That one wasn’t fun at all. I even tried to duck and weave, pretend it wasn’t going to happen. I lived in Manhattan and Jonathan lived in Jersey. I tried, I did try, to pretend that maybe I could live in New Brunswick, but I failed.
I don’t hate Jersey. Since I am not a New York native, I cannot lay claim to that particular bias. My parents spent a lot of time in Jersey with my oldest siblings as my dad got his PhD, so I have no issues with Jersey. I do, however, hate driving and I Hate. Commuter. Transit. Nothing makes me feel more like a caged animal than a town where I have to drive OR wait on a Sunday for the next train to show up IN AN HOUR OR MORE. Where cabs are not common and neither are buses. I am a native New Yorker born into a Floridian’s body. I have this quote on my Facebook that reads, “The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding. – John Updike” and that is all me. I really don’t get living elsewhere. I didn’t even like London that much (it was also the most rain and humidity on record that summer/fall). But I digress.
When Jonathan and I (well, Jonathan) knew this was really going to be it. No more dating. Rings and weddings and domesticity (oh MY!), we had a decision to make. We could have a commuter relationship (anyone in New York knows that any kind of inter-borough relationship is long distance already) or we could live together. The commuter thing wouldn’t be so bad, I suppose. We tried to alternate weekends, except I whined so much about New Jersey, which, PS, is also about 10 degrees COLDER in the winter! WHY GOD WHY?!?!?!?!?!?!?! We spent most weekdays in the city and some weekends in Jersey. I hated the drive, I hated being in traffic on the bridges or in the tunnels. I HATED commuting in by crowded train, with people with hangovers or putting on makeup or eating. Yeah, some of that exists on the subway, but multiply it by 10 for NJ Transit. And I HATED. PENN. STATION.
I did try to cover it, though. I tried to be enthusiastic, to take different train times, but I suck at hiding my disdain and disappointment. Jonathan’s lease was coming up and we knew he was just going to have to move to New York. So then, the question becomes, after such a short period of time, shouldn’t he just get his own place before we jump in head first? Why? Why be sane? The bigger question is: why risk offending my family, some friends and former co-workers? (In a previous life I was a youth minister…cue laughter NOW).
Well, one major answer is that living together before marriage is NOT my hang up. I knew my parents would be pissed. I knew my brother would be annoyed. I knew that I would have to circumvent the question for some church members. I knew all this. I could give you all those answers: a) it was financially practical, b) it made sense since I traveled so much for Jonathan to have all the cats…etc etc. I can think of a million reasons (we love each other, we’re gonna get married, blah blah), but the one that really matters: that is not my hang up and issue. It is YOURS (whoever you (mom and dad) happen to be). You think it is wrong. I do not.
I remember that conversation. I told dad, in the car, on the way to Home Depot. He was easier to deal with. Not because he hates it any less, but because I asked him to help mom be nice to Jonathan. I was able to ask him to put his own feelings aside more, and just help me deal with the passive aggressive psycho known as my mother (she’s always a little less passive with me, more aggressive). Dad gave me little feedback. I knew he was disappointed, I knew he was angry, but he left it alone. It was mom…oh, mom. She wanted us to have dad do a ceremony (licensed minister) and have a real wedding after. Part of me found nothing wrong with that, but Jonathan was adamant. If we did that, there would be NO WEDDING. I was stuck between two people who saw no gray area. Mom wanted a wedding certificate RIGHT THEN and Jonathan insisted that if we went that route he would NOT participate in a wedding ceremony/reception.
I am still a bit annoyed at both of them.
Anyway, the upshot is that mom and dad said they will not visit until we are married. Yesterday I told her about our kitchen remodel. She said that it sounded lovely, to which I replied, “I guess you’ll see it in a year.” Both of my parents have calmed down. I think they see a ring and wedding plans and they feel better.
Why did I even bother? Well, I don’t want to lie to them, I think it is wrong. Two of my siblings lived with men before they got married and my parents didn’t find out until later and were crushed (only one sister married one of those guys). Someone told me that I was just protecting them. That’s bullshit. It is cowardice, plain and simple, and, as an adult, I was going to accept the consequences. On this one, you may find my tone judgmental, and for that I do not apologize. I believe in truth, as often as possible. Am I always perfect at it? No, but I do believe in being truthful, especially with my family and close friends. I maintain, to this day, that because I have always (even when a teenager) told my parents the truth, this is why we are so close. We can agree to disagree, but my relationship with them is healthy and good. I also believe that if you are willing to, as an adult, conceal something so important to you from your parents, expect the same from your kids. And you don’t get to be mad when they do it. They learn by example, and knowing that you lie and concealed will give them reason to do the same.
Most importantly, it hurts your partner. Unless you are both doing it, and you live in hiding, it hurts them. It says, “I love you, but not enough to admit this to my parents.” It always makes your partner less and they don’t deserve that.
Jonathan weathered the storm of my parents. He knows that I love him enough to risk their ire for a while. I did and we’re all fine. Does my mother still wish we were married? Yes, but it appears in non-obvious forms. When Jonathan got me on his health insurance plan, I told my mom. She said, very excitedly, “OOOOH! Are you married?”
Nope. In a year, ma.