The Cynical Romantic
I spent the last week rehearsing “This Old Love” by Lior to sing at a wedding for two of my closest friends. This morning I got the news that two more of my nearest and dearest are getting married. Last summer, I went to four weddings and it looks as though next year will be filled with a similar schedule. “I do. I do.” Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
People warned me I would be flooded with weddings when I entered my late 20s, but I had no idea it would be like this. Marriage, commitment and relationships are on the brain and I feel jaded. I feel skeptical. Critical. Righteous.
Every man I have met over the last three years I have described as “I really like him, but….”. I feel like a Seinfeld episode, searching for flaws in every experience to justify my decision to run in the other direction. Telling myself and every person who brings up the topic of romance that “I am much too busy and focused to take on a relationship right now.” I strive to make myself sound as important and independent as possible, convincing you while convincing me that there is nothing but ambition and vision at the root of my choice to remain single.
But there I am, sitting on the floor of my friends’ living room, blubbering away while they hold hands and exchange vows. The tears completely expose the truth: my hard approach to love is a total act. I can’t hide the fact that I love love.
And in this moment, surrounded by a community of friends and family who have gathered to celebrate these two people and their love, I am swept away by my honest opinion. The strength of their love hits me like a wave and drags me off my beach of cynicism and leaves me without a bathing suit coughing up saltwater. I have been schooled. Love can be like that.
Their love is splattered in technicolor on every corner of the room. Every sight, sound, and smell is an effect of how they are together. Lilies, gerber daisies, birds of paradise and eucalyptus branches fill the room with their home countries, South Africa and Australia. Chocolates in the shape of Buddha’s and gluten-free dishes cover every single table and Roberta Flack’s voice carries their feet down the stairs as they seemingly float, barefooted, to the front of the room. She is an elegant, natural woman with a sweetness so organic she can’t help but radiate. He is a graceful and soulful leader so full of depth and wisdom just his presence reminds me of what I aspire to be. Together they act as a team of elevation, love, promise, and strength.
I sit in the front row listening to my friends exchange their vows and I start to think about what it means that they are doing this. My friends are making life-long commitments to something that has no guarantees. There is no product they can walk away with, nothing to pick up to prove its existence. Love. A completely intangible, ephemeral experience. An experience based in trust and truly just “taking someone’s word for it.”
I have had two major loves in my life, and both I assumed I would marry at one point or another. I went so far as to tattoo one’s name on my chest, and start a family of animals with the other. I was so caught up in the romance of this “feeling” that I gave myself a permanent brand and two new dependants.
When my last relationship ended so did much of my belief in eternal love. I had a very naive perspective. I believed love should be easy. I believed commitment should never feel like a challenge and love should always feel good. I felt entitled to this fantasy and got angry at myself and my partner for being so complicated. Couldn’t he just match the picture in my head? What was so difficult about being my boyfriend marionette?
But I have given up the belief that love is like a water slide.
Love and commitment are no longer simple concepts I copy from a Disney movie. I can’t fool myself into believing the John Hughes story line where all the girl’s hopes and dreams come true when she opens the door to a new car and her latest crush. I am learning to know better.
I am beginning to understand the reality of what it takes to uphold that commitment. To have the courage to unlock your box of fears and let Pandora have her way. Abandon your ego, and invite the muddy, unclear, soft mushy parts of your soul just hang out there. It is so messy, unpredictable. It feels so unsafe, so unknown, yet so, so passionately alive.
I hear my name called and I am snapped back to the wedding. Oh yeah, my friends are getting married. I walk to the front of the room with my band mates, it is time to sing our song. And with a snot-filled Kleenex clutched in front of me, mascara running down my cheeks and eyes leaking like the kitchen faucet in my first apartment. I sing a song of appreciation to my friends. My friends who are committing to early morning kisses with unmasked kitten breath, heart breaking misunderstandings, unclear or unmet expectations, and vowing to let their guts hang out so they can unabashedly and honestly swan dive head first into this exposing, cumbersome, tender, gorgeous, vertiginous life long dance. What an honor.