It's not about the house.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Johnny and I got married on a Friday the 13th. Not on purpose or anything, it just turned out that way. We were going to do it on Friday the 6th, but the rings didn’t come in time.

I guess you could say we eloped, although I’ve never used that word and it sounds weird when other people say it about what we did. To me, “eloping” means the boy comes and puts a ladder under your window and you climb down without waking up your parents, and then you two go together somewhere really far away – like Mexico, or Detroit. It means planning ahead, keeping a secret, following through. None of which, as I think should be obvious by now, are things at which Johnny and I particularly excel.

So I usually just say we got married at City Hall.

We did it when we did because Johnny’s mother died (on December 8th, 2005 – the 25th anniversary of John Lennon’s death; this was meaningful to Johnny) and I could see when he came home from the funeral that he was drifting. Rootless. Like a balloon without a string. So – after swearing my entire life I’d never do it, and after years of turning down his increasingly lackadaisical proposals – I decided to become his wife in order so that I could be that string for him. To touch him down. To ground him. Give him cold, hard proof at last that he and I were family. That he wasn’t all alone. It’s the greatest gift I’ve ever given anyone, if I do say so myself, and I’ve never regretted it. I want to punch him in the nuts sometimes – especially when he gets all smug about telling people I proposed to him – but that’s a temporary feeling, and it passes.

Anyway, I didn’t exactly “propose” to him in the traditional sense of the word – and, if I’m being honest here, he never actually “proposed” to me. What I said that January was along the same lines of what he’d said to me a thousand times, which was, essentially: “Do you think you might want to married?” He said “Yeah,” and that was it. The whole conversation had the feel of deciding what to eat for dinner.

We’d been living together for almost ten years by then, and I felt in my heart that having a capital-W Wedding would be ridiculous. (Which does not in any way imply that you shouldn’t have one, or that the one you had was absurd. Yours was – or will be – lovely. Really. With the white doves and the horse drawn carriages and everything? Really capital-L Lovely. Not ridiculous at all. But …) We’d been together long enough that not only had we started having sex already, we had also all but stopped. I think, legally, that meant we were already man and wife, and it just seemed silly to go through the white-dress motions.

(Now – and I’m being serious here – I really do not care about any correlation between the state of your hymen and the color of your dress. I only mean I didn’t want to do it, and the gratuitous sex joke was just for an easy laugh.)

Anyway, the fact we didn’t tell anyone about our plans was incidental, and it honestly boiled down to the slippery slope: as soon as you tell one person, we figured, you have for all intents and purposes decided to not tell the rest, and an invisible line has automatically been drawn dividing everyone you know.

I knew I couldn’t tell my folks without inviting my siblings. And my siblings have spouses (plus, at the time, one kid). And if my brother- and sister-in-law are going to be there, well, how could I leave out my bestest friend? And if I get to bring a friend, why shouldn’t Johnny? And what about his siblings? They’re all in Ireland, but we can’t do this and make it just about my family, after all…

In the end we left everybody out so no one would feel specifically abandoned – see? It makes sense. It didn’t work, of course. People were pissed. But I digress.

Massachusetts has a three-day waiting period: once you get your marriage license, you have to wait at least 72 hours before getting hitched (guns and marriages: so you don't do anything in the heat of the moment you might find yourself regretting when you sober up). But Johnny and I didn’t feel like having to do two completely separate things (see the “planning and following through” comment above), so we decided ro go to Maine. They don’t have a waiting period in Maine, and it just so happens that my parents have a place up there. As much as we'd decided not to tell anyone before we did it, it was important to me that my parents be the first ones we told after.

So we decided it would be a Friday. That way we could make a pretend excuse to see the Fossils (i.e., my folks) for the weekend, we could leave work early, get hitched at Wells Town Hall (right off I95, which is the exit you take to get to the Fossils, anyway), and be there to tell them in person less than an hour after the dirty deed was done.

For some reason – as much as I didn’t give a hoo about the pomp and circumstance – it was important to me that we have rings. “Yeah, naturally,” Johnny said when I told him, and he knew just the place. The jeweler that changes the battery on his pocket watch. In Quincy, where we used to live, right by The Irish Bar.

(That’s its real name, by the way: The Irish Bar. It’s not a euphemism.)

We had to go together to get our fingers measured, and we couldn’t do that during the hours they were open until we had the same day off: Tuesday (as it happened), January 3rd. But we sort of accidentally stopped off at the Irish for a couple first. And by the time we dashed over to the jeweler’s it was so close to closing that they couldn’t put the order in until tomorrow. Wednesday morning. And it would take three business days to fill the order. So we could not be wed on Friday after all.

Whatever. We’d do it next week, then. Same dif.

The week passed and I picked up the rings. I made plans with my parents, went to work. Then Friday rolled around and – in the early hours, while we were organizing with each other how we’d meet up in the city for the drive – I looked at the Weather Channel to gauge what to expect for our commute (it was January in New England, after all; you never know). And that’s when I saw, at the bottom of the screen, the date:

Friday, January 13, 2006.

“Johnny!” I hollered (I can’t remember, but I think he might have been in the bog).

“Yeah? What?” he hollered back.

“It’s Friday the 13th!”


“Are you sure you still want to do this? Should we wait?”

Johnny’s an Irishman, you understand. Most of you know. But what you might not fully comprehend is that an Irishman (or at least my Irishman) literally cannot spill salt without shaking it over his shoulder. Physically can’t walk under a ladder. And God help you if you put a hat down on a bed. It’s like – you know how, in a completely empty, thousand-space parking lot, you still feel obliged to fit your car between the painted lines? That’s how ingrained the magic is for him. And so naturally I felt obliged to check.

“Bollocks!” he said. “Wait for what?”

And so we went.

This post is long enough already, so some other time I will tell you about the actual ceremony (or, I should say, “ceremony”). I’ll tell you later about how the ladies at the Wells Town Hall were surprised at how little of a shit we gave. About how I wrote his wrong SS# on the form and had to run back in to change it, lest I wind up legally married to someone I don’t even know. About how we stopped off for a celebratory beer on the way to the Fossils, and how the place we chose turned out to be an OTB. About how we broke the news by handing M&D our marriage certificate, and how they assumed (before they managed to find their eyeglasses) that we were trying to tell them someone else had died. About how we called the entire family that night to break the news, and how my brother (who was the first to use the word “elope”) said he never imagined I would actually have the balls.

No. No, no. I’ll tell you all that garbage some other time.

For now, what I’ve been trying to get at through all these thousands of words is this: Johnny and I decided, because of all the folderol, that we would turn every Friday the 13th into a celebration. Not an anniversary, exactly, but just a just-because. Just because we’re idiots. Just because we suck. Just because we were together for ten years before we bothered to get married, so we’ve got a little making-up to do. And we have. We call it our “Thirteenth-iversary,” and what we mostly do on it is get drunk and listen to music and talk about what jackasses we can be. Which, to be perfectly honest, isn’t all that much different than what we do on most other Friday nights.

But as it’s turned out (and as I’m sure is truly difficult to imagine), it’s been a bit embarrassing. Because we told a few people about our 13th-saries, and some folks have been kind enough to send cards and things over the years. That is really kind and caring of people, but it was never our intent. It was only ever just a silly little notion. Johnny and I trying to take a blackguard thing and make it white, as it were. Because we, generally, have a stellar knack for doing just the opposite.

So what I want to say on this 13th, on the eve of stupid Valentine’s Day and in the spirit of making the blackguard white and all, is that along the way something surprising's happened: Being legally wed to Johnny – for all the "he's floating without a tether" crap that inspired my proposal? – in the end, well...

It seems to have gone and grounded me.

I wrote this yesterday but, what with all the drinking and listening to music, I forgot to post. I could just save it till next month, when another 13th-sary will roll around, but since it's Valentine's today I decided to go ahead.

So Happy 13th/VD, Johnny my love!

As long as we've got our roll of toilet paper handy, we'll be fine.


Janice said...

that is such a cool story! I've missed your stories...

You know? I didn't even realise that if Saturday was the 14th Friday must be the 13th, went right over my head and now its Sunday

beardonaut said...

Great story, and quite possibly the best reason to get married I've ever heard.

Renovation Therapy said...

Awesome post!!!

Jenni said...

Happy 13th aversary.
I had never heard of the hat on the bed thing until I met Chris.
This is a great post.

12ontheinside said...

Aww what a sweet story!

Happy 13iversary.

ege said...

Janice -- Thanks, Nana! I've missed them, too. (And if you missed Friday the 13th then I think that means good luck for seven years...)

Beardo -- Thanks, man. Coming from you, that's positively sappy.

RT -- Thanks!! Loved the pictures of your mom and her beau!

Jenni -- Thanks. I still don't understand the hat on the bed thing. I mean, shoes on the table, sure, but...

12 -- Aww, thanks! (I'm starting to feel like a bit of a bride, here, actually, what with all the thank-you notes I'm writing!)

Sashimi said...

Happy 13thsary :)

Where I come from, no one gives a "hoo" about friday the 13th, as long as the planets and stars are well aligned on D-day.

But we read..and we google, so we know all about friday the 13th neway!

ege said...

Sashimi -- Where ARE you from? I thought your blog said you were in the Midwest somewhere...

Sashimi said...

Well..take a guess :)
1) This is the end of my work day
2) I am not quite as far off as the land of origin of "Sashimi"
3) About Midwest...hmm...centre and north would best describe it, but that's just a red herring.( I used to be in Mn..once upon a time.)

ege said...

Aha, I cheated and looked at my sitemeter. Singapore! (I would never have figured that out, otherwise.)

Sashimi said...

Close...India :)

lili said...

Fantastic story!

su said...

I am still sad that we were not there with you!

jen said...

Great post! I love your wedding story. I had a (capital L) lovely wedding but it wasn't really the one I wanted because I was 23 and easily swayed by my MIL. So I always say "at my next wedding..." and leave it up to my husband's imagination to guess if he'll be at that one as a groom or a guest.

beardonaut said...

Yeah, I was having a bad day *grin*

Question: how do I spell that thing magicians say when they cast a spell? Hokus pokus? Google doesn't seem to know, or maybe I'm just not asking the right question... I know it's not the hokey pokey.

Lois Lane said...

Oh, what a wonderful story!

My husband and I were together for 15 years before we tied the knot, and we went in for all the hoopla (I didn't care, but hubby talked me into it and it made all the assorted parental units very happy, and there was cake, and you can't go wrong with cake.)