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Married, But Why?

By Ronna Russell ~

I inadvertently married a closeted gay man. In my defense, I was asking the question, but not getting a straight answer. This guy had no reason to not come out. His family was atheist, extremely liberal Californians and had been wondering about their son’s sexuality for years. He would have gotten nothing but support from his family, along with relief at knowing. He went to college in San Francisco and Santa Cruz, for crying out loud.

We met when I was 21-ish and he was pushing 30. The fact that he had a minimum wage job as a courier and I was technically his boss should have given me pause. He was a writer in his spare time and fancied himself a movie maker, as well. There is no doubt he had a brilliant mind; that is what suckered me in. At first, we mostly had a great time with after work drink dates, a shared sense of humor and a high degree of friendship chemistry. Coming from a lifetime of irrelevance, I had no idea what treatment to expect in a boyfriend. Not in the opening doors for you kind of way, but in conversation, in financial responsibility and in bed. It seemed to me that because we loved each other, we should get married. I was lonely and wanted babies and allowed those needs to trump every subverted logical thought. The fact that he would watch the latest Star Wars (Star Trek? One of those) over and over, studying it with complete absorption, that he never had any money yet was always behind on rent and had no apparent interest in seeing me orgasm, I just set aside, because we connected in other ways. There was no logical thought process on my part, no if-this, then-that calculations; such as, if he has a minimum wage job at 29, how will he support a family? Why won’t he use those fur-lined Velcro handcuffs on me?

It is not my goal to rip my ex-husband to shreds. He is who he is and the whole endeavor was my idea. We had discussed getting engaged after a few months of dating. He said it would happen in August, because I guess it was up to him. So I waited while August came and went and then issued the ultimatum. Of course, I did. He proposed, sort of, but didn’t want to set a date. I pushed and so we set one and I got busy with the process of wedding planning. I never once stopped to reflect, to wonder if I was doing the right thing. To be fair, I really did love him, despite what I said to him years later, in a moment of vitriolic revenge. And I did believe in his creative abilities. It was the rush, the hurry to get hitched and fill the baby void that I wish could have been subdued. There was no one to talk to, nor would I have listened. I am nothing if not completely bullheaded.

The path of independence that I had begun was powerful. I had completely abandoned religion without a backward glance. I supported myself financially; had started saving money and certainly could have parlayed my skills into a better job. Eventually, could have gotten an education. I turned away from those values and possibilities to settle in with a self-absorbed, delusional man. In retrospect, I think I could not see a future for myself, alone in the world. I did not have a vision of who or what I could be. One time, a yoga instructor spoke about achieving difficult poses; if you could picture doing it in your mind, how it would feel and how your muscles would move, then you could get there. It was true. It seems that having something to reach toward, a picture in your head, is vital. I didn’t know that. All I could see was babies. But just babies, not the bills or health insurance or baggage from my own upbringing. Ex-husband said he was going to sell a TV show and get rich and famous, so I rode along on his fantasy train. It is the height of irresponsibility to go into parenting just assuming it will all work out. Only ignorant people do that.

It didn’t help that I was a social failure. I had grown up alone and had no idea what it meant to have or be a friend. I was pretty weird, with no idea how to dress in a normal way or go to the movies. Conversations always ended awkwardly because of my inevitable knowledge gaps and reluctance to share my story. The feeling of being a misfit was another reason to hide in a little house with babies. That was only kind of life I knew anything about.

So it happened, the garden wedding, tense family all around. Ex-preacher Dad showed up in town with a weekend boy toy and my brothers in law threatened to throw them both in the pond (actually) if Dad brought him to the wedding. XPD felt sorry for himself for having to attend alone. It was the first time my parents had seen each other since their divorce. I will never forget Mom’s wide-eyed stomach -dropped look as she said hello. At least, she was surrounded by family and friends. He was much better at pretending not to care, and probably didn’t.
The wedding was pretty and fun, despite familial trauma and afterwards the ex-hub and I headed off to The Radisson for our wedding night. I had not had a bite to eat all day and was starving, but he refused to go to dinner so we went straight to our room where I put on the long white beautiful nightgown I had received as a shower gift and had saved for The Wedding Night, which would be loving and sweet and sexy and special. There was no evidence to support my expectations. His response to my overtures was to say, “We don’t have to have sex just because it’s our wedding night, do we?” Then turned on the television and opened the mini-bar. We had Oreos, beef jerky and obligatory sex that I was no longer in the mood for.

I was too embarrassed to leave for 22 years.


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