Why Anniversaries Matter
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
It’s easy to fall in love with love. What with the mass media, film, and literature that flamboyantly flaunts its passion and idealism, its drama and extroverted security—especially at the beginning of a relationship.
You know. The first sign of physical attraction, the reciprocated attention, the small talk that evolves into an opportunity that peaks your interest and your chances at those elusive things we all aspire to: connection, happiness, love.
It’s the chance encounter that propels you forward both in emotional surgery, where snippets of information help you to dissect your potential partner’s attributes and flaws, as well as reveal and either accentuate or downplay your own.
It’s the art of dating. It’s the first phone call. The first date. The first kiss. The first of everything new with this “new” person. It’s the clean slate to start over from past regrets in poor decisions and even poorer relationships. It’s the chance to unveil and discover who you really are, what you desire, and what you’re willing to offer and sacrifice for another. Not entirely for your own personal gain, but out of the sheer pleasure of making your chosen partner happy. (Okay, I’ll admit it, it was out of some personal gain.)
And then it’s the evolution of your emotional makeup, your vulnerability, even your inner circle, those closest friends, your territorial, maybe even judgmental family. You open up that circle and say, “Here, this is who I’ve chosen. I hope you see what I do…,” and you take that risk, both in your own family and close network, as well as your partner’s. (And we all know how lovely in-laws can be.)
It’s the reciprocal twirl and dance of trying your partner on, both for yourself, your family and friends; your life. If it gets that serious, that is.
Like all first things, there’s also the first jealousy, the first argument, the first fight. It’s the wilfulness of pride that shouts with megaphone clarity, “This is my territory, this is my claim, my stake in it.”
If you survive the preliminaries, if you’ve checked off your mental list of pros and cons, and move forward as a couple, the eloquent, maybe even creatively planned, yet nerve-racking proposal happens, and a token of yearning and promise comes out of a black velvet box with a—surprise!—a shiny, fat (if you’re lucky) one karat ring. Bling! Bling! Throw that confetti and call your best friend! There are tears and yesss and squeals and shock, maybe even some fainting. I don’t know. This is what we’re told. How the play turns out. The climatic prelude to an eternal commitment. (If you say, yes, of course.)
Ten years ago, on September 14, my fiance and I stood before 30 people in a garden greenhouse and proclaimed our vows with the nervousness and idealism of newlyweds.
It’s partially due to incessant paparazzi flashbulbs, the self-consciousness of wedding etiquette performance, the heat of mingling handshakes, back slaps, and varied forms of congratulations, a wide-mouth smile that’s pasted on from constant coercion of the photographer, which causes your cheeks to burn from excessive strain and overuse, and of course, the beloved and infamous, much-fawned-over wedding dress.
And let’s not forget the raunchy confessionals that slip into last-minute, overly gregarious speeches, the over-inflated liquor bill, the inevitable program mishaps, the tactless uncle, the over-zealous, snarky, and smug ex-girlfriends and/or ex-boyfriends that somehow crash the wedding party, as well as the tearful and superstitious grand-aunt. Not to mention the polka and the chicken dance, wilting flowers, and bunions that make you wish you wore dollar-store sandals instead of Alfred Sung heels.
And that was just the wedding. There’s the rest of life to contend with after the altar (or sufficient, inclusive equivalent of one).
Ten years ago, on September 14, my husband-to-be and I got “dudded” up and professed our vows to a pastor, some of our closet friends, and small parts of our family to commit to this ideal and say, “It’s you and me, forever—against the world.”
And true to the very nature of that act and commitment to that vow, the world indeed came against us. The house, the mortgage (or lack thereof), the bills, the job changes, the babies, the jealousies, the temptations, the petty arguments, the personal dramas that derived from such silly things like closet space, t.v channels, and delegated, but undone chores. Even the sillier things like in-law parties, practices, and time-old traditions and archaic preferences (this, too, ranges from religion, rearing of babies, right down to the colour and make of your first bought family car, or in our case at the time, our sentimental, yet broken down jalopy).
But you survive it. You tolerate it. You make concessions. You sacrifice. You give a little more than when your previous single-self would have shot up your middle finger (maybe even added a few more creative and rather violent hand gestures for emphasis) and proclaimed your God-given rights and selfish desire to “win” at all cost on top of Mount Everest. (Or in my case, the slight slope of the Chinguacousy Park ski hill.)
But no. You stop yourself from regressing back to your self-involved, insecure, hedonistic personality. The one that cried out like a terrible two-year-old, “Me! My turn! I want!”
No. You stop yourself. You soften your tone. You hold the door. You help with the groceries. You get that glass of water. You listen. You cry. You mourn deaths, job losses, lottery misses, even much-needed “alone time” due to unexpected illnesses, babies, change of plans, and of course, the expectations and neediness of in-laws.
Even then, you caress. You encourage. You stand firm. (You even turn the other cheek when another woman is blatantly flirting with your husband because you trust him to do what’s right by honouring you even when you truly want to scratch the woman’s eyes out with the Bic pen in your purse…or maybe throw the digestive cookies from your baby’s snack cup in a vented display of territorial claiming and rage, but would rather prefer to avoid ending up on an audacious episode of Jerry Springer!—But, of course, you don’t. You keep that Bic pen in your purse for safekeeping and for its true purpose: stabbing her hand instead, the one she used to touch your husband’s shoulder with while she batted her eyes and tested your marriage’s boundaries…)
No. Ten years of marriage matures you into a secure woman of grace. As I said, you caress, you encourage, you stand firm. You sometimes fight against each other, but through wisdom, quickly learn that it’s more useful to fight for each other instead.You even learn how to suck in your stomach as well as your pride.
So, the celebration of an anniversary is more than a time-keeping exercise. It’s not even an excuse for an impulsive vacation to a hot spot (literally, and most preferably somewhere in the tropics). It’s not even meant to be used as a brag card for dinner conversations between rival neighbours and superficial friends with no children, nor an understanding of sleep deprivation or the ugly consequences that result from such a misgiving.
It is in essence an acknowledgement and affirmation of the choice you made when you said as a couple, “I do.” It’s a yelp of sheer gratitude and exclamation. It’s the intentional renewal that says love doesn’t come from a mystical cloud reserved merely for the good-looking, overly charming, ambitious, powerful, or financially secure.
No,—love is a choice. It’s a decision. It’s an everyday compulsion to drive you to the next day, until you reach that “forever.”
For me, it’s a chance to honour my husband and our partnership as something more worthy than the dress and the wedding that our promises came wrapped in. It’s a chance to recommit myself to the “us” that we were and are everyday becoming. It’s a chance to toast the best of who we are (and the worst) and claim it as our responsibility. Our treasure. Our own.
It’s to eat good food and great wine and profess with humility, acceptance, passion, and fervour: “It’s still you and me, Babe. Let’s make the next ten years even better.”
(—And of course, it’s a chance for me to stock up on Bic pens…)
Happy tenth anniversary, Papa! It’s still you and me, against the world!
Are you in a relationship now? Are you married?
What’s the longest relationship you’ve been in?
What’s your best piece of advice in keeping a loving relationship and marriage strong?