I married young. On purpose.
It seems like almost every day I'm being told by some stranger that I'm "too young to be married." The fact is, I'll be 27 this fall, and I always wanted to get married young. I had planned on this.
If I'm not being told by my elders that I'm too young, I'm being told by my contemporaries how lucky I am. I'm constantly being asked by my coworkers, clients, and customers how I was able to get engaged at 23 and married at 25.
(First of all, it's not a race. So let's all just chill out about that for one sec.)
Sure, a certain element of fate lead Alex into my life, and it definitely was a lucky break that we hit it off when we met, but certainly I can't chalk it all up to destiny when I very carefully and intentionally orchestrated the plan for my life.
It's almost every day that I read on facebook how chivalry is dead and that in a world of hookup culture and non-committal dudes trolling the web to get laid, it's so hard to find a suitable partner... Or even someone you'd want to go one more than two dates with.
Maybe it's because I got married too soon to have a Tinder account, but I never encountered this problem.
When I joined OKCupid in 2010, I was a second-semester senior, ten months post-breakup from an ultra-serious relationship, and basically signed up for a giggle. My thought was that I'd go on a few dates, get some free dinners between art classes, and think of the whole thing as a crazy college experience and move beyond it.
The night I signed up, I was on the site for about 5 minutes before I got my first message. I didn't even have any photos up yet. "Wanna come over?" It took me about two seconds before I saw online dating for what it really was: hookup central. Which I found I wasn't interested in. At all. So I got super picky.
My expectations about my online dating experience turned on a dime. I got dozens of messages a day which were very flattering, but often creepy, and I became really careful about who I gave my real name, phone number, or Facebook link to.
Even though I entered the online dating world with the idea that it would all be one big passing laugh, before I even went on a single date, I changed my perspective. I didn't just want a couple dinners and a crazy story to tell my grandkids. I wanted a boyfriend. I wanted a relationship, and I was very real with myself and my dates about what I was looking for. In my head, I started referring to this as "Intentional Dating."
I didn't go on my first OKCupid date until five weeks after I joined the site. Sure, I messaged guys. And a lot of guys messaged me. But, if someone's plans didn't line up with mine, I would move right onto the next thing. I didn't want to sleep with someone I barely knew, so if that was brought up within the first conversation, it was clear to me that it just wasn't going to work out. No hard feelings. In the words of early 2000s MTV: "NEXT!!"
About a month into being the owner of an OKCupid account, my future husband appeared in my visitors cache. I obviously didn't know (consciously) that I would marry this fellow, but I was a bit miffed that a cute guy named Alex had visited my page and not messaged me. So, I did it myself. I wanted a boyfriend and the guy with chopsticks sticking out of his mouth like walrus tusks, looked like a great option to me.
I broke the ice with a stupid joke, and he messaged back almost instantly. We bonded over our shared love of Bluegrass and after a couple days (yes, DAYS!) of messaging, I gave him my number. He did the right thing by texting me and asking me out on a proper date.
Unfortunately, our schedules didn't line up, and about a week went by without being able to meet up. But I was undeterred.
On the coldest, most bitter night of that year, I was sitting in the sleepiest class I took in all of college, when he texted me, killing time at an open mic across town, waiting for his friend to play. We texted back and forth, me holding my iPhone 3G under my desk, he blatantly ignoring the friends he went to the bar with, and although he tried to keep me from coming to the worst musical experience of his life, I decided to go meet him anyway.
I saw something I wanted and I decided to go after it.
In the basement club of the Lizard Lounge, over two frothy steins of Golden Monkey, we clicked. And we began seeing each other every night.
It didn't take long for me to stop looking. And so did he. Very early into our relationship, we both decided to close our OKCupid accounts. We woke up one morning together and went to breakfast in the South End. Over an enormous plate of eggs, bacon, and toast, I had to make a confession: I had a date with a different guy scheduled for the afternoon. And I didn't want to go on it. He smirked, and copped to the same dilemma. We both took a moment to cancel on our dates, and then deleted the dating app from our phones, right there at the Formica table as our breakfast grew cold.
Being vulnerable and talking about your feelings is one of the best and worst things about being in a relationship. Of course we were both guarded at first, but I wanted Alex to really know me, and I wanted to completely understand him. So I stopped telling white lies, pretending I'm less crazy than I really am, and avoiding conflict. I knew that a real relationship would never last if he didn't know my quirks, or understand my art school angst. Rather than concealing the parts of me I was afraid would drive him away, I was open about my issues and hang ups, and he was just as candid with me. It made for a really honest and fun start to our relationship. I felt free to be myself. I was accepted. I felt loved and cared for.
Which is why we didn't hold back those three little words for very long. Valentine's Day fell on a Monday, two weeks to the day after we met. I had that same boring evening class that I had left that cold night to go meet him, so in lieu of dinner, Alex sent me red roses and took me out to dessert. On the couch, back in my apartment where we'd had our first kiss, Alex told me he loved me for the first time. It was a rush of relief and joy to hear him say that. I remember feeling a little lightheaded for the rest of the evening.
As soon as I began seeing Alex regularly, I started to think of him as my boyfriend. I didn't pressure him to label it right away, but I gave myself a deadline. About two weeks into it, after we had exchanged I love yous, I began to feel a little antsy. I thought, If he doesn't bring it up in a few weeks, I will.
I know a lot of girls who would never dare to broach a conversation like that, but I didn't want to have to sit around and wait and feel awkward. Are we? Aren't we? Luckily, one night, about three weeks into dating, Alex introduced me as his girlfriend. I was elated. I stopped referring to him as Alex when I spoke to people about him. It became "my boyfriend this" and "my boyfriend that." I was annoying, and I loved it.
As soon as I was committed, I was committed. We spent every night together. I met his friends, he met mine. I didn't even look sideways at another fella. I didn't want to see him just sometimes, I wanted to be around him all the time, and lucky for me, he felt the same way. We took weekend trips, rearranged the furniture in my apartment together, and held hands at the grocery store.
As our relationship progressed and my graduation drew closer, we started making more and more plans together. Real life plans. Not plans about our next meal, or upcoming weekend, but we started making long-term decisions together. That summer, Alex bought his first car of his own and took me to test drive it and pick the color. After my graduation (which he took the day off work to attend!), we took a trip out to Los Angeles to see if we'd like it enough to move there together.
And then we did. After a weekend in the City of Angels, we decided to take the leap. We waited out the rest of that hot, humid, Boston summer, and then we planned a three week long road trip across the country in the car that he decided to get (in dark grey -- my idea!). When we got to California, we split the cost of a Crate and Barrel floor sample couch, and moved into a one bedroom apartment with both of our names on the lease.
We lived together in Los Angeles for about eight months before we got engaged on the hottest day of the year. Those eight months felt like the longest wait of all time because from the moment we moved into together, it felt like this elephant in the room. We both wanted to get married, and that was clear. We'd have these silly little conversations skirting around the subject by referring to a wedding as "special day" and marriage as the "m-word." Clearly, we are super cute.
Looking back, it seems quick to get engaged after less than a year-and-a-half of knowing each other, but at the same time, it felt like, when you know, you know.
But it was much more than knowing we loved each other and wanting to get married that brought us to our engagement on that sweltering June afternoon. It was being super careful about who I let into my life and my heart, being intentional about my plans for dating, feeling comfortable putting a label on our relationship, being open about our feelings and not afraid to say how we feel, and making big life commitment and plans together before we made the biggest plan of them all.
By the time we arrived at our wedding day, I felt confident that we had a deeply secure and honest relationship, and a firm foundation for our marriage. I don't think I would have been a 25-year-old bride if I had haphazardly dated, and been fickle about my feelings.
Maybe it's just that Alex was brought into my life by fate. Or maybe we both carefully orchestrated a wonderful partnership filled with trust, respect, and love. Maybe, just maybe, we planned it.