Thursday, October 27

mrs. non-conformity

I don’t think I’ve ever ‘fit in’ – whatever that means anyway. My life has been a collection of counter cultural decisions, some of them my own and others not. My mum and dad didn’t just go for the usual two or three offspring... they took it to the giddy heights of five. Contrary to common belief, it was not because they were Catholic and scorned the use of contraception – they just liked us, and liked raising kids. My intelligent mum was so committed to us, that she became our teacher after we had tried out school. They wanted to be more involved in our lives, rather than send us off to other adults all day...and fair enough, I salute them for it. Then they dragged us from New Zealand to Australia, where we were regularly reminded that we didn’t speak normally. At sixteen, I finally donned a backpack and trooped off to school – finally something ‘normal’, except that it wasn’t. I was attending a performing arts school in Melbourne, and travelling 1.5 hours on the train from Geelong to do so. Next, I developed an illness which no one could really comprehend because it wasn’t cancer or a broken arm.
“Five! You’re one of five? That’s so many kids!”
“Did you say you’re homeschooled? So you get to wear pajamas all day?”
“ Did you just call them jandals? They're thongs”
“So, do you even do any academics at VCA secondary school?”
 “So, you’re just tired all the time?”
So, you would think that after all that (and many more which I have not the space to recount) I would be prepared for the uber counter-cultural decision: To marry a nineteen year old boy, and become a Mrs. at the age of twenty.
I will never ever forget the day Ben got down on his knee...I was still in the grips of glandular fever, but feeling slightly better than usual. He suggested that we head down to Torquay beach with our thermos and tea bags, and watch the sun set – which if you picture it, is a fairly romantic thing to do, and very fitting for someone who is sick. He was even more smiley than usual, and undeniably excitable. And being a somewhat observant person, I had a very strong inkling that tonight was the night. The tide came up, and we had to move from our cave to a different one because we were about to get stranded. We drank tea and were happy. The sun went down. It was dark – and then Ben said he was just going away from a minute to the other cave, and that I could call out if I got scared....and then he splashed through the water and disappeared. I sat there, and sang a few songs into the darkness to pass the time. Then I got scared and called out because he’d been gone too long, but he didn’t answer or reappear. You can imagine my relief when he eventually came around the corner! He picked me up in his arms, and carried me through the water to the cave.....put his hands over my eyes, and spun me around till I was disorientated. When I opened my eyes, I saw the cave alight with t-candles, laid out in a perfect love heart shape. I won’t repeat his speech to me, but it finished with him kneeling down on one knee and saying that he loved me and wanted to be with me forever – would I be his wife? By now I was crying of course, and too teary to really take note of the beautiful diamond ring he’d chosen for me. There’s wasn’t even a little crevice in my heart which doubted that he was the man I wanted to marry. 

Some candles had blown out by the time I took this photo...

Monday morning came, and after a dizzy weekend of joy, an uncomfortable truth settled on me: I needed to admit my ‘ludicrous’ action to my conventional peers. Engaged, for crying out loud...with a diamond ring on my left hand, unashamedly sparkling the announcement which I was too afraid to speak of. I thought enviously of a couple of generations earlier, where this would have been bang on perfect timing for such an event....I wished that I was 26 years old, as I had always planned to be....
“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.” Rollo May
I did it, and I lived to tell the tale, and even strengthened my ‘courage muscle’ in the process. Some people thought I was mad not to, ‘try before I buy’ and give away my life so soon, one lady thought I was 17, so she was shocked, and others were amazingly supportive. I soon after realised that it is foolish to be afraid of being different from others – do what you believe, and come what may. I decided I only want to conform where society has it right. It’s been said many a time that the people who care don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t care. How true!
While my friends were moving in together until such a time where things were no longer so honky-dory, we were signing a piece of paper saying we were in this life together, till death do us part. We believe the most powerful thing about love is commitment...that’s what makes the strongest relationships: The love of a best friend who doesn’t bitch behind your back, the love of a parent who will pick you up from anywhere at midnight, and the love of my boyfriend who said he wanted to do life with me (even a fatigued, complicated me), and figure it out when it got tough instead of moving on to another girl. So we committed - and I have to say, this non-conformist decision has bought more closeness and joy than I ever imagined possible. Even our fights are more stable due to the lack of the “will we break up over this?” question lingering in the recesses of our minds. While the title 'mrs' is not something I'll ever adjust to, I do love having a husband and being a wife!

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