Sadie, Sadie, Married Lady

I recently had lunch with three family friends that I hadn’t seen in at least 5 years, meaning they didn’t know I had graduated twice, got myself married, and had a career. Naturally, they wanted to know about my marriage. Forget that I feel quite successful and proud of what I’ve accomplished in my education and professionally; I done got myself a HUSBAND? Amazing. Who cares about that master’s degree?! What good is that if you don’t have someone to procreate with?!

Woof. Here comes the onslaught of questions and a breakdown of what their responses mean.

Lunch Guests (LGs): “What does he do?”
Me: “He’s attempting to save the world through conservation work.”
LGs: “Oh.” (Not a doctor? Failure.)

LGs: “What’s his name?”
Me: “Paul.”
LGs: “Saul?”
Me: “No, PPPPaul!”
LGs: [sidebar with neighbor] “Is she saying Call or Saul?”
Me: “Puh, puh PAUL!”
LGs: “Oh! That’s a nice name.” (Biblical. Good work.)

LGs: “So what’s your new last name?”
And here we go……
Me: “I didn’t change it.”
[Insert dramatic pause and blank faces and insert longer more uncomfortable pause after the faces]
Finally someone speaks.
LGs: “Wha….Why?”

If you’re wondering if I’ve exaggerated that at all, as I am known to do, I promise that is 100% of what transpired. It’s amazing what someone can do to your relationship with words and pauses and blank stares like they’re trying to see if I’m just “kidding”. Believe me: that happens so often and you’d think I’d get used to it, but it’s painful every time. Something so amazing and so great that I decided to happen to me, getting married, and my excruciatingly long journey to accept marriage into my life, the research and dedication to figuring out if I ever wanted to do that and THEN! I FINALLY DO! And it’s not good enough because I didn’t “finish the job” and become a Mrs. It’s like we never got married, like it didn’t count, like we’re just fooling ourselves, still just co-habitating and living in “sin.”

Background: When my first serious relationship fell apart, I went on a campaign to be completely independent and single for a while. Three days later, I met Paul. We dated on and off for about a year until I got my stuff together and realized that he was probably one of the best people I’ve ever met (still is and more) and that I wanted to see where a serious relationship with him would go. You could say it went well. We were so in love and happy, but that never signaled a reason to get married.

I don’t think I really ever wanted to get married back then. Everyone thought that was weird, as in most people’s heads, you fall in love, get married and have kids. We both just didn’t see the point. We didn’t have any married friends nor did we see it improving our relationship. At all. We were living together at that point and saw a lot of people who loved each other not allowed to get married and a lot of people getting married in order to have weddings. The whole culture of marriage, to us, was centered around religion (which we definitely didn’t have any strong ties to), kids (which we didn’t have and weren’t planning on having) or having a wedding (which we hated).  So really, why? We had everything we wanted and a great life without marriage. Now why go and screw that up?

I was used to defending myself when people constantly asked why we weren’t married. I’m non-traditional about a lot of things and the people that matter understood and didn’t really seem to think it was that big of a deal if I didn’t want to marry. So my inner circle reinforced my position, as well as attending huge, lavish weddings I would never dream of ever even attempting to finance. That changed when we went to Nathan’s wedding, a childhood friend of mine. The whole thing blew me away, underneath a gorgeous tree in the front yard of the bride’s parents house. These southern Ohio rolling hills in the background on this wonderful June day was magical, dogs roaming around waiting patiently for a possible back scratch. Their friend officiated the wedding underneath this amazing arbor covered in flowers and when the ceremony was over, we were all instructed to carry our chairs over to the tent. Ha! There was mucho food and amazing wine and slow dances to the Beach Boys and a Girl Talk dance party. No fluff, no haughtiness, just pure unadulterated love. I caught Nathan before we left to tell him, “Wow this was amazing. Maybe I’ll have one of these someday…”
Nathan: “I thought you didn’t want to get married!”

Ah, me too.

On the way home from Columbus, Paul and I talked for three hours about it.  If we could do that, whatever that was, we’d get married. Marissa and Nathan were just so cute and it was completely based on how much they were crazy about each other and not about trying to impress with the chair covers or a dimly lit dining hall. I suddenly wanted a moment to show our entire circle of people that we were crazy about each other, too, with polite dogs roaming around and a quiet, non-condescending cuteness that made people pause and reflect on how much they loved their significant others. Love Fest. Love Party. Jubilee. And it was born. A year and a half later, we had thee best Jubilee in the world and it floors me everyday how great it was. And I’m married and happy and amazed at how our lives are better, not because we got married, but because of our journey to get here and the fact that we did it on OUR terms, not when people called us weird or disapproved but when it hit us on the side of our faces one night in Columbus.  When we were ready.

It was important for us to maintain our lives before we got married. We didn’t want anything to drastically change or have the jubilee be the “best day of our lives” because it was a time to pause and reflect, but it didn’t signify anything starting or ending, just a celebration of what we have. It was a very important day and a wonderful day, but it didn’t define us. It was important for me to keep my identity and to keep a sense of independence. I didn’t want his life to be mine; I wanted us to have separate interests and share our lives, not make one.  And that’s my decision and no one else’s. My name is mine and I choose. Me not taking Paul’s name has nothing to do with our commitment to each other and it’s funny: maybe some people think that’s what makes someone married, but why don’t men change their names? Why don’t married couples create a new name and go by that? Then it would be a true sense of change, both genders. Yo-nau? (laugh!)

I never make any derogatory remarks about the 95% of the population that choose to take their husband’s name. That’s what people do, right? And I get that people don’t understand and therefore want to question me but it’s tiring to have to constantly explain myself. You have to have some sort of REASON not to, like if you’re a doctor, a published author or Jennifer Aniston.

I tried telling people that I married my cousin so Yay! I didn’t have to change it because it’d be the same! Jokes! Not sure if not changing your name or marrying your cousin measures the same on the social outcast gauge as I got the same reaction to both.
Stare. Pause. “Oh,” and the people with guts, “Why?” It doesn’t ever really go anywhere after that which is disappointing because I desperately want to understand why this is so uncomfortable for people to digest.

My answers?
“Why should I? Dudes don’t have to change theirs.”
“I’ve been Sarah Ronau for 27 years; why should that change?”
 And, ridiculously, the Jeep commercial resonates.
Be proud of your name. It is what defines you. What makes you unique. Nobody can take that away from you. Not now. Not tomorrow. There is only one you.”

Moral of the story (finally, I know): The periph people, the strangers, the people that come in and out of my life for moments, are never going to be happy because they don’t get me. They’re not happy when I’m co-habitating, when I’m married without a married name. And it’s hilarious because I’ve been happy the whole time.