Today I’ve been married for twelve years.
Today is also very cold, with frost on the shingles out my window and a forecast that won’t take us above 50F for a week, which makes me shake my head, because the day Dan and I got married, it was 80. We planned an October wedding because we loved the cool weather of fall, so naturally our wedding was hot and humid. But it was a good day. Lots of family and friends, great cake, and some killer photos, even if the photographer did take forever to get them to us.
Our wedding was not a typical wedding. We paid for it ourselves, and we were grad students at the time, so when I looked through the bridal magazines I tended to feel judged and inadequate, because I knew I couldn’t arrange what they were suggesting was the norm, and I outright panicked when I went around Iowa City trying to find a reception venue we could afford. At very few points was the angst about having the "perfect wedding" (a real statement from a Virgo). Mostly it was about how to be able to invite all our family and friends and have food and entertainment for them but to not go broke in the process. To be honest, at that point we were already broke, and about to get more so: the thought of renting a hall for thousands of dollars made me sick, and frankly, having Another Fucking Wedding with the same china plates as everybody else and the same boring hotel ballroom and the same dumb DJs turned my stomach even more. So I got my grit on, and I searched high and low (Dan came along, but at this point this was Heidi With The Bit Between Her Teeth), and we ended up at the Swisher American Legion for $250, and I think we got $100 back if we cleaned it up. It was two floors, with the bar in the basement, the dance floor upstairs beside the dining, and a big ass American flag on the wall. We were home.
did all my decoration: he went with me to Micahel’s and other craft-like places and even brought some of his own stash and helped deck the church altar and then our reception hall with silk flowers. (He also brought a plastic jack-o-lantern and set it on the head table.) A friend at work did all the catering for the cost of the food, and the fare was simple: ham sandwiches, potato salad, relish tray, and some baked beans. We had punch upstairs and my dad bought all the pop and a keg of beer, but everything else people had to pay for. My sister’s boyfriend gave his performance for free and brought along a band for $500. He also let us use his electronic equipment to boost our home stereo so Dan could DJ his own disco. He did this, I might add, in the day before you could even burn a CD: these were all songs from his own collection, and he ran over between songs to swap them out and barely left a pause.
It was a simple show, and full of quirk, but it was us. I think we wasted a lot of worry on what it looked like and whether or not we spent too much or too little on things, and we should have found a way to reassure my mother we had the clean-up covered so she didn’t run around for the last hour picking everything up and making people think the party was over. But honestly, it was a good time: a really, really good time. It was much cheaper and much more us than the hotel ballroom. It was good, and it was right.
I didn’t marry Dan because I wanted a home and a family. I didn’t marry him because he was going to make a good income (though I admit it was an awfully nice perk). I didn’t marry him because I was supposed to get married or even because I didn’t want to be lonely. I married him because before I met him I was frazzled and angry and hurt and very, very lonely, and I didn’t realize how much so until I stood next to him awhile and watched some of that melt away. He just worked. He was cute and nice and handsome, but he was really weird, too. He was far too shy, and he had a clear obsession with Madonna, and he did things that were strange like eat spaghetti with salsa on it for dinner. He seemed overly polite and perhaps too nice, and then he’d get out Madonna’s Sex book (in French!) and show it to me. He’d have me over for a night of overcooked spaghetti and Xanadu, then hold my hand and look at me as if I, too, might be a muse who would fade away at the end of the movie.
He put up with my crazy, and he hasn’t ever stopped. I all but stalked him when we first met, because he was so damn shy, and I wanted to be available for him to come over and casually say hi to and dumbass stuff like that, but he never minded: in fact, he says he was flattered. He lets me have hair-brained ideas, and usually goes along with them. He tries things with me. He thinks I’m brilliant and beautiful, and he tries to move mountains to take away my pain. He’s my biggest supporter, my strongest lifeline, and my best friend. Oh, he is FLAWED. Jesus, after twelve years, I could write a book. But I love the flaws as much as I love the man, and my only upset comes when he lets his fear of the flaws get in the way of living. I like his neuroticism. I even like his doom and gloom to a point. I like his hesitation. I LOVE every quirky weirdness he has, especially the ones he doesn’t want anyone to know about. But what I love more than anything is that he lets me in. It isn’t that what he lets me in to see is sparkling with diamonds or perfect or anything: mostly what I love is that this shy, cautious, quirky man who is naturally paranoid about letting people see too deeply lets me in to see him like he allows no one else.
My marriage to Dan is like our wedding. It’s hobbled together from what is handy and held up by family, friends, and a combination of my amazonian determination to take over the world and his cautious, slightly worried hesitation. It’s never what the magazine says we’re supposed to do, and yet somehow ends up being so much better than high-budget and chic could ever be. It’s held in odd venues with interesting stuff on the walls, but the food, while simple, is always good. And in the center of it is the pair of us, cycling around one another, living our own lives, casting the threads of our own universes, solving our own problems, feeling our own pain. I have this image in my head of the two of us suspended over the congregation of the church where we got married, larger-than-life in our wedding finery, our hands spinning with light as we try, with alternating wonder and panic and desperation, to spin out the threads that our our lives. We honestly have not woven them together. We are not a house in the burbs, a seamless unit, a romantic two halves of the same soul. We are Dan, and we are Heidi, and we have our own battles which we must face alone. We both will confess to you that we get lonely, sometimes achingly so. We both seek completion outside of one another, and we both yearn for things the same way we once yearned for a partner. Being married has not made all our loneliness go away and did not give us a happily ever after. But what it has given us is a companion, a friend, a lover, someone to turn to both in the light and the dark. Someone to share with. Someone to listen. Someone to love, to reach out from the madness of our own universe and accept an always-ready hand.
That’s my favorite thing about my marriage. Dan didn’t save me. Dan didn’t fix all my problems, and he’s never going to. He didn’t demand I fit his image of wife or lover–he’s never really demanded anything at all. He’s just love. Twelve years ago, he came, and he never left. And at this point, he’ll be with me forever, no matter what happens, because after twelve years, he will always have a huge, huge place in my heart. He isn’t a swashbuckling hero. He isn’t there with the answer to every problem. He isn’t even a lightning strike. He’s just Dan. He’s the guy who falls in love with me when I quote Annie or 9 to 5. He’s the guy who tears up when we drop our daughter off for a weekend with my mother. He’s the guy who rubs my shoulders when they hurt. He’s the guy who leaves the crock pot on the counter for me to put away because he hates to do it. He’s the guy who does the dishes. He’s the guy who reads all my m/m erotic fiction first and doesn’t just like it, he’s moved by it. He’s the guy who ABSOLUTELY HATES cleaning the eaves but does it anyway. He’s the guy who makes enough money to support the three of us and doesn’t mind doing it (most of the time). He’s the guy who went grey way, way too early and who looks very sexy in a beard. He’s the guy who is better in bed every time we go there. He’s the guy who fights a lot of inner demons that sometimes get the best of him. He’s the guy who has a nasty temper that sometimes he can’t quite control. He’s the guy who loves music, and who shares it with me. He’s the guy who hated cats when he met me and now has five. He’s the guy, who, for much as he is a man, is also a little boy. He’s the man who looks at me with messy hair and a bathrobe and tells me, with sincerity, that he thinks I’m beautiful. He’s the guy who, all these years later, still looks at me like I’m his Kira come down from Olympus.
He’s Daniel Scott Cullinan, and he’s my love.
(And yes, sweetheart: the title of the post was to make you smile, because you are also the guy who would love an anniversary blog post with a Bananarama song as the header. Love you, baby. Thanks for twelve wonderful years, and here’s to fifty more.)