Four years ago today, about this time, I was shaving my legs.
Stay with me, this isn't about my leg hair.
I was shaving my legs in the shower of a little hotel just outside of Chicago. In the adjoining suite were my mother, my sister, my best friend and a few other women I love. My father and brother-in-law were intermittently present, being sent out on errands.
The shower began like basically every other shower in my life, except that I'd been bustled in to the bathroom by a few of the aforementioned women. That, and it was quite a nice bathroom, large and clean and filled with sunlight. And I'd made sure to have a brand-new razor head, with which to shave my legs.
Somewhere between lathering up my right leg and beginning the removal of stubble, I was struck with an overwhelming sensation. I felt briefly faint, and found myself reaching for the wall to steady myself. My head spun. Something enormous was happening, something much larger than myself or the steamy shower or the people in the hotel room.
I'm getting married. I realized.
After the shower, one of my friends in the adjoining room would apply makeup to my face while another friend would do the same for my two bridesmaids - my sister and my best friend. Then that friend would do my hair. Flowers would be brought in to the room for all of us. We'd eat sandwiches that my brother-in-law would procure, realizing we wouldn't have a chance to eat again for a while. I would, soon, slide in to a white gown and my friends would place a veil on my head. I'd put on the jewelry and shoes my sister lent me from her wedding. My only brother would drive me in my little Honda to the church down the street. He'd get emotional. So would I.
Then I'd see my fiance, in a black suit, with his brothers, walking in to the same church. We'd all have our pictures taken and we'd drink bottled water in the stifling July heat.
And, shortly thereafter, we'd get married.
Nearly-fainting in the shower was the last moment I had by myself on July 14, 2006. For the rest of the day I'd either be accompanied by bridesmaids and relatives or by my new husband, and I appreciated the company. I loved that so many people were there on that day, helping us in ways large and small, supporting our union.
But I'll always be grateful for that brief, private moment of enormity. Because what followed it was solid, and hasn't left me: it was a calm and joyful sense of certainty.
Much of the time I have a typical American optimism, believing that things will turn out for the best, but I think much of my early relationship with DH was riddled with worry: we're so young, he seems so certain while I'm not. Honestly, he was ready to marry long before I was. But he was patient. When he finally proposed - a sweet surprise - I was excited about marrying him, but I was also nervous and occasionally terrified through the planning process. I'm still not entirely sure what it was, but I do know some things that it wasn't.
It wasn't about foregoing all my other options, because he's certainly everything I want in a man: hilarious, brilliant, strong, good with power tools and kittens and children. He's a skilled writer and a good singer and a great hugger. He has the best laugh, and great facial hair, and beautiful eyes. He is a keeper, in every way.
It wasn't worry about my in-laws, though I occasionally did fret that I was getting "too close" to them. They had welcomed me into the family long before the wedding - which had made me nervous, too, but which I now know is kind of silly. They're just welcoming like that. And they knew, before I did, how this relationship would work out.
So many things about marriage, about joining families, about the wedding, had made me nervous. I am a usually confident person who was plunged into the weird role of "bride-to-be" and became an anxious, fretting mess. Looking back I realize I'm just not bride material. The constant attention, the many parties, the plans that had to include everyone - it was a tiring process and even though I tried to stay calm and be rational about it, I cried plenty of times. I got into arguments with people I love. I cared about the wrong things and dismissed other things I shouldn't have.
But that morning, in the shower, I think the enormity of the moment was in part a realization that the planning is over, the fights are finished, the dresses bought, the cake decorated. The priest was checking over the liturgy. The musicians were warming up. All that was left, really, was to spend the day as it was planned. And that plan involved pledging my life to the best man I'd met. In that moment every fiber of my being told me that this was correct. I may have chosen stupid bridesmaid dresses (and I did) but I chose the right groom. Or he chose me. I suppose we had chosen each other, many times, by that point. We still do.
I was not a good bride. There are skills that brides need: grace, and a certain comfort with the spotlight in a time that is both intensely personal and very public. I didn't have a lot of those skills. But I was a bride for a short time, and we muddled through. At roughly 4:30 that day I became a wife. It was a change I welcomed. I was happy to shed the title of "bride". I felt I'd carried it too long, and too awkwardly.
This was the big surprise: I'm comfortable and happy with being a wife - at least, I'm great with being DH's wife. And he's excellent at being my husband. The words "husband" and "wife" sounded foreign to both of us initially, but the roles didn't take much getting used to. When the fanfare ended and the honeymoon was over and we started settling in to our first little apartment, we both marveled at how natural this was, living together and sharing the small decisions of life. The suddenly-blinding certainty I'd felt on the morning of our wedding has calmed down - for which I'm grateful, as I'd never get anything done if I was fainting all the time - but it hasn't dissipated. If anything, after 4 years and a career change and grad school and moving and adopting a cat and traveling and worrying about money and eating pizza on tired weeknights and arguing over dishes and everything that comes with sharing a life together, that certainty has become more solid. It was enormous when it struck me, because what we share is huge. But we have the rest of our lives for it to play out. For this I am more grateful than I can say.
Happy anniversary, DH. You're my favorite.