat back to await my fate. Within a day my date.com inbox had action. But as I sat at my computer reading email after email, all I could think was; WTF? More than half of the emails were from inmates at a state correctional facility. Not date material by my standards. Was it me? Was my profile somehow inviting this unwanted attention? Was any attention better than none? No, no, and no … it wasn’t me, my profile was perfectly ok, and being alone was far preferable to being a prison visitor. It was time to find another way to meet Prince Charming.

Enter “Match.com” … another on-line dating website my co-worker seemed to be having success with. I decided to punch up my bio, but I still left off the photo. I wanted to meet someone who didn’t judge his books by their covers. Again, my profile got some play, and soon I was meeting men for coffee at a local Starbucks. It’s only fair to say here that there was nothing essentially “wrong” with the men I was meeting, they just weren’t quite “right”. Not for me at least. I’m not interested in sports, or Nascar, I don’t care who the Laker’s trounced and when you say the word “camping” to me … my mind goes immediately to such websites as Travelocity, Orbitz or 1-800-Hilton.

They were nice enough guys, they just weren’t the guys for me. That said, meeting all these men at my local Starbucks did afford me the opportunity to get to know the evening barista, and for her to immediately call out “Skinny Vanilla Latte, extra ice” when I walked through the door. Then again, maybe meeting a new guy every evening, and sticking around long enough to have just a single iced skinny vanilla latte, wasn’t such a good thing. Maybe they thought I was a “working girl” meeting her clients since we were usually in and out in fifteen minutes or so. I should’ve known better, and switched locations now and then.

So when I complained to my co-worker that Match seemed to be no better than Date, she looked me straight in my face and said; “Maybe it’s you. Maybe your picker is broken.” Hmmm, could she be onto something there? Later that week I changed my Match.com profile preferences allowing Match to do my man-shopping, and asked that they email me only potential matches that were a 80 to 100% match. The following morning I awoke to an email from Match.com containing not one, but two 100% matches to my dating profile.

The first one was a no-brainer for me, in that one look at his profile picture and I just knew Mr GQ Magazine spent more time in front of the mirror than I did. The wind-swept hair, the upturned collar of his Polo shirt, and the (probably) cashmere sweater tossed casually over his shoulders screamed HIGH MAINTENANCE to me. But the other 100% match had  possibilities.

Here was a guy whose profile made it clear that he was well travelled, and that he was familiar with some places I truly loved. It was also clear that he was a pilot, as he was sitting in an airplane I didn’t recognize, looking completely disinterested in having his picture taken. Pilot’s are like that; single minded, focused, purposeful. I should’ve known better. After all, at the time I worked for a software company whose sole focus was the airline industry. I worked very closely with the airlines, and had regular contact with their pilots. So much so that I’d developed a personal philosophy of never dating a pilot. They were whiners, complaining about everything from a sliver of daylight peaking through their hotel room curtains to having to arrange their own wake-up calls.

Like I said, I should’ve known better, but here I was, emailing the pilot a pithy hello, inviting him to “get to know me”. And I still did not enclose a photograph.

He responded to my email the following morning, suggesting we meet for lunch or dinner and asking for a photo. He also told me the Cliff’s Notes version of his life up to that point. Where most women would likely have run in the opposite direction at the mention of an impending divorce, I was unfazed. I wasn’t looking to marry the guy that week, I just wanted someone to have some fun with, maybe travel with now and then, and yes, I wanted intimacy. I’d been celibate an entire year and now with my clean bill of health, I wanted sex.

We decided to get to know one another through email first, and I agreed to send him a photo. He seemed pleased with what he read and saw, and after a week of emailing back and forth, I agreed to meet him for coffee. This time there would be no Starbucks. Later that week, I walked into a local Coffee Plantation coffee shop and met a man I could spend more than fifteen minutes talking with. In fact, we spent five hours talking that first night. You read that right … five whole hours … talking. He elaborated on his previously provided Cliff’s Notes including details (some extremely personal and painful) about his divorce, as well as his two previous marriages and divorces. He told me about his children; four biological plus having adopted wife number three’s two teenagers, and he told me about his love of aviation and travel. I shared a bit about my life, my career, and my own travels.

Over the coming weeks we saw quite a lot of one another, and I began to feel more than just friendly affection for the pilot. It seemed he felt the same for me. But I should’ve known better. Pilots have a reputation for being players. It’s a well deserved reputation. Not that I mean to tar the entire field with the same brush, but truthfully, I’ve never known a pilot (airline pilot that is) that didn’t screw around on his girlfriend/wife. Some people say it’s their ego, some say it’s all the opportunities they have, some say it’s the damned uniform that makes some women weak in the knees. I neither know nor care what it is, I just know that it is. The pilot was no exception. While dating me, and in fact having moved into my apartment just a month and a half after meeting, he continued to maintain his dating profile on Match.com, and he continued meeting women.

He insisted to me, and to anyone who challenged his actions, including his adult children – that he was on Match to “make friends” because he had so few, but I knew better. It’s easy now to say I should have issued an ultimatum; Match or me, or at the very least kicked his ass out of my apartment. But I did neither of those things. I swallowed what little pride I had back then, tucked my tail between my legs like a whipped dog, and accepted whatever crumbs of affection the pilot tossed my way. Even on Valentine’s Day when he went out with another woman, I did not complain aloud to him. I told myself I didn’t deserve to. I told myself that someday he would see how good we were together, and I would be enough. I should’ve known better.

The following year, after standing by the pilot through his highly contentious divorce, a divorce in which I covered some of his legal bills as well as helped him pay off marital debts to avoid having his pay check garnished, he continued on Match. And all the while he lived rent-free and expense-free with me. And still I told myself, as well as friends and family members who were now questioning the sanity of my arrangements, that some day he’d see that I’m enough, that we’re good together, that I deserve better. I told that line to myself so many times you’d have thought I’d have come to believe it … but I didn’t, not really. Not even after he’d had his house restored to him and I’d left my apartment to move in with him. Not even after his older sister stood at our kitchen counter telling me I wouldn’t last six months there, that I was simply the “flavor of the month” and that her brother was all about the chase, not the having. No, even then I denied the truth to myself, and everyone else who was by now vocal about their fears for me.

And then I lost my job. The pilot says he knew I was about to lose my job, even though I myself never saw it coming. He actually was quite happy I’d lost my job, and in fact didn’t want me to go back to work. He liked having me at his disposal when he returned from a trip, or better still, able to join him when there was an empty seat on the plane. I did enjoy traveling with him, I cannot deny that, but our home life left me wanting. By now he’d at last ended his Match.com membership, but I knew he still wasn’t being 100% faithful. I’d seen emails and photos sent to him, even gifts that had come in the mail for him that made clear he still had “outside activities”. Oh he denied it all, and I tried my best to ignore it, to keep swallowing my pride, to stuff down my fears with food, but inside I knew the truth.

Another year passed, and with it any money I’d managed to save up before losing my job. There were good times peppered here and there, both traveling with him and simply staying put. I felt like we were just playing house. And more than once I told him I felt like a trapeze artist without a net to hold me should I fall. But the pilot was gun shy, as much as he said he believed in marriage, he wasn’t ready to re-marry. And by the end of that year, I was no longer able to quiet my doubts and fears. I began to push for a decision about taking our relationship to the next level. I should’ve known better.

When the next New Years Eve came around I told the pilot that he had until April 1st of that year to either agree to us moving forward, getting engaged, or it was time for me to move ahead with my life. I could not play house past April first. We both agreed we wouldn’t mention it again until April, and I was determined to hold up my end of the deal. Sometime in the middle of March of that year, after more game-playing by the pilot, I took myself quietly to our bedroom and began to journal. April 1st was just around the corner, and there had been no sign of him even considering marriage, much less planning a proposal. With my hopes and dreams now sinking fast, I began to write a plan of exit. A list of things I would need to do in order to extricate myself from his life, his home, his world. It wasn’t that I had suddenly stopped loving the pilot, on the contrary, I loved him very much, even as I doubted his love for me. But personally I was drowning in a sea of anxiety and depression, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep my head above water for much longer. It took everything in me just to make it through a single day.

When the pilot walked into our bedroom that afternoon, and saw me calmly journaling, he asked to read my journal. Having never shared these private thoughts with another soul, I at first balked at his request, but then relented. I simply didn’t have the energy to argue the point and besides, I figured he might as well know that I was resigned to him not wanting to marry me. What woman wants to have to force a man’s hand? Certainly not me. But as he read my list, including the entry where I spoke about saying goodbye to his then-three-year-old daughter, a look of panic crossed his face. Foolishly he asked me why I was even thinking about any of this. At first speechless at his ignorance, I went on to explain that I would not beg anyone to love me, much less marry me, and it was clear to me now that marriage – at least to me – was not what he wanted.

To which the pilot responded; “if you want to get married, we’ll get married, I just wanted to be ready, that’s all.” And yes, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. But somehow I was just so damned relieved to hear him say it, that all common sense and self-respect flew out the door, and I let him take me into his arms and kiss me quiet. Not the first or last time he’d done that. And suddenly, I was engaged.

A far, far, far cry from the romantic proposals I’d imagined and hoped for, but once more, I shushed those sad thoughts and doubts and swept them out of my mind. Within days we’d set a date for later that year, despite the pilot pushing hard for a l-o-n-g engagement, and we’d begun shopping for an engagement ring. The truth of the matter is that by this point, I was virtually broke and so was he. I’d sold everything of value that I’d owned to pay my own debts, plus help support us and keep the utilities turned on in his house. The pilot had lost nearly 70% of his pay to his ex-wife and three children paying child support and alimony. That didn’t stop him from throwing away money on an expensive boy’s toy because as he put it; “I never get what I want”. Once again, I silenced my doubts and fears, and contented myself with the fact that at least we’d be married. So what if I couldn’t have the wedding of my dreams? So what if I couldn’t even have a decent wedding reception or a honeymoon? I told myself it didn’t matter. But the disappointment didn’t end there.

Though I already adored my mother-in-law to be, I made the mistake of asking her to join my mother and I in wedding dress shopping. Because the pilot had been married three times already, both mothers took it upon themselves to become arbiters of fashion, and proclaimed it totally inappropriate for me to wear white, or even ivory. Never mind that it was my first (and only) marriage, I was penalized by association. Even the florist insisted my choice of wedding flowers was out of the question (dark blue and silver silk). It seemed the only points I could win were the decorating of the wedding cake and the location of the ceremony. I didn’t even get my own way on attendants, because my sister wasn’t able to be here, hence I had no matron of honor. In the end, I once again succumbed to the pressure of others, and allowed the college-age daughter of a friend who’d “always wanted to be in a wedding”, to be my maid of honor. My soon-to-be step daughter was to be my flower girl, but even she had been guided and persuaded by outside forces to keep a sullen look on her face all through the wedding. There isn’t a single wedding photo of her smiling, just looking glum and sad.

When just days before our wedding my mother was suddenly taken ill and entered the hospital, and a childhood friend I’d counted on to be present at the wedding announced she couldn’t make it, I should’ve known better. I would be married without my mother or sister present, my father only begrudgingly attending the wedding, wearing a dress I felt unattractive and uncomfortable in, carrying flowers that looked depressingly inadequate, I should’ve known better.

The day of our wedding dawned bright and clear, warm for December. Unexpected houseguests managed to dirty the floors making it impossible for me to keep a hairdresser’s and manicure appointment, because now I’d have to re-scrub the floors before the reception guests arrived. When the pilot brought the flowers to the house, I somehow lost my reading glasses (my only pair) and was now panicked about how I’d read my vows. But all of that paled in comparison to the pain I experienced just a short time later, when it appeared that my beloved old cat had somehow gotten out of the house, and had disappeared. Deep in an anxiety attack, and fearing the day would somehow only get worse, the pilot and I managed a quick trip to the hospital to see my mother before the ceremony.

Arriving at the outdoor evening ceremony, I was suddenly made aware of the presence of an uninvited, and most unwanted “guest” … someone whose very presence terrified me and threatened the absolute undoing of the entire night. And now a full on panic attack had me in its clutches. I was paralyzed and in tears, and the music I was to walk down the aisle to was due to start. Not even the young maid of honor or her mother, my friend, could ease me out of my panic. They called for the pilot. He held me and assured me that everything would be fine, that I looked lovely, that the uninvited intruder would not ruin the night, that all was well. I should’ve known better.

With the flower girl and maid of honor already down the aisle, I finally managed to pull myself together and holding my open cell phone beneath my bouquet so that my mother could at least hear the ceremony, I walked completely numb to the place where I would say my vows. With no glasses and no ability to clearly see what I’d written, I stumbled through the words I had so carefully and lovingly chosen to say to the pilot. It was over in a blur. I remember signing the marriage license, I remember taking some pictures, I remember arriving back at the house still fearful that our unwanted “guest” might still try to ruin my night. In the end, if she’d had a plan, she’d been thwarted by one fast-thinking friend who’d taken away her only means of distruction. A story for another time.

My father stuck around just long enough for the first toast and a slice of cake, then disappeared into the night. The pilot and I never did get to dance to the music we so painstakingly assembled on a cd, there was no garter to remove, as I hadn’t been able to afford one, and there was no point in tossing the bouquet, as the only single women there were my maid of honor and three year old flower girl. So as the night wound down, we gathered our overnight bags and headed to the pilots truck for the short drive to our wedding night hotel. As we left the house, he reminded me that it would be cold that night, and my poor sweet old cat would be unlikely to survive the night out of doors. I hadn’t wanted to leave, knowing she was out there somewhere, cold, alone and afraid. But I held even that inside of me. Arriving at the hotel, I suddenly realized that I’d lost the family sixpence out of my shoe, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The sixpence had been in my family for many, many years. My mother had worn it in her wedding shoe, a gift from her loving father. Even my sister had worn it, and now, I’d lost it, just as I’d lost my glasses and my cat. What a miserable day it had been. Miserable and sad in every possible way. Yes I was married, but my wedding day had been a disaster, and not a single wedding dream had been realized. I could not have been more sad.

The next morning I awakened as a married woman, but nothing else had changed. We left the hotel and stopped for a quick bite of lunch before returning to the house. As I stepped up into the pilots’ truck, there was the shiny silver sixpense, staring up at me on the floor of the truck. Could my luck be changing? We arrived back at the house just after noon, expecting to see a mess from the previous night, but my second step-son and his wife had thoughtfully cleaned up every bit of crumb and clutter. And as I walked into the pantry, for something I’ve yet to remember, I heard her soft meow … there, hidden in a cupboard, was my sweet old cat. Finally, something truly good to hold onto. I scooped her up into my arms and smothered her in kisses and tears. She was safe after all!

The pilot and I went to the hospital to see my mother, and to take her a slice of cake. We were hosting an open house for the out of town wedding guests, and had planned to leave on a brief three-day honeymoon to the coast the following evening. Once again, there was the unwanted “guest”. Pleasant enough to my face, I still felt the implied threat of her presence, but I felt powerless to do anything about it. Mostly, the open house went off without incident, but my mind wasn’t really on playing hostess. The next day we attended another family function, before we were due to leave for the coast. But when we got back to the house to gather our bags, I told the pilot I thought we should cancel our plans and just stay there. We really couldn’t afford the honeymoon, meager as it was, and in all honesty, I was exhausted physically and emotionally. We told no one of our change of plans, and spent the next three days alone and in peace. That may have been the high point of the entire wedding period. Sad thought, actually.

Our wedding day remains a sore spot for me. The pilot doesn’t get that. He thinks the fact that we’re married and that he had a “great time” means I should see it the same way. I don’t. I remember that day with great pain and disappointment. I remember all the hopes and dreams I had about my wedding day. And maybe I should have known better, but those hopes and dreams were very real to me. As I watch wedding shows on tv, or attend weddings now, I cannot help but feel pinches and pangs of jealousy and pain over the failure of my own dreams. Didn’t I deserve a romantic proposal? Did he really only agree to marry me our of the fear that he’d lose his cush gig if I left? Did he love me at all?  Wasn’t I entitled to wear a white (or at least ivory) gown? Why couldn’t I have carried blue and silver flowers? Isn’t the bride supposed to feel beautiful, confidant, happy and loved? If not on that day, then when?

When people ask me now to recall our wedding day, the only thing I can think to say is that we were married. Everything else is a blur of disappointment and sadness and pain. The very same thing I feel every time I plant myself on the sofa to watch one of those damned wedding shows. But like a moth to a flame … I’m glued to my seat every time.  I guess I just should have known better than to have such lofty dreams. The hell of it is, I still dream of what might have been. Even now. When I know better.

Lola

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Responses

  1. I torture myself with those wedding shows, too. For me the torture is seeing them all full of hope that they will have the perfect marriage, free of strife, infidelity, or pain.

    My wedding day was also not exactly what I envisioned. My dreams were probably much simpler than yours. I really wanted a small, intimate wedding – maybe at someone’s house or backyard. I wanted 50 people, tops, with the main focus on a short ceremony and then lots of good food and fun, spontaneous pictures.

    Instead, I had a big church wedding (for my Mom – since I’m an athiest), with over 250 people (my husband and I both have a large extended family), a looonng ceremony (from the pastor that my husband chose because it was his deceased Mom’s favorite), and things were so crammed (with tons of posed photos, the first dance, cake cutting ceremony, etc., etc., etc.) that I didn’t even get to taste most of the food. On top of that, we spent about $10,000 which was WAAAYYY more than I wanted to spend. And most of that came from my savings, since I’m a saver and my hubby is not.

    Too bad we can’t just switch weddings. 🙂

    I really am sorry about the whole proposal (or lack thereof). That is tough. I didn’t have to exert quite that much pressure, but it did take a LOT of hinting around before Mr. Mess proposed.

  2. It wasn’t so much that I wanted a big, traditional wedding, as it was (and remains) that I wanted what I wanted. Had I been the person then that I am today, I’d never have caved in to everyone else’s demands. It’s hard not to harbor regrets, especially when we attend other weddings, or I watch those damned shows. Seeing other women do it their way just makes me feel sad. Thanks for sharing your own story. I’m sorry your day was painful in its own way.


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