Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Part III: ending the courtship phase

Speeding along through my personal utopia I was fairly oblivious to the outside world and did not want to see it come to an end. So I strapped on my love blinders and became entirely consumed by all things Mitch and brushed off anything that detracted from my perfect image of what he could be, not necessarily of what he was at that moment. I'm afraid I had succumbed to the role of the rescuer. I thought I could save him from his current drifting. I thought I could save him from his family. I thought I could save him from his own self-doubt. I thought I could will him into being what I wanted him to be. He was simply a diamond in the rough that needed my guidance and discipline and love would conquer all.

Of course during the idyllic days of spring when the whole world simply hums with the buzz of new life which is interpreted by new lovers as love, I thought the perfect moment in which we were were living could go on forever. Which explains why I vividly remember making comments such as "I want to always live in a small college town," where I would of course teach at some small college. Or, more ironically, I was known to say such things as "I don't even have a desire to visit a place like New York City - too much cement and people!" Oh, if I could have only had glimpse of my life ten years into the future . . .

Not that I would have paid it any attention. I was too all-consumed with the present. And as I have stated, the present included only Mitch, Gretchen, her boyfriend and a smattering of other outsiders.

But Mitch and I couldn't exist entirely in this vacuum devoid of outside influences. Eventually I had to introduce him to my family. I don't remember when or how they first met but I believe my sister was the first to meet him when she came to visit me for Easter weekend. She was still in high school at the time and she, like me, was completely charmed. He was the same person around her as he was around me - teasing and flirty and fun. We spent one day of Easter weekend in Panaca, a tiny little deseret town just over the border in Nevada, with little to recommend itself other than some astonishly beautiful rock formations in the adjacent Cathedral Gorge State Park. On the drive out Mitch pointed out the beautiful wildflowers growing along the highway which he named "nearoadies" which amused us because we were both caught up in his spell. We endured a rather dull and lifeless Easter lunch with Mitch's grandparents and family then escaped to the Gorge to explore the exquisite beauty of the rocks that truly looked like a Cathedral.

The one objection my sister had to Mitch was my willingness to allow him to help me scrabble up the rocks by taking his hand. I was (and am) stubbornly independent and my sister had always known me to push through with an "I can do it myself" attitude, so she had never witnessed me literally reaching out for help like a girl who did not consider herself to be an avid rock climbing enthusiast might do. At that point in my life I would climb anything without fear or hesitation. I proudly wore skinned knees and bruises as battle wounds of my outdoor adventures so allowing a boy to lend me a steady hand to leap across a crack in a rock or pull me up onto a ledge which I could easily have maneuvered myself was startling to her. . . as it should have been.

I was not myself. Mitch had already started to take away my independence and insist on inserting himself into my life as the only person on whom I could rely. It was subtle but I believe it had already begun.

Other friends were being introduced into our equation and it soon became evident that I did not like his friends. They were losers in every sense of the word. For his late-April birthday I organized a camping trip (back to Cathedral Gorge). We invited Gretchen and Kevin, two of his friends and their girlfriends and Liz and her new boyfriend - her now husband. Liz, Gretchen and I took an immediate dislike to one particular couple Mitch had brought along - Luke and the poor girl who had to kiss him (Liz and I still mercilessly laugh about how gross they were). I cannot even begin to describe how much I disliked that kid from the start. His other friend Benji was a bit more acceptable to me at that early stage but only because I didn't know what role he would play later in my marriage. Other than the oddball friends, it was a great weekend during which I discovered a peach cobbler in the dutch oven is a great camping birthday cake but putting candles on top of a cake in a cast iron oven is not such a great idea.

But I ignored the incompatability with his friends in the same way I ignored my incompatability with his family. After all, I thought, he likes my friends and gets along well with my friends (which included in totem Gretchen and Kevin and Liz and Shawn). And I did not really accept that life would ever be any different than it was in those care-free days.

The first real memory I have of my parents meeting Mitch was probably not their first meeting but as with many things during that year or so of my life, the details have been blurred out and remain fuzzy even while other details leap to mind with harsh sharpness that is painful whether the details were positive or negative at the time.

At any rate, Memorial weekend is the time when I really introduced Mitch to my family. My dad was finally feeling closer to his normal self after his December surgery and organized a family camping trip to the Uintas. I was about a week away from finishing school for the year and moving home for the summer. The pressure from Mitch to get married was unbearable. Mitch could see that our five months of near-solitude were coming to a close. He could see that I would soon move home for the summer and possibly forget him so he needed to close the deal and was relentless in his negotiations. He talked incessently about when we would get married, where we would live, what it would be like and . . . what we could do.

Let's face it. We were 19 years old and I was not giving the milk away for free as the saying goes so he was anxious to ante up and purchase the . . . err, cow. His persistence had very little to do with impatience to spend the rest of his life with me as his wife and everything to do with rushing toward the finish line of the wedding night because I had made it very clear he would not cross that line a minute sooner.

Of course, he wasn't alone in wishing for that day. If nothing else, I was physically attracted to Mitch. And in my naive head I could not imagine any other temptations out there aside from sex. I had no desire to drink or smoke or do drugs and I felt like I was pretty honest and I never cheated in school so really I figured my only temptation was in the physical realm and once I got married that would go away and I would be pretty close to perfect.

Mitch was wedging his way into my thought process and his persistence had instilled the idea of marriage into my head to such a degree that I barely noticed when he gradually changed the language from "if we get married" to "when we get married."

Which means, by the time Memorial weekend came along and I had the opportunity to judge him from my family's perspective, I no longer cared how others viewed him - marriage had somehow become a foregone conclusion.

Again, it is difficult for me to recall much from that weekend other than a photo of me paused in the woods wearing his gray sweatshirt, leggings (ACH!) and two braids positively beaming at him behind the camera and the correlating photo of him smiling back. He made me happy at that moment and I thought that was all that mattered despite the fact that when my parents or even my brothers were around he became dull and lifeless.

After camping, as we were driving out of town to return to school, we stopped at South Town Mall which was, at that time, generally deserted. I had a pretzel from the food court and we meandered through shops looking at items we could not afford until we stopped in front of a jewelry store - perhaps his design all along.

I wish I could explain what was going through my head that day as we paused outside that entry. I wish I could remember the conversation that led to me agreeing to walk in. I wish I could remember more about the experience than the smell and taste of that pretzel and my assertion that I preferred white gold. I am pretty sure I disliked the majority of the rings and referred to them as "swirls of yellow gold" and "tacky". I did not wear jewelry other than some tiny hoop, silver dinosaurs or mushroom earrings and my watch had a velcro strap so these rings held little appeal for me.

Unlike many other girls my age I had never looked at a bridal magazine, never tried on engagement rings, never envisioned the type of ring I wanted or even had conversations of that type with any friends. Even with an engaged roommate and a ward full of girls desperately wanting to get married, I had stayed out of that loop - even mocked it. The first time I ever contemplated what type of ring I would want when I got married was that Memorial Day at the mall sitting on the velvet bench with Mitch as a rather pushy sales person assured me he could make any ring in white gold and finance it too.

So I chose one.

The least offensive one.

Not the one I loved.

Not the one I had always dreamed of having.

Just the least swirly, least gaudy of the bunch.


Tiffany said...

This recounting is amazing. Truly stunning.

emily said...

it's kind of like watching a movie you've already seen. when it gets to the big part where the star makes the wrong turn, the turn that will make the movie a tragedy, even though you know the outcome you still hope it won't happen this time...

Kami said...

This is crazy,I kinda don't know what to say. I am very interested.

It is crazy how fast things (marriage) happen, especially in Utah.

Sometimes I wish I would have taken my time during that time.

Robert said...

It is fascinating and there are details I had not heard before. There was one earlier meeting of Mitch, where I had a short conversation with him about his past and his intentions. I tried to break the ice by revealing some of my own youthful indiscretions, but his demeanor was sullen and non-commital, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. On that Memorial Day Weekend, however, Mom and I hoped that somehow we could get you away from him for the summer so that you could wake up.

Beck said...

WOW. This is beautifully written and yet horrifying, because you can see where it's going - like a car accident you can't avoid.

lizzie said...

those teeth on that disgusting! that was a great camping trip though!

annie said...

I agree with Emily. You are brave! I am so proud though. Thanks for sharing.

katie said...

I'm still intrigued. Please, not too long before the next entry.

autumn said...

Wonderfully written. I want to call you and tell you not to take the ring!

mickey said...

Ahh it's been to long since I've read your blog. I had to come back to part III where I'd left off and like a good Tivo it worked. Thanks again for sharing your story. When I met him I have to agree he seemed lifeless.

mickey said...

Ahh it's been to long since I've read your blog. I had to come back to part III where I'd left off and like a good Tivo it worked. Thanks again for sharing your story. When I met him I have to agree he seemed lifeless.

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