By R. CHASE
My neighbor Sven recently asked me what it was like to be married.
I had him perform a mental exercise in which he obtained a dog crate, a pair of scissors, and a plate.
â€œNow cut off your testicles,â€ I said, â€and place them on that plate, along with your wallet and checkbook, then hand them to a woman. Go ahead and lock yourself in the dog crate and listen to her complain about everything she hates about you for the rest of your life, which with any luck will be mercifully brief.â€
Women have called me a lot of things over the years. â€œRomanticâ€ has never one of them.
But on a perfect day this July, I attended a perfect wedding at Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma County, California. And there I saw two good friends recite their vows and walk off into the sunset, hands clasped tightly around one another as their entire community and family celebrated the occasion. As they passed my seat, the heartfelt visage of joy spread across their faces provided the emotional lubricant to pry open these rusty gates, which have clamped shut my heart since late 2007.
Twenty-four hours earlier, drenched in a cloud of angst, wine and cigarette smoke, Alaina grabbed my arm and pleaded for help with her wedding vows.
â€œYouâ€™re a writerâ€¦â€ she said, dragging my half-willing body into their indoor smoking patio (which was once my garage) to sit down in front of her computer.
As I emerged from the profusion of mad poetic license, her fiancÃ© Zakk cornered me in the laundry room.
â€œI need help with my wedding vows.â€ Off we went again, and I imagined I would once again wave my literary wand, but since I knew the bride-to-be far better, I was at a loss for what to say. And then I did something out of character.
And his story was pretty damned good.
For 10 years he had been watching and admiring this woman from afar. For a decade, he confided in me, he had seen her as his perfect woman. And tomorrow he was going to be bound in wedlock to his feminine ideal. It was literally the most important day of his life.
If itâ€™s not much of a surprise to most people that the modern bachelor is a little wary of the concept of â€œmarriage,â€ it may not be so equally well-known that we arenâ€™t necessarily opposed to it â€“ itâ€™s just that so many of our friends were victims of â€œmarriage by attrition.â€
Many marriages happen because people think thatâ€™s what theyâ€™re supposed to do when theyâ€™ve been together long enough, or when they graduate college, or when they get pregnant. Or maybe men are afraid to lose their girlfriends if they donâ€™t â€œpop the question.â€
Marriage, despite our romantic inclinations, is often a social construct. It generally occurs between people of relatively the same age, race and socioeconomic status. Did you think the universe strategically placed your soulmate in your 11th grade homeroom just to make it easier to find them?
But this marriage was no middle-school romance. It was one of those rare moments of genuine love that you so rarely get to witness. I watched them from my white fold-out chair, delivering to one another the very lines I had written just hours before.
The moment the groom, handsomely draped in youthful exuberance and a three-piece linen suit, reached the keystone line, it hit me like a hammer.
â€œAnd to you I offer the unwavering devotion of my heart.â€
Iâ€™m not afraid to say that a tiny tear welled up in my right eye â€“ whether borne of narcissism or pure romantic sentiment I donâ€™t know â€“ but the perfect delivery of the perfect line I had so carefully crafted provided the catharsis I needed to rid myself of some old baggage.
I suddenly thought that perhaps, just perhaps, marriage wasnâ€™t so bad after all. Perhaps these were subjects of personal misgiving only because my own experience with it had been such a tragedy.
We donâ€™t go to weddings just for free food, wine and a chance to bed one of the bridesmaids. We also go to participate in the communal sharing of joy and happiness that comes with friends and family making the choice to share their lives together.
So to Mr. and Mrs. Murphy I offer my undying thanks, not just for the invitation to share in the most important day of their lives, but also for the opportunity to restructure my chronic misanthropic perception of the world.
Congratulations, and I (might) still owe you a wedding present.
Would you prefer the monogrammed toaster, or the berry spoons?
R. Chase is a local writer and surveyor of single life on the Bourbon Trail. Follow him on twitter at @_RChase.