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Archive for the ‘Engagement’ Category

I have written about how the church community tried to educate me about sex.  It is a scary story that turns into a happy story.

Two caveats, before you begin:

(1) Siblings of mine, read at your own discretion. It’s not that I get super personal or graphic or anything; I just use a few words that you might find unpleasant coming from your big sister. It’s up to you, though.  Just remember you can’t erase these words from your memory after you’ve read them.

(2) If you think you recognize any of the people in this story, or think you are one of the people in this story, keep in mind that I have fictionalized and/or exaggerated some characteristics for effect and to hide identities.  The pictures I draw of other people are highly inaccurate at times (except for you, Maria. You really are that awesome.  You come up in part three, I think).

If you have any similar stories or thoughts to share, PLEASE DO.  I am sure I am not alone in all this.

The story begins here.

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Engagement: Conclusion

Of course, I have to admit that some things about engagement were good.  It was comforting to finally both be completely certain of one another’s commitment level.  Up until engagement there was always the chance – though slim – that one of us would give up on the other and decide to break up and leave the other broken-hearted.  For some people, I guess engagement might still be open to this possibility, but for us, engagement was a time of certainty.  When Ben proposed to me he at least gave me the reassurance that he was as committed to me as I was to him.  We could at last talk about our future with confidence and assurance.  We would always be together.   There was no more “I” and “you”: we were going to go to Europe some day.  We were going to name our first child after my grandmother.

But these things often seemed small recompense for the stress and frustration of an engagement.  I was still convinced that married life was going to be terrible.  So Ben’s apparent love for me in all of this was small comfort in the hurricane of life-altering changes and the winds of self-doubt.

Eventually, though, I made it to the wedding day, and then I didn’t have to worry about planning the wedding or finding a home any more.  And then, after the wedding day, I began to learn the truth about marriage.

Like puberty, engagement was just a horrible phase I had to get through, eventually stepped out of, and then tried earnestly to forget.

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To add to all the frustration of engagement, my relationship with Ben was awkward and strange at this time.  How do you relate to a person with whom you know you will be having sex soon, but aren’t yet?  How do you look at a person whom you know you will see naked soon?  Especially when you have never seen anyone naked before in your life.  Up until now, I’d been “saving myself” for the person I was going to marry.  Now I knew who I was going to marry: he was sitting in the room with me.  So what was stopping us from doing it now?  If I lost my virginity to my fiancé at this point, it would be to my future husband, which really didn’t sound like a very big deal at all.  I would still only ever sleep with one person in my life, and he was going to be my husband.  And yet it was very important for me to wait until the wedding day.  So there was this weird, we-cant-have-sex-yet-but-we-can-in-ten-days tension between us that I didn’t know how to deal with.  I mean, I was not anxious by any means to have sex, as it terrified the living bejesus out of me; but it was hard to find biblical justification anymore for waiting, especially when Ben was becoming a little fast and loose with his hands when we were sitting alone together in the car at night talking about our shared future.

Making plans to have sex with someone in the future has to be one of the most awkward things in the world to do.  We had to discuss our expectations and work out the mechanics of it all as we were both new to the whole thing.  Ben dropped me off at home at the end of one of these conversations in a near catatonic state: how was I going to deal with all this horrifying awkwardness?  It was paralyzing, crippling.  I lay down in bed barely able to breathe some nights. And I couldn’t talk about it with my sister. It was the first subject I had ever known that I couldn’t talk about with my sister.  How had I gotten myself into this mess?

Money also became weird when we become engaged.  Our bank accounts were still separate – our money was still our own – but it was also kind of not.  We had to start making decisions together about how to spend it, which we’d obviously never had to do before.  Suddenly, when he wanted to pay for my meal like he had done when we were dating, I realized it didn’t really make a difference who paid for it: it was all going to be our shared money soon anyways.  Suddenly, when I wanted to have a weekend away with the girls or he wanted to get the latest video game console, we both had to stop and think about whether we should ask one another first if it was okay to spend that money which could otherwise be going towards the new couch set.  It was weird to have to ask for permission to buy things with my own money.

So altogether engagement was just weird.  And awkward.  And stressful.  I didn’t like it, not one bit; and I wouldn’t wish that state on anyone. That is, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s kind of a prerequisite to getting married.  And being married, on the other hand, has been downright and thoroughly awesome.

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The absolute worst part of being engaged, for me, was trying to find a home.  We were trying to find a dwelling-place where we could be comfortable and happy for the next number of years, and we had approximately zero dollars to spend.  It is stressful trying to find a home when you have zero dollars.

The process was made even more difficult because we were looking for a place that didn’t exist.  We were looking for a place in the country that we could afford.  I recoiled at the thought of living in town, as I had always lived in the country: I couldn’t abide the thought of having neighbours that I could see and hear, or the thought of being seen when I picked up the mail or brought the garbage to the street.   But a country home, we quickly learned, was out of the question for us.  Still, we booked appointments with real estate agents to see cruddy little rural homes tucked between fields, where water leaked into the basements and where we had to duck down to walk through the door frames, just to be reminded again and again that even these homes were out of reach.  We then looked at smelly town houses with cracked bathrooms sinks and dog fur in the carpets, just to discover that we couldn’t afford them either.  We visited home after home after home.  We scheduled appointments to see houses after my classes and between writing essays; we went and looked at houses between dress fittings and before evenings spent hot-gluing centerpieces.  We looked at houses that needed their roofs reshingled and their furnaces replaced; we looked at houses with floors so sunken in that piles of debris had collected in the middle.  It was terribly discouraging.

The houses we looked at got progressively smaller and crappier as we became increasingly realistic about our financial situation.  Finally, we looked at dingy old apartments for rent with curling linoleum floor tiles and eventually put down our first and last months’ rent for an apartment on the outskirts of town.  We had to start renting it two months before the wedding date because the former tenants were moving out and we had to make a move before someone else got it.  So our apartment had to sit empty for all those weeks, and we had to pay for it to sit there empty.  That was pretty disheartening.  But the place was not so terrible.  It was in a small apartment complex, with only four units in the building, and ours was on the bottom floor, so it almost had the feel of a house.  The ceilings were also really high, so it felt bigger than it actually was.  That was nice.  The street was quiet, too, so that was comforting; but the house across from us had a partly-collapsed roof and featured rows of empty beer-bottles along the inside of the window frames which was a little disconcerting.

By the time we had settled on the apartment, though, we were exhausted with house-hunting.  I never wanted to have to look for a home again as long as I lived.  House-hunting was horrific.  This whole engagement was shaping up to be a nightmare.

Continued in Part 4.

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The engagement was hard for all kinds of other reasons too.  It was stressful planning a wedding.  I had never planned a wedding before; what could I possibly know about it?  Especially planning a wedding where we were going to make everything ourselves.  The process was rife with difficulty and frustration. Everything cost more money than we had available to us.  And none of the planning was any fun.  Booking halls, making centerpieces, designing and printing invitations, picking out flowers, finding shoes . . . it was the opposite of fun in every conceivable way.  I was disappointed to find that none of these tasks were quite as pleasurable as I had always anticipated.  Prior to the experience, I had never imagined that in planning a wedding I would be spending most of my time looking at price tags and calculating costs and phoning hairdressers who were already all booked up.  I didn’t realize that by the time I was tying the two-hundred-and-thirty-second thank-you tag onto its corresponding party favour that I would want to scream with exhaustion.  I got sick to death of seeing those accursed wedding invitations that wouldn’t ever come out of the printer straight and that kept coming unglued from their backing.  And putting together a guest list was an absolute nightmare.  Putting together a guest list is more or less an exercise in seeing just how many people you are willing to offend, and then dealing with the consequences by way of angry phone calls and the silent treatment by distant relatives.

Not cool, man; not cool.  Why would anyone look forward to doing any of these things?

Continued in Part 3.

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Being engaged was one of the absolute worst stages in my entire life.  The only other stage in my life that rivals it in horribleness so far was the first two years of high school in which I was bullied by a short, hyperactive brunette who hated me for reasons I still fail to understand.  But that’s another story.

My engagement was filled with so much fear, anxiety, confusion,  and busyness that I hated almost every minute of it.

I thought I’d discuss some of the issues that I dealt with.  I think it’s productive to be realistic about life, especially those parts that tend to get romanticized — like engagements.  We need to share what makes life difficult for us.  So often, when we talk about love and relationships, we only focus on the positive aspects, and when we do talk about the “rough times” we only talk about them in theory.  As a result, many people — myself included — tend to have unrealistic expectations about the various stages of life. It’s hard to picture what the “tough times” are like.   So this is the engagement that I experienced.  These are the things I struggled with.

First of all, the things that worried me at the time of Ben’s proposal (which I discussed in earlier posts) never ceased to trouble me.  In those eight months prior to the wedding, I found no real comfort for my problems and issues.  I still hated the thought of being a woman.  I still fretted tirelessly about sex.  I still worried that I wouldn’t be able to be a scholar.  Nothing changed regarding these things before the wedding day.

But there were lots of other things, too, that made the engagement hard for me.  For starters, I am the kind of person who doesn’t deal with change very well.  I get kind of hysterical when my schedule gets thrown off or my identity shifts.  Change turns me into a monster.  And for the eight months prior to my wedding I was perpetually being reminded that my whole world was about to drastically change.  I felt short of breath and panicky almost constantly, realizing that I couldn’t even really conceive just how different my life was going to be in a few months.  I was going to live in a different home – I didn’t even know what home.  I was going to sleep in a different bed, with a different bedfellow; and my relationship with said bedfellow was going to be unlike any I’d ever had before.  I was going to sign my name on credit card receipts with a different surname.  I was going to have to eat food that I had prepared myself rather than relying on my mom’s cooking.  I was going to have a new address and a new phone number. I wasn’t going to have my mom and sister around any more, or be surrounded by my noisy, boisterous family any longer: I was going to live in a world dominated by silence.  I was going to have to pay my own bills.  I was going to have a different bank account.  I was going to have my own furniture that I would share with Ben.  I was going to be responsible from now on for my own carpets and dishes and lamps and shampoo. This was unnerving.  I was just a teenager, a kid!  I had never thought about carpets and dishes and lamps and shampoo before.

It’s hard to feel giddy about life when faced with all of these changes.  In fact, it’s downright terrifying.  It was for me, anyway.  Maybe other people enjoy the thrill of novelty and opportunity that comes with engagement, but for me the seemingly infinite prospects of change for the future were almost debilitating.

This is just one of the many reasons why my engagement was not the enchanting, idyllic time of life I thought it would be.

(How about you?  If you have ever been engaged, did you find it hard?  Or was it easy?  Why?)

Continued in Part 2.

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