Prisms: an Essay on the Anxieties of an Approaching Marriage
Diamond: from the Greek αδάμας (adamas)
“proper,” “unalterable,” “unbreakable”
The Japanese have two words for truth, honne and tatemae. Tataemae describes the truth revealed by the words we speak, the feelings we visibly show by crossing our knees or twitching our fingers. Honne, on the other hand, describes the internal truth, the conflicts and maxims hiding in our conscience, that which is tangled at the roots of our fears, hopes, or dreams, perhaps unacknowledged yet ever-present. Honne is with us always, but is hardly recognized.
Truth: In three days, my future in-laws will be hosting an engagement party for my fiancée and me. Truth: Today, right now, as I watch my fingers glide along the keyboard delicately tapping letter to letter, I am not wearing my engagement ring.
It is a heavy ring, and for this I am happy. I slam my hands into doors and counter-tops; a delicate diamond would not do. Still, I feel its presence on my fingers every minute. My hand is influenced by its weight.
Our wedding is in less than a year.
“The Truth must dazzle gradually / or every man be blind—”, wrote Emily Dickinson.
Love is blind said someone else.
Wintertime: the backseat of his friend’s car. The windows fogged. Jim Morrison on the radio. A blind date. He said he’d let me breathe, then held his breath. Two weeks later I held his grandma’s hand in the backseat of his car on the way to meet his parents. When we arrived, his father ran the engine of his cherry red ‘Vette; his mother set the table for Sunday sauce.
The author with her beloved.
I wondered how I ever got so lucky.
Nothing is ever at is seems is something I’ve learned to always be true.
Comparing your relationship to another’s, I’ve been told, is love-suicide. The sphere of your relationship is unique to you and your partner alone. Relationships are a two way street, they do not exist with just one entity, they do not exist with three entities; the partnership is a duo. A marriage, I am reminded by my eighty-three year old aunt, has boundaries. Everyone draws a straight line differently.
“When I speak passionately, / that’s when I’m least to be trusted” wrote Louise Glück.
The older women in my life assure me I’ll be a balaboste, Yiddish for a tender wife and good house-maker. Even as a young, lanky, four-eyed girl with my head in a book I fantasized of fulfilling the role, returning home to the same man, day in and day out; he and I with our tiny rituals, a golden retriever named Hank and a bed almost always haphazardly made because we wouldn’t be able to take our hands of each other.
I do not mean to say that all I want to be is a wife. What I do mean to say is that I know I was put here to love (aren’t we all?), and being engaged, becoming engaged, has felt like an answer to this calling.
We have followed tradition. He lives at home, as do I. After he proposed, we booked the wedding and began looking for a small home in the suburbs. He is an Italian from Jersey and I am a good Jewish girl from Brooklyn.
You can’t handle the truth, Jack Nicholson proclaimed.
On Sunday, I am going to my engagement party. By this time next year I’ll be a wife.
What am I trying to say?
I think I’m supposed to be nervous as hell. Just consider the rhetoric of it all, the reality of sickness over health, even the totality of the rest of my life. I’ve tried very hard to parse through my anxieties, categorizing them under “healthy” and “unhealthy”, so maybe what I am trying to do here is tell you the truth.
Maybe none of us are ever really prepared to devote ourselves fully to another, maybe the only thing we can do is try.
Truth: My engagement ring is soaking in a mixture of Windex and warm water so that the grime of my daily subway commute and student-books-paper contact dissipates off the diamond.
The rest of my life will be hard work. Every day I will have to learn how to be love better, but because I will love better, I will be better, and that will make the hard work worth it.
Truth: Like a phantom limb, without the ring, my finger feels incomplete.
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