by Laura Toepfer
“It’s time for you to get married,” my mother said to me one afternoon when I came home from school.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“Yes,” Mom continued. “I’ve talked to the priest about it because it’s time for you to get married. I got married at your age and if you don’t get married soon then I’m worried you’ll leave the possibility of having a committed relationship behind you forever.”
This was news to me. Up until five minutes earlier, I had not been told the window of opportunity was closing. I was 14 and had a lot of questions about what my future would hold. I figured marriage would be part of it. After all, I had lots of friends and was learning to tell the difference between the ones I trusted and the ones I didn’t. I was testing things out, making mistakes, sure, and discovering that some playmates from childhood maybe wouldn’t hold up as friends for the rest of my life. Surely all of this was part of deciding – eventually – on the person I would settle with forever.
I didn’t know how to say this, though, so I just said to Mom, “I don’t think I want to get married right now.”
“Oh, there’s so much you need to learn about getting married. The priest has already set up a series of classes and I’ve signed you up to go.”
“What if I don’t want to go?”
“Don’t argue. Just go to the classes and get married. That’s all I’m asking.”
What could I do? I was 14. I went.
“Meet Jordan,” the priest said to me. “Jordan’s the person you’re going to marry.”
I eyed Jordan warily. We’d been in Sunday School together and even had a lot of fun, play dates, that kind of thing. But being forced to marry…that was a whole different story. I wanted to make sure we really knew and loved each other first before that happened. I thought Jordan would feel that way too, but we didn’t actually get a chance to talk.
“Let me tell you all about Jordan,” said the priest who spent the next hour telling me all about Jordan: Jordan’s family background, Jordan’s favorite things, Jordan’s pet peeves. “Now, tell me what I just told you,” the priest said to me. “Actually, why don’t you write an essay about Jordan and bring it to our next session. I’ll see you then.”
I figured the next week would be my turn and I wondered when the priest would ask me all about myself and my family and the things I like and don’t like. Given how much the priest knew about Jordan, I figured I’d be interviewed for hours. But when I showed up for our next session, the priest just took my essay, read it over, and then started talking about Jordan again. Jordan, Jordan, Jordan.
Week after week, I took quizzes and wrote essays all about Jordan. I had questions and the priest answered them, but mostly I would have liked to say something about myself. And I would have liked to talk to Jordan directly. But it never happened.
It made me mad at Jordan, I have to tell you, which wasn’t really fair, since Jordan just sat there quietly and the priest did most of the talking except when I got asked to repeat what I’d been told.
The day of the wedding was coming up and Mom had a party planned. The priest walked me through what I needed to do. But no one ever asked me whether I wanted to get married or not. It was all just assumed. “Uncle Bert and Aunt Mildred are coming,” mom said. “They’re so looking forward to seeing you get married.”
I showed up at the church, but I wasn’t happy about it. I went through the motions and said I do. But no one knew what I really thought, which was, “What does this have to do with me? No one knows anything about me. I’m marrying someone who doesn’t know what I’m like and no one cares.”
But I got married. And after the party, I never saw Jordan again. I didn’t think that’s what getting married was going to be like. I thought it would have something more to do with me too, not just passing quizzes about Jordan and making sure my aunt and uncle were happy. But I guess not, since I got married. I guess that’s all people really wanted.