Today is the sixth anniversary of my first date with J, so instead of a post about food in Taiwan, I’m posting about how much I ❤ J. (Loads!)
I wrote this in 2012, but never posted it. I’ve cleaned it up for you, though! I also reread the Modern Love column that inspired me to jot this all down and I have to say…it’s shit. Sorry, writer! But I don’t think it’s very well written (ignore me, I’m jealous because I would love to write a Modern Love column, but I don’t even have a first draft let alone a winning submission) and also it’s trite. It is 0% shocking that anyone regrets breaking up with an ex when they find out their ex has moved on to another relationship.
Also, it kind of sounds like the author thinks she was slumming it or experimenting or having a little adventure along the lines of “When in India…” It’s different to read that kind of story with a female narrator, sure (but notice how she stills gets enmeshed…why are we always going that?), but I mean it’s still a little bit icky.
I mean, whatever, we’re all icky.
It IS a good story. That’s the thing, right? You either have to have a really interesting experience to write about or be a really excellent writer. If you have both, you’re Hemingway. I guess.
For some reason in college I read a whole bunch of books by Indian writers. I think they were mostly expats. They were all women. Among others, I read Jhumpa Lahiri, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s, Rohinton Mistry…
For a while after college, I just had a sticky mess of ideas about Indian arranged marriages that worked out something like the relationships in Pride and Prejudice–the women who got involved impulsively, distracted by good looks and charm, ended up in a bad way, and the women who were patient and/or obedient ended up happy, finding love and commitment together.
I had a really romantic view of arranged marriage, along the lines of “it would be better if the people who supposedly know you well and have your best interests at heart were the ones who found a life partner for you.” I suppose that’s all contingent on factors like your family members not being assholes, etc.
So there was a time when I would have been happy if my mom or my brother introduced me to someone they thought I’d get along with…
(Not my gramma, though. She once trotted me out of the house to introduce me to the guy who was cutting down a problematic tree in her backyard. He was a good ten years older than me, missing teeth, with a white tank top stretched thin over a big ol’ belly. He looked at me like I was lunch. I suspect Gramma was just trying to get me bred and not actually concerned about my long-term marital bliss. Gramma was married three times though so I’m not sure she holds a very high view of the usefulness of the husband.)
The Modern Love story actually gave me a clue about why I was attracted to the idea of an arranged marriage: because I wanted the commitment first.
In India, at least for my new boyfriend, love didn’t lead to commitment; love was commitment. It was a leap of faith made by two people to stick it out no matter what.
In the American dating scene, that is completely backwards. You try each other on like jeans until you’ve worn a hole in the knees before you decide to keep each other. But I see how it was with me and J, and how from very, very early on I knew, and I think both of us knew, that we were in this for the long haul, even if we weren’t ready to define what that meant for twelve months. That’s how long it took for us to have semi-serious, blushing, giggling conversations about who wanted to marry who…because he said a year was the objectively appropriate minimum amount of time to wait before talking about marriage. We got engaged like 13 months after we started dating.
From very early on, from our first week, J opened his life to me without any fear of getting hurt. We committed to each other 100%. We didn’t say we were going to get married. We didn’t say that we were in it for better or worse. We just treated each other like being together forever was an option.
And because I felt like J wasn’t looking for my faults (looking for an out), I could relax. I never felt desperate for his attention because it was always available. I never felt insecure. It was a lot less like falling in love and more like gently rowing into a beautiful sunset, sunrise.
I needed that early commitment from a partner and that’s why I loved those stories of arranged marriages–and Pride and Prejudice–even if they were kind of fairytales. They were alternatives to the script that says you have to get really intimate with someone yet still refrain from giving your heart to them.
J and I moved in together after four months and got married after a year, so we always had this solid foundation of commitment under our feet as we were getting to know each other. Of course, making an early commitment can be dangerous or just unsuccessful in a really typical way, but I think being together without a history of making each other feel insecure has been a perfect match for us.