Doug and I met three years ago today. I was the new girl at work, and he accosted me in the back room to ask how old I was. And something clicked: I suddenly had the conscious thought that, “This is the guy I’m going to cheat on my husband with.”
Of course, I didn’t immediately fall into bed with him. There was a dance, a flirtation, the slow and pained – then fast and violent – disintegration of my marriage (which had begun long before Doug came into the picture; had begun even before I was married, if I’m being honest with myself). Then there were a good six weeks of secrets and lies, even after my marriage had ended and Doug and I had fallen into bed together; I refused to let him call me his girlfriend, stating that the “right thing to do” would be to wait a while after my divorce before I shacked up again, even though we were already spending every waking moment together and sleeping next to each other every night. But there I was, already concerned with what was “right” in the eyes of society, trying to make my life follow a pattern of how a life was “supposed” to unfold. (It was this sort of thinking that got me married so young and so quickly in the first place, and it is this sort of thinking that is partly responsible for the holding pattern I’m in now.) I finally agreed to be Doug’s girlfriend on Christmas Day.
But Christmas doesn’t make for a very good anniversary, easy to remember though it is, so over the years, I’ve chosen to recognize September 1st as our anniversary. It’s a much better story, the love-at-first-sight thing, than the reluctant giving in thing, anyway. And I choose to overlook the circumstances under which we met and began our relationship, to celebrate what we have rather than leaving our history shrouded in the guilt and shame of my last relationship’s end, and I feel like this is a very healthy and well-adjusted outlook to have moving forward – perhaps the only healthy and well-adjusted aspect of my thought process when it comes to that time in my life.
The other significance this date holds is that of our future wedding date. Because early in our relationship, when Doug started telling me he wanted to marry me, as I’ve found men in love will often do long before the women in question are ready to hear it, I told him that I was not ready to think of another wedding/marriage just yet, and would not be ready for at least five years. I refuse to rush into another marriage; I refuse to make any of the same mistakes again. But when I started catching up to Doug’s way of thinking, and let myself begin to fantasize about a small, outdoor wedding full of sunflowers, I learned that September 1st, 2012 – five years to the day after the day we met – falls on a Saturday; and so the date was set. If all goes according to plan – if we stay together, and can afford a small diamond, and Doug gets a few broken teeth fixed, and our families are supportive – Doug and I will be getting married two years from today. (And beginning to try to conceive children two years from tonight.) Save the date.
So it’s kind of ironic that we spent the better part of this morning wandering the part of Santa Barbara where my ex and I first got married. I say “first got married” because my ex is British, and we had to do a civil ceremony to keep him in the States six months before our actual, big-fancy-churchy wedding. Doug and Anabella and I went to my favorite coffee shop, where my ex had bought me a reusable travel mug as a wedding present; we walked past the flower shop where I’d gotten a tiny bouquet for the ceremony; and we wandered the grounds of the beautiful, historic, Santa Barbara courthouse, where the actual ceremony had taken place.
Although it was a little strange to be back in those memories, almost four years later, it’s time to finally reclaim these locations as my own – hell, this city was mine first, when I was going to school here, before my ex was even a dot on my radar. At the Coffee Cat, Doug bought me a honey hazelnut latte in a new reusable mug, since the last one broke long ago. We took pictures of the view from the top floor of the courthouse, and in the mural room, and I instead told the story of the time I’d sued someone in small claims here, and won. Every time the conversation turned to that wedding – like when Anabella asked about the bottle of Veuve Cliquot she’d gotten for us, and I had to tell her I never did get to drink it (my ex has surely split it with his new fiancee by now) – and Doug walked up, we quickly changed the subject.
Not that Doug didn’t know what we were talking about every time he was out of earshot, and not that there’s anything I feel the need to keep from him should he ask me later, but it just didn’t seem to matter enough for me to tell him then and there. I am trying to move forward, to think in healthy and well-adjusted ways about my past and my future, to recognize one’s impact on the other, but ultimately, to separate them. I am trying to make new memories, and get on with the telling of (what I hope will become) my true life story now.