Friday, February 21, 2014

"So how did you meet?"

B and I will celebrate the second anniversary of our pseudo-wedding (I call it the 'white-dress-big-celebration') day next week. We actually got legally hitched several months prior to this anniversary, on a Friday afternoon at a Massachusetts town hall. We lived large afterwards, by which I mean we followed the ceremony with tapas and non-alcoholic drinks, and then we drove to a mall for a 'temporary' ring for B. The jewelry store clerk may have judged me when I announced that we wanted to look at wedding rings that were in the double digits, max.
Anyway - we did have the big fancy celebration eventually. It was wonderful, amazing and everything that you could want your special day to be. My family flew in from all over the country, while B one-upped me by having several relations fly in from Peru and Switzerland. I met his large, exuberant extended family, who all welcomed me with lots of hugs and excited declarations in Spanish, while I smiled sweetly and subtly pinched B's arm, which was meant as a reminder to remember what was being said so that he could translate later (he never remembered. Or maybe he wanted to shield me. Either way, I never found out. But I did discover that his family gave my loud, boisterous one a run for its money, so I loved them all immediately).
Last month, I got an email from one of B's young cousins asking if she could interview me about our wedding for a journalism class. I started to write her back immediately, then hesitated. That evening I had this conversation with B:

Me: So, I got a message from <your cousin> today. She wants to talk to me about our wedding! Isn't that fun?

B: What? Why didn't she message me? I'm her cousin! Why did she want to talk to you?

Me: Challenge - tell me one thing you remember about our wedding.

B: It was in Florida.

Me: Where in Florida?

B: Orlando.

Me: Nope.

B: I meant Tampa.

Me: Still no. When was it?

B: January.

Me: No. And that's why she messaged me.

B: Fair enough. Are you going to talk to her?

Me: Well, I was going to, but she wants to know how we met. And then I realized - does anybody in your family actually know how we met?

B: Hmm, not sure. *shrugs*

Me: Well, does your mother? Or at least your brother and <other cousin [B has a lot of cousins]>, right? I mean - I played WoW [World of Warcraft, an online game] with them years ago. Do they know I'm the same person?

B: Yeah, probably. Well, maybe.

Me: Maybe? How did you explain our wedding to them?

B: I didn't, really.

Me: But they showed up.

B: Yep.

Me: *blink blink blink* You don't find that strange?

B: Nope. Is there any dessert tonight?

/end of conversation

To this day, I still don't know how B ever explained our meeting, courtship, and subsequent engagement/marriage to his family (many of whom read this blog, and I just want to say that your unquestioning acceptance of me has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, especially now that I know you may have never received an explanation of how I appeared in B's life. And it's a bigger gesture than I myself would be capable of - if my cousin/nephew/son/sibling/grandchild got engaged to a woman, I would be way nosier).

From what I can tell, B has never had to field questions about how we met, so he doesn't need to have a story ready (I mean, if he hasn't told his own family, I assume he hasn't felt the need to divulge to strangers). I, however, - perhaps because of my transplantation to Switzerland or the fact that B isn't American - get this question all the freaking time. Almost daily. It's the most common conversation opener. Well, not quite. In reality, it's people's third question. The first two are these:

Nice Person I'm Meeting For The First Time: Oh, so you're American. What brought you to Switzerland? [Question #1]

Me: My husband.

NPIMFTFT: Oh, he's Swiss? [Question #2]

Me: *grimaces because I still haven't found a way to answer this question clearly - and I know it* No, no. I mean, he's lived here since he was a teenager, he came over with his family. He's actually Peruvian - well, I mean, not really, technically he's a Spanish citizen, but he's never actually lived in Spain, it's just that it's EU, so it's more useful here than a Peruvian passport would be. So his native language is really Spanish, but he does speak German - I mean, high German, he doesn't speak Swiss German. Although he understands it - well, I think he does. At least he understands Baseldeutsch, but he moved to Zurich for work as an adult. So he just replies to Swiss people in High German, so yeah. And I mean - we speak English together, so he speaks that, too.
(Note: sometimes NPIMFTFT mercifully interrupts me before I get through all this. If not, however, there are several followup questions in which I have to clarify a multitude of assumptions: that I speak Spanish or have lived in Switzerland previously, that he is a Peruvian or American citizen, that he speaks Swiss German, that he has ever lived in the US.)

NPIMFTFT has one of two reactions. Either their eyes go wide and they involuntarily draw back to distance themselves from the crazy rambling lady or they lean forward, fascinated by this person who isn't able to answer basic questions in a concise manner.

NPIMFTFT: Wait, so then how did you meet him?

And there it is, the question. After approximately ninety seconds of interaction that were largely dominated by my verbal rampage, I now have to decide which story to tell. Because I always have two stories of our meeting prepared. A short, purposefully vague one without a real ending that people nod, smile, and move on from (but which makes for extremely awkward followup if I get to know the person more closely), or a longer (technically more accurate) one that inevitably leads to multitudes of follow up questions and very often thinly-concealed judgment that I and/or my husband make poor life decisions.

Honestly, the main reason I came up with the short story was to avoid judgment. B doesn't care about such things, but if we're together, he will gamely go along with whichever version I decide to tell (however, after one unfortunate experience, he is strictly forbidden from adding his own embellishments).
I have slowly realized that after a year of living together and maintaining a ridiculously happy marriage, much of my concern about being judged has dissipated. How we met has begun to lose significance as we navigate our relationship, which is as real as (and in my biased opinion, a lot more fun than) everybody else's, regardless of how or when we met. So, for our anniversary, I plan to share the long-but-true story of how we met. Some people consider it romantic, while the majority probably lean more towards 'totally insane.' Regardless, it's worked out for us. I feel so lucky to have found a life partner that makes me laugh, feel safe and wonderful and this is getting too mushy, so I'll stop.

Ok, almost. Just one more thing - my life is so much better with B in it and, supposedly, the feeling is mutual (although he does point out that his life is also more expensive with me in it. Then I point out that he's welcome to stop eating his rack of lamb that I prepared and go back to his nightly salami-and-mustard-on-hot-dog-bun sandwiches. He'll then make a crack about my yarn cabinet and I threaten to dismantle his so-top-of-the-line-that-he-had-to-build-it-himself gaming computer and we move on).

1 comment:

  1. Hi M... how dare Bruno question you why anyone asks you for things instead of him? I/you would've thought it was obvious... lol... I dont think even Brad would ask me why anyone asks me for things instead of him... (as you have found out with our previous/current plan arrangements :) )
    Well... technically i THINK I did get some kinda of story of how you guys met... at least the "to-the-point-Bruno-version"... and I THINK (or at least he told me so) that I was the 1st one to tell about his proposal to you (tia Marga don't be mad ;) ) I think it just was good timing on my part by being in MSN/Skype at that time and I followed his announcement of his engagement by interrogating him about "this woman that I know nothing about or have approved of for him that he dares proposing to without me knowing (lol of course I was joking... kinda; if you haven't noticed we are pretty closed cousins)...
    Well I can't wait to hear the complete/detailed/accurate story...
    PS: I think I have a similar issue when peple ask me how Brad and I met and how come I'm a peruvian that lives here... like you depending ont he person I'll tell the short version or the intricate one... which usually is followed up by "why didn't you play proffesional tennis?" lol yeah right!