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Archive for the ‘relationships’ Category

You might have noticed that this blog is no longer a “Personalized Wedding Poet’s Blog.” I’m expanding my personalized poetry business to include occasions beyond weddings.

Here is a love poem I wrote recently for a couple whose togetherness is inspirational.

 

 

Earth’s Elements

Hold my hand; remember our song.

Before Tennessee, we live together

in the palm of Michigan.

Our love, wide as the Atlantic,

spans farther than the tiny part

sweeping the shores of Myrtle Beach.

The air warms and cools these waters at once.

No, that’s wrong. It’s larger than that.

Our love rounds the earth, an equator.

Uncomplicated, we taste childhood’s milk and cookies.

In the beginning,

you sat across the table,

wrote on the receipt,

will you be my girlfriend? Check yes or no.

A fair test, the answer sure.

We settled in, home building in the small space between us:

everyday Black Love Day.

Now, spooning on this couch, thigh to thigh,

I tell you,

Honey, I love you always.

 

As Maya Angelou wrote,

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I add,

That’s us.

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One of the new traditions that my husband and I would like to start is to truly remember the things that we are thankful for on Thanksgiving.

Here is a start… 

I am thankful for my husband and our love.

I am thankful for my parents.

I am thankful for my family, especially my 101 ½ year old aunt.

I am thankful for my friends, especially those Wonderful Women.

I am thankful for poetry, especially the words of Mark Strand who helped me to get started writing in high school.

I am thankful for art, especially Georgia O’Keefe, who I carry with me everywhere.

I am thankful that I am safe.

I am thankful that I am healthy.

I am thankful that I am warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer.

I am thankful that I have enough food.

I am thankful that I have a home.

I am thankful that I have jobs that stimulate my mind.

I am thankful for time to think.

I am thankful for Smith and Sarah Lawrence.

I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to travel to beautiful places.

I am thankful that I am challenged everyday by things I read, hear and discuss.

I am thankful for the future.

What are you thankful for?

(I am also thankful for the possibility to rest… see you next week!)

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Isn’t there a saying that laughter is the best medicine? In a very unscientific way, I declare it the truth.

Sometimes we take ourselves entirely too seriously. My husband and I laugh often. We can already laugh about the wedding. Like how long it took us to plan the drinks list. We carefully named some drinks after friends in the wedding party. We discovered – after the wedding – that we’d misspelled the last name of the Chief Wonderful Woman (laughing, but still sorry!) We can laugh at the venue’s bad jokes about putting the “boys” in the bank vault before the wedding. We can laugh that the venue put a waitress in charge of me when the ceremony started. She actually said to me, “I’m in charge of making sure you actually walk down the aisle and don’t run away.” Earlier, we laughed about how our first date was on April Fool’s Day three and a half years ago.

We are even allowed to giggle at the seriousness of this union. Why not? Why not laugh at what is expected of us and what we decide to actually do?  Someone recently told me that when she first moved in with her husband, she couldn’t stand how messy he was. He left his dirty socks all over the apartment. After endless conversations and some fights, she decided to laugh about it. She took out her camera and photographed all the funny places the socks ended up – from the bathroom to the kitchen counter. She and her husband had a hearty laugh about it and then compromised about how to keep their home. 

Gregory Corso’s poem Marriage, which I briefly discuss in yesterday’s post  makes me laugh. You can read the poem here. His second stanza made me giggle in the library chair:

When she introduces me to her parents 
back straightened, hair finally combed, strangled by a tie, 
should I sit knees together on their 3rd degree sofa 
and not ask Where’s the bathroom? 
How else to feel other than I am, 
often thinking Flash Gordon soap– 
O how terrible it must be for a young man 
seated before a family and the family thinking 
We never saw him before! He wants our Mary Lou! 
After tea and homemade cookies they ask What do you do for a living? 
Should I tell them? Would they like me then? 
Say All right get married, we’re losing a daughter 
but we’re gaining a son– 
And should I then ask Where’s the bathroom?

We take ourselves so damn seriously, from the courtship to the wedding vows. I think we all know, deep down, that we are in love when we find someone who can make us laugh.

In our vows, my husband and I named things that the other represents for us. It turns out I am his scotch and he is my zucchini flower. We smiled when we said it and some of the guests laughed with surprise. 

In all humor there is some seriousness. Scotch is my husband’s favorite drink and he takes it seriously. I have never turned down a fried zucchini flower, either made by distant relatives in Italy or my mother in New Jersey. We meant what we said.

A writer friend asked me recently why I haven’t written a blog post about what it means to be married. What it feels like on the other side. I think I don’t entirely know yet. We are happy to be married, relieved to no longer be wedding planning and generally just enjoying ourselves. 

This is the life!

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Tony Richard's photograph of us just as we were pronounced married

My husband and I married one week ago this weekend. We probably won’t know for years what the ceremony and union ultimately signify for us. Immediately, however, we were joined legally. I have the pink, temporary marriage certificate to prove it. 

Since noon last Saturday, I have felt both completely different and exactly the same.

We have been slowly committing to each other throughout the last three and half years. Moving in together in a state neither of us had ever lived in before was a big step. We learned more about each other’s habits and lifestyles. Since we’d been long distance for two years and spent chunks of time essentially living together in each other’s apartment, nothing was shocking. 

For this reason, as I looked into his eyes and we said our vows before our closest friends and family, I knew I was marrying my best friend. Someone I trust, love and know.

When we walked out of the center of the circle as a married couple, I was jubilant. Simply jubilant. I knew that we were not only bound by our emotions, but also by a legal and public commitment. We had made a public vow to care for each other and our union throughout our lives. This vow would be recognized by our government.

I like calling him “my husband.” I like being a part of an institution that allows others to know and understand our relationship without question (of course, if I had taken his surname, this would have been more obvious.) I like that I could be on his health insurance. I like that we can hold hands in public.  

“Society” wanted us to marry. The word “society” is a vague one that often serves as a crutch. However, I think you understand, without labels, who I mean when I write that “society” did not always approve or recognize our relationship when we were living together as an unmarried couple. When we stayed in hotel rooms with one bed. When we accompanied each other to the doctor. We are lucky that our “society” only took it that far, considering what happens in other, less forgiving “societies.” 

We did not marry in order to please this or any other “society.”

We got married because it was important to us to share our vows of love publically and be bound legally.

I recently wrote an essay on this subject and a friend reading it noted that I sounded defensive. Perhaps. I feel compelled to explain myself to those who vote against gay marriage or see marriage as only a religious sacrament instead of a civil right with legal implications. 

For these and related reasons, we asked my husband’s friend Dr. Jonathan Ladd to read this during our ceremony:

Goodridge v. Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health

By Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall

Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects.

 Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

 

We are not the first couple to include part of Chief Justice Marshall’s statement in their ceremony. We will certainly not be the last.

May all consenting adults be allowed to marry and experience our jubilance, publicly and under law.

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Less than a week after our wedding, I am brimming with images and impressions of the wedding and our new married state. I’m not sure that those ideas are ready for organized sentences just yet. Soon. I promise.

Today, I’d like to share an essay my friend Hila Ratzabi wrote about her interfaith relationship. The essay, “Invisible Revisions: One Jewish Perspective on Interfaith Relationships” is a beautiful piece. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Love in IndianapolisI liked Hans so much after our first date that I was sure he’d never want to see me again.

We met at Union Square, under the statue of Washington. Well, officially we “met” online. We emailed back and forth and never even spoke on the phone. Hans, who was at Princeton at the time, suggested the statue of Washington as a good meeting spot. I emailed back and asked which statue that was without realizing how obvious it must be.  

Surprisingly, Hans didn’t give up on me. He carefully emailed back exactly where we were to meet (he still helps me with directions.) That evening, we walked to a restaurant off the square and I tried to breathe through my nose so I didn’t appear to be out of breath. This was a tall man who took long strides! Always ignoring numbers, I hadn’t noticed from his profile just how tall he was.

After a lovely dinner, coffee at French Roast and then drinks at a bar with live music, Hans and I sat in a park. We’d talked about everything and I was smitten. Hans leaned over and put his arm around me. Another night in NYC, we’d kiss with me standing on a stoop and Hans on the sidewalk. Despite our differences in height, we saw eye to eye. 

Since then, we’ve been busy. 

We’ve been to 17 states and territories together: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, DC, and two countries: Italy, Canada. 

We’ve cooked, seen movies, taken salsa and foxtrot lessons, gone to museums, flown on a hot air balloon, driven down the coast of California, went to a Smith reunion, went to Hans’ UCLA graduation, celebrated birthdays and holidays, gone shopping, celebrated friends and family member’s weddings together, cried when loved ones have passed, kissed on New Year’s Eve, attended poetry readings and political science conferences, text messaged, emailed, called, talked, whispered and snuggled. 

My favorite memory of Hans when we first started dating was spending the weekend with him in Princeton. I had grading to complete and he had work to do on his book. We’d go to Small World Coffee and set up at a back booth. He’d work on his laptop and I’d start grading papers. We’d drink cappuccino and periodically joke about our work or the folks sitting around us. It was peaceful and I knew I found a man who I not only trusted, but with whom I could simply live with. 

And now we do live together. Our apartment in Michigan is our first shared home. We’d lived together in spurts when we were first dating, Hans patiently visiting me at my parents’ house, my driving down to Princeton for a few days and then my apartment in Roselle Park, NJ and his apartment in Washington, DC. Really living together takes the cake, as they say. 

I put his Northwestern University license plate frame on my car and he drinks coffee out of my Smith College mug. We divide the chores and sit in front of the fire on cold weekends playing Scrabble or watching a movie. We make pizza together and read the Sunday New York Times.

Hans is the love of my life. I look forward to seeing the world with him and revisiting our favorite places. I used to think that marrying someone would just be signing a piece of paper and continuing with our lives. Meeting the right person changed that.

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Paramount Theater in Newark, NJ

I’ve been thinking a lot about why we are getting married. I do not doubt my desire to be with my fiancé for the rest of our lives or our love for each other. I know that I want to marry him. I know that he wants to marry me.

But why, exactly? What is propelling us in this direction? I know it isn’t simply because we are “supposed to.” It is bigger than that. 

Marrying for love is a modern concept. There is no doubt that love is the primary reason behind our union. The public and legal reasons are also important.  

I am happy to be able to share our vows in a circle of our friends and family. In the beginning of a relationship, we want to “shout the person’s names from the rooftops.” As the relationship progresses, it deepens and we still want to share it.

I talked to some married friends to ask them what helped to shape their own decisions to marry.

Shasta, one of the Wonderful Women and author of the new sewing blog The Lovely Nest, notes the importance of commitment and accountability. She writes, “I think it comes down to commitment and sometimes just knowing between the two of you that you’ll spend your lives together isn’t enough.  You want to get up in front of all your family and friends and publicly declare your love and say “this is the person I will love until I die.”  There’s some accountability in that.” Yes, Shasta, that feels exactly right.

I am touched by how Wonderful Woman Alethea uses the word “hope” as she explores this topic. Perhaps there is nothing more hopeful or optimistic than making a decision like this one. Alethea writes, “Whether people decide to get married or not, love is a big chance that we all take, whether you go in with big doubts or big dreams of a perfect union. I think getting married is an expression of hope that the way you make each other feel is so unique and valuable, that it must mean you should couple for life.  And there is an urge to say it out loud in front of everyone you know!” 

Wonderful Woman Amy writes about the “pledge” she and her husband made: “To me, marriage is telling the world that you’re in it for the long haul. If Peter and I had just continued to live together without getting married, I guess it would have felt more open-ended. I would have wondered how long we would be together. Now, whatever may happen in the future, I know that we at least went in with the expectation of forever. I am a very shy and private person, but I really wanted to make that public declaration. We wrote our own vows and they included the words “Before God and these witnesses, I vow…” as an acknowledgment that we weren’t just saying nice words; we were truly committed to what we were pledging.”

A certain proof and commitment to a relationship can’t be denied in a true marriage. Shasta adds, “I think security probably plays some role.  Sometimes I joke and ask Chris if he promises to love me forever and he always answers “I already did.”  I think there really is something powerful about publicly promising to love someone forever.” 

My fiancé and I are already a committed, nuclear family in so many ways. We are committed to each other and will make this pledge public in 10 days.

I really can’t wait.

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