I was freaking out. I went to bed the night before, freaking out. What was I doing? What was he doing? We were 26, and we were getting married. It was such a bad idea—clearly we were too young. Everybody knows the true best age for a first marriage is 45. I remember getting a brown paper bag and breathing into it that morning. I was sure that he wouldn't show up. I thought about not showing up. It was awful and wonderful. It felt like going to the guillotine with a really fabulous dress on.
Years later I have come to realize that there are two things that happen. Two people get married. And two people have a wedding. These things don't really have a lot to do with each other. I wasn't worried about being a wife that day; I was worried about being a bride. I should have given more thought to the whole wife thing, but I was 26 and it was all about the right wedding music. What if our relatives got drunk? Of course somebody was going to get drunk—it wouldn't be a wedding if they didn't. Getting married wasn't going to throw me over the edge, but being a bride was surely going to finish me off.
One of my mother's dear friends left an emergency wedding-day Valium for me. She told my mother that she would know when to give it to me. She produced it right about the time I got back in the bed with the covers over my head and the balled-up paper bag in my hand. "Here, take this," she said.
The next thing I remember is being at the country club where we were going to get married, with shorts and a T-shirt on, rollers in my hair, and, miraculously, a full face of makeup. I thought it was a good idea to go out and greet the guests—before the wedding. I was so calm and charming and gracious. Fifteen minutes before the wedding was supposed to start, I still had on shorts and big green rollers in my hair. And Darnay, the groom, was not there. He and his best man were watching a fight on television. Twenty-six is too young to get married. I am sure that people who were watching this spectacle were shaking their heads trying to figure out if we would return their gifts next week when we got divorced. The oddsmakers would have had a field day.
But somehow, a quarter century later, the girl with the big green rollers and the guy who forgot that he had to be somewhere survived the wedding and worked their way through the marriage—a work in progress. It almost seems astounding that we've made it this far. In spite of ourselves we were able to raise our kids, create and re-create careers, argue over who should be doing the laundry, and learn how to trust each other more than we trust anybody else. We have had great joy in those years, and we have shared a lot of sadness and loss.
When I was 26 years old, holding my head between my knees, breathing into a paper bag, I didn't know that I was about to go on a wild adventure. And I surely didn't know that I would grow into a really good best friend to someone who would learn how to be a best friend, too. When we celebrated our anniversary this year, there were no big parties. The bride and groom—the husband and wife—wore sweatpants and dirty gym shoes. We ordered a pizza. We drank water, because we read that soda increases heart disease in old people. And we had to eat it before 6 because the bride gets acid reflux these days. This time around there's a paper bag, too—with cheap reading glasses, ibuprofen for the groom's creaky back and the bride's popping knees. And just like the first time, it went off without a hitch.Read more relationship stories in Love, the Great Adventure