love, marriage and someone else's american dream
love, marriage and someone else's american dream
"You marry for money. Love comes later."
My grandmother said this to me when I was 21 and breaking off an engagement with a guy who was financially stable but mentally one fry short of a happy meal.
Grandma was old school. In her world, women married out of necessity, not love. They reached a certain age and it was expected they would marry, have children, tend to the every need of their husband and live a life of quiet servitude. Women depended on men the way you depend on air to exist. As long as he put food on the table and went to work every day you could overlook the drinking, the womanizing, the occasional name calling.
The first time I married, I thought it was for love. It certainly wasn't for money. It wasn't until 7 years and two kids later that I realized I was confusing love with need. As in you need to marry me because it's your only chance. You need to stay with me because you will never find anyone else. You need to get married at 25 because all your friends and cousins are getting married and it's just what's expected of you.
My father, subjected to my grandmother's ideas of stations and standards and gender roles for most of his life, expected certain things of his daughters. Marrying was one of them. Marrying well was another. He meant well. All he wanted for us was the American Dream. The problem is, his American Dream is not mine. He wanted me to live his life. He wanted me to meet the standards he set for himself. Own your own home. Have two cars. Pay off your credit on time. Look good in the public eye. Keep your lawn trimmed and put your garbage out on Tuesdays and join the PTA bowling league and make sure your kids never have snotty noses. And always, always depend on your man. He will make the money and put the meat on the table and he will negotiate with all car salesmen while you nod your head politely and he will provide.
Well, I tried. I tried for seven years to give dad what he wanted. Two problems with that, though. My husband would not oblige dad's dream and it wasn't really what I wanted anyhow.
I wanted to hold hands. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to take walks on the beach and go to DisneyWorld with the kids and smile for the camera and be happy. I wanted dinner conversation and cuddling in front of the fireplace and I wanted to go to bed at night with a content heart and arms wrapped around me. That was my dream. Not the house, not the car, not the Ivy League education for my kids. Happiness. Contentment.
Of course, I got none of that. I didn't get my own dream or my dad's. So when the marriage bit the proverbial dust, no one batted an eye. No one was surprised. Life went on. And I would get another chance at the dream.
Forward to now. When I tell my father I'm getting married again this summer, I know by the look in his eyes that he is happy for me, yet not. This is not his dream for me. This is not his standards. He wants me to save money. He wants me to put away for a rainy day. He wants me to buy a house and another car and he wants my future husband to have more of a station in life. An accountant would have been nice. A lawyer. A fireman. Someone who joins the Kiwanis club and golfs on weekends and provides for his daughter.
I tell my father, finally. That is not my life. That's his. And for once I am living my own life. I am setting my own standards. This is my rainy day. He wants me to save for my future but my future is now. I am almost 40. I deserve a life. I may never own my own home and we will probably always drive shitty cars and I will never, ever again depend on someone else to provide for me. I have my own career, my own bank account, my own things. This isn't going to be a marriage about status or money or white picket fences. This is a marriage about love. We may never join the Chamber of Commerce or have a family golf outing, but we will always be happy. After putting the most miserable years of my life behind me, I am finally happy.
I tell my father, this is the most content I have ever been in my life. That maybe he finds contentment in a manicured lawn and zero balance on the Visa, but I find contentment in holding hands and cuddling by the fireplace and dinner conversation. I find contentment in the warmth of my home, even though I don't own the particular home. I find happiness in the life I have chosen for myself. And I know that, although he won't come right out and say it, at least not yet, my father finds happiness in that.
I'm sure grandma is looking at me from whatever world she is now, shaking her head and silently cursing my decisions. But times change, grandma. This time I'm marrying for love. Maybe the money will come later. Maybe not. All I know is I go to bed at night with a content heart and arms wrapped around me. I am living my dream.