In late November I was in attendance at the Tyler’s Love and Life in Atlanta event. In fact, I was the event photographer as I’ve been for several of the Tyler New Media events over the past twelve months. During the engaging discussion on love and romance, I was struck by one of the featured panelist’s statements which I will paraphrase below:
Boys don’t grow up wanting to be married.
He went on to talk about little girls and their play wedding dresses and all the little fantasies that they have around a wedding and that boys just want to have that girl that is their friend, that will ride with them. And I am inclined to agree. I never once gave much thought to a wedding as a child. But something about his blanket statement didn’t sit well with me. And it took me a couple of days to figure it out: Personally, I’ve always wanted to be married.
Marriage Every Day
How could I not? First off, I saw marriage every day in my home. Even on the days my folks didn’t get along I wanted to be married. I just didn’t want to be married like them. And then there were days that I wanted multiple wives of different nationalities and backgrounds. A cousin informed me that unfortunately this was illegal in the United States. But even still, it was marriage that I wanted.
But what I wanted and what I got were too different things. Love, and even like avoided me for many years for no valid reasons. I was an ugly duckling, chided for my appearance and misunderstood for my shyness. Growing up, many of the girls I liked passed on me, preferring the more gregarious, muscular, personality-having types instead.
Love & Sex Are Not The Same
In college things went full circle. I had all but outgrown my youthful awkwardness and had evolved into a man — who still wanted nothing more than real love from a woman. When I asked my first college love to be my girlfriend (yes, I actually asked) she told me she had a boyfriend back home and asked if we could just “have fun together”‘in school. It wasn’t exactly a rejection, right? I actually considered her offer until another friend, a female best friend, strongly advised me, short of calling me crazy, not to, instructing me to “never play second fiddle.” My young and impressionable mind and heart let those words sink in deep, so deep that I began to believe no one was to be trusted. I became ultra-suspicious and downright sinister if I felt someone was even hinting at taking advantage of me. I quickly became the king of the One Strike you’re out rule. I broke hearts before mine could be. I broke hearts just because. Then I crossed paths with an older woman, a twenty-two year old senior, who schooled me on how to selflessly love a woman. Then she left school and me to enter the real world.
Abandoned, alone and angry, but now officially “trained” by a grown woman, from my perspective, I became downright lethal — a master manipulator in the finer art of seduction, and even worse I never shared nor bragged to friends. But people talk and my reputation began to precede me well beyond the boundaries of my freshman class. But for all the “fun” I was having there was a great emptiness inside me. No matter what the scenario or “conquest” afterwards, I would typically feel broken and cheap. Little did I know then that I was suffering from a lack of love and only making matters worse by giving myself away for less than free to almost anyone who was interested. And because I wasn’t sharing, no one knew to tell me to stop or suggest there was a better way. Not that they would have. My peer group was a bunch of eighteen to twenty year old boys. There wasn’t much any of us could’ve done for each other at the time.
Enough Was Enough
By the time I was a senior I was over it: disgusted with myself and everyone around me. Profoundly sad that so women “knew” me but didn’t know me at all. Mad at myself for bringing it all on myself. Frat brothers and friends looked at me like I was crazy when I talked about only wanting to make love unless I was in love. For women I was now the worst of all the guys — the quiet one. No one ever knew my pain because I had done so much, in vain, to mask it with sex. No good woman was going to waste her time getting her heart broken by me so they just opted to pass the time. This followed me into adulthood where I evolved into “the good time guy” — the one you messed with when you want to be romanced and treated with respect, but not the one you stayed with. And of course, this led me down the dark path of adultery. I knew the risks but I took them anyway. I knew the bible verse too. As friends got married and divorced, cheated on their wives, etc., I simply didn’t get it. I would’ve given anything to have for a day what they couldn’t seem to appreciate at all. The final straw came when someone I truly cared for told me she would never fall in love again moments after being intimate. She was on the rebound from a divorce and speaking from her place of pain. She had no idea the impact of her words on me. I broke things off with her the next day and swore myself off women cold turkey. They weren’t the problem. I was. As fate would have it, the woman remarried and had a beautiful daughter. Such is life.
Eventually I got my act together when a wonderful woman found me while I was walking through midtown Manhattan on my lunch break. But it took me a long time to pull the trigger and pop the question. It angered her and she assigned all the appropriate terms to me: non-committal, indecisive and even immature. But what she thought was my condition were merely the symptoms of my longstanding hurt.
I don’t expect many men to openly express that they always wanted to be married. But I know as the person writing this post that one man did grow up wanting to be married. I wanted to be with that one person who was one with me. I saw it in my community and I valued it. I was too young and too much of a boy to know or care about the dresses and rings, but I did want that one woman to be mine, forever. I remember my first thoughts of this back from when I was in first grade. There have been plenty of hiccups and hurdles along the way, but that doesn’t change the fact I wanted a wife. How about you?
BMWK – Do you agree with the blanket statement that boys don’t grow up wanting to be married?