Remember when the drummer from the lesbian punk band Broken Heart, Broken Hymen cave-manned you against the handicapped stall in the bathroom of a dive bar, which could have been construed as a violation except that you were into it? And remember that circle jerk in a hostel in Amsterdam, which isn’t something you would normally do, but when in Amsterdam, do as the Dutch: get high and circle jerk with four German tourists on a hostel floor. And remember your freshman year when you thought you were taking her virginity and she was taking your virginity but it turns out that she wasn’t just not a virgin, she was on her period, and afterward it looked like your penis was covered in sweet chili sauce? Remember that?
And remember the time you fucked the Jehovah’s Witness, the two of you snorting coke off coasters and pressing your vaginas together until your thighs were like suction cups that made embarrassing farting sounds that you pretended not to hear? Remember how she later asked if you thought Jesus was sad for what you had just done, to which you replied, You got off three times. Nobody’s sad.
These are the things you will think of as you lie in a hospital bed at the age of 90, passing urine through a tube, not even pushing it out but letting gravity and modern medicine drain your kidneys. You might think of today, your wedding day, and you might think of the day your daughter was born, but mostly you will think about the things that happened before this wedding; the things that happened before you joined another family and then made another family, before the mass holiday cards and all-day swim meets.
As you lay there, dying, you may think of how much you loved your son when he was so young that his Speedo wasn’t yet embarrassing. You may think about how that same son kind of turned into an asshole in his 20s and is still one on this final day of your life. You will think of this wedding and the kids and the grandkids, maybe, but mostly you will think of the things that happened before today, the things that happened when you still had something to look forward too, the things that happened before you wed.
You never thought you’d be before your friends and family and your parents’ friends who you don’t know but whom you had to invite. Even after the lesbian phase, you thought you were beyond marriage, different, radical, above convention and ceremony, not a lamb, an individual. But here you are, about to get married, about to become your mother and your father and everyone else who has done this before you and everyone else who will do this after you. And why? Because you are scared. Because you are a third of the way through your life and you don’t even know what you want to be when you grow up. Because you’ve recently realized that adults are just children who pay bills and that you are one of these child grown-ups, not scared of the dark but scared of dying alone with no one to change your diaper or clip your toenails or wipe the drool from your chin. You are here because you are looking for the person who will save you.
But she won’t save you and he will annoy you. Yes, you will have your moments. Sometimes you will look forward to his arrival home from work, sometimes you will want to hibernate under a pile of warm laundry with her, but you will always long for the past, the day before today, when you were still excited to leave the house because who might you run into on a Thursday night? Because anything can happen on a Thursday night when you are young and single and free. You could climb an 11-story crane with a girl you just met but who has very wise eyes. You could smoke pot in a walk-in cooler with that guy who sometimes smiles at you on the bus. You could meet the love of your life. But you’ve already met the love of your life and now nothing will happen on a Thursday night because you are tethered to the person beside you like a disease that isn’t deadly lasts forever. After today, you will sit on your couch and watch movies for the rest of your life. That’s all there is after today. Movies and couches and laundry to fold.
Someday soon you will flirt with a barista who has a tattoo of a toaster with wings on her left shoulder. You will go to the coffee shop instead of brewing at home even though you should be saving for your anniversary cruise. Not long after that, you will start to think of someone else when you have sex with your husband, someone who doesn’t piss on his feet in the shower because he thinks it cures athlete’s foot. And when you have sex with your wife—and though this will be rare, you won’t really mind because you can only have sex with the same person so many times until it is like having sex with yourself—you will think of someone who you don't have to buy tampons and Monistat for. You will think of the woman at the gym who wears her iPod attached to her biceps with a pink band, biceps that are not too muscular, but lean and toned, more like a Pilates instructor and than a softball coach. You will turn to Craigslist and imagine the girl emailing you pictures of her tits is the Pilates instructor, who seems like a really great cook with an insatiable sex drive and a beautiful wine collection. You will be relieved that your husband is not pressing his erection into your back every night when all you want is to go to sleep and wake up and be 20 years old again.
But for now, at least for tonight, there is no disappointment, only possibility. You don’t yet know that he will get drunk at your office Christmas party and ask your boss when the baby’s due even though she’s just bloated. You don’t yet know that her mother will move in with you in just seven short years, bringing three cats and her collection of nutcrackers. What you know now is that the arch of her foot is the most beautiful geometry in the world; that the color of his eyes exists only in his eyes and nowhere else. What you know now is that you won’t miss Thursday nights at the singles bar one bit; that everyone else in this room is secondary; that all the love you’ve ever felt is nothing against this new love; that you will spend your last years together, too old and ugly and tired to change the channel or fold the laundry, but still glad that if the lives you’ve created have to dim, at least they will dim together.