Wedding Album The Ex-Bachelor
Why one man chose to ditch the single life after years of swearing by it by Jod Kaftan
In his rearview mirror I could see the tears streaming down his face while my father screeched out of our driveway in his green Camaro. I was screaming, “Daddy, don’t leave us,” as my mom flung a plate with half-eaten tofu at the car and hit the Christmas figurine on the lawn of the couple across the street. Then there was only silence, accompanied by our dog’s maniacal barking as he chased his tail.
Maybe marriage wasn’t such a good idea. My parents met in a West Hollywood bar called the Raincheck. They were both actors in need of company. When I asked my dad what he thought when he first saw my mom, he said, “She was a pretty looking broad with a terrific figure—exotic.” When I asked my mom, she said she thought he was “fairly handsome” and would be a good provider to her four-year-old son from a previous marriage gone awry.
If romance is this tepid and practical, I came to think, I would rather grow old in a flophouse on 5th Street and spend my days watching C-SPAN. At least there’s dignity in solitude. If your whole existence is simply the output of a lukewarm encounter at a bar that no longer exists, you, too, would swear off marriage.
Historically, marriage was an invention that ensured your property would stay within the family. To me, aside from my own exposure, it just seemed like a rote social convention. I knew it was quite a thing to spend the rest of your life with someone, to resolve to be their partner unconditionally, to see another human being in their most vulnerable space and offer nothing short of your most tender mercies. It’s indeed quite a thing to choose to become another person’s family. I knew I would never approach such a commitment casually.
My parents made a mistake. I didn’t have to. Besides, there were too many hot women in the world.
Then I realized I was already spending the rest of my life with someone—myself. I was in my early thirties and at the peak of my bachelor life, when I was lying on the couch at 2 a.m., bored and sleepless and on the heels of another fizzled romance. I began to feel a wrenching pain in my chest. As my breath became shallow, I wondered who would discover my body if I died right then and there. Maybe my neighbor the pot dealer would notice a discerning smell and bang on the floor like he did when I played air guitar to the Cars. Or my ex-girlfriend the ballerina would finally show up with her Russian boyfriend and his brass knuckles to collect the unfinished dresser I refused to give back. Maybe growing old with someone other than yourself could be a sweet thing. Someone could at least find your body right away.
That was the beginning of the end of my cynicism. I had become bored with the false promise of “the chase,” of thinking that maybe someone better is out there. And since boredom, Sartre says, lies at the heart of existence, from this haze I began to see I was just living life in reaction to my parents’ failure. I had put marriage on such an unreachable pedestal no woman could be worthy of such faith. My parents, like everyone else, were fallible and well intentioned. People marry, they have children, they divorce, they laugh, they cry. It’s life. We do the best we can and call it a day.
And then I was ready for Lily. We worked together in a drab office that served as a backdrop for her radiant smile. I thought she was out of my league, but I’d talk to her anyway—I couldn’t help it. I wondered how long I could play the creepy-older-guy friend. It seems I couldn’t—I could only imagine her in my arms.
And then one night she kissed me. Soon after, I remembered a great piece of advice a brokenhearted busboy once gave me when I was waiting tables in San Francisco: “Never fall in love with someone who has more problems than yourself.” Not only did Lily have fewer problems than me, she had views of life I could never have seen on my own—that love is a right, not a privilege; that life is boundless; and that people deserve to snatch all the sweetness they can in this world.
Now, she never said this explicitly. Instead, she lived it. Maybe it was the way she demanded “cuddle time” after I’d start whining about work. Or the way she’d say “I love you” without hesitation. What sealed the deal was the way she looked at me with such bright eyes, such faith while curling into my arms after only a couple of dates. But mostly, she believed in me—the greatest gift any woman can give a man.
When I made my decision to ask for Lily’s hand, I knew I wasn’t just proposing to her but to the love she somehow unearthed in me. And so it was easy.
We’ve now been married for a year or so, and it’s wonderful to come home to her smiling face each night after slogging through the inertia of the 10 West. I laugh when I think back to the fear I had about the freedom I’d lose by getting hitched. Yes, I had to give up playing six straight hours of PlayStation and throwing crushed beer cans against the wall just for the hell of it, but I ain’t looking back.
If a miracle is nothing more than an unexpected thing that makes you better, then Lily is just that. Marriage is my declaration never to let this miracle slip away.