Today is my 20th wedding anniversary. Hoorah!
Wedding anniversaries have always been somewhat problematical in my house. My wife, I think, just likes to see them as days when we can say “I’m glad we have been together for a long time”. But I, understandably I feel, always think back to my wedding day, which is not an occasion I remember with much fondness. The basic concept – to get married quickly, simply, and in the most basic way possible to avoid complicated issues regarding my wife’s family – was a good one. But the execution was not. In hindsight, we should have gone down to the registry office, grabbed a couple of witnesses off the street and only told everyone when it was a fait accompli. But what we actually did was invite one friend (and their partner) each, and tell my family in advance. Which included telling them that they weren’t invited. For me, it went downhill from there.
Sadly, my abiding memories of the day are:
• My friend had not actually taken a day off work, and was somewhat anxious about being caught skiving off sick
• At the lunch we went to afterwards, his French wife decided this would be a good time to adhere to the stereotype of her nationality by sitting rudely in silence at the far end of the table, making no attempt to converse with anybody
• For reasons I can’t begin to understand now, I ducked out of the meal briefly to nip round to my office to tell my colleagues I’d just got married
• We felt obliged to go to my mother’s for an afternoon get-together with all my family, completely missing the point of why we’d arranged a small event in the first place
• We spent the evening with my wife’s friends watching Independence Day on video. It was awful. (I’ve never seen it since, but if I recall correctly the aliens are eventually brought down by a computer virus loaded into their systems by Will Smith. Because while it’s impossible to get a PC to run something designed for a Mac, alien computers are apparently susceptible to earth technology.)
If further wistfulness is required, neither my wife nor I are any longer in touch with the friends we invited, having drifted apart with varying levels of acrimony. In fact, the only people who were at the wedding we still know are our two eldest children.
Which brings me to my other problem. It wasn’t like it was the start of a new chapter of our lives. For those unaware of the sequence of events, I met my wife when I was her boss. (At this point you might expect me to include some joke along the lines of “If only she still did what I tell her!”, but she never did. I was a terrible boss and she was an almost as terrible employee.) We knew each other for a year or so, and then started umming and ahhing about whether to be a couple. First we were for a few weeks, then we weren’t. Then she got pregnant. Turned out she could have children after all! Then we bought a house and moved in together, then we had another baby (turns out there is no safe time of the month!) And then at some point it became evident that this was going to work out and we were in it for the long haul, so we got married. The first three years of our time together were lived like Memento.
As a result, today feels like an anniversary of an almost arbitrary day. Which is not to say that (stand back and marvel as I attempt to turn this tanker of a posting around) spending the last 23 years with my wife hasn’t been the most extraordinary, fulfilling, exasperating, wondrous, riotous experience a man could choose to have. These days, I could no more live without her than I could without football. [Yes, I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but you try finishing the sentence “I could no more live without her than I could without…” It’s not easy. The natural course to go down is something like “… my right arm”, but the difficulty there is I could live without my right arm. It wouldn’t be much fun, and it would make playing pool tricky, but I could do it. So then you think, OK, what could I literally not live without? First thing that came to mind was my pancreas. I would argue that that’s even less romantic than football, plus I’m not sure whether it’s true. For all I know they can fit you with an artificial pancreas now. So then I thought, what I need is something which is the essence of my life, which really brings joy and quality to the mundaneness of existence… Laughter, that’s what I should have said. “I could no more live without her than I could without laughter.” Damn. If only it was possible to edit these things.]
So that’s my 20th anniversary message. It might not be conventional, and it might not be sentimental, but it’s honest and it’s got a couple of laughs in it, which is pretty much who I am. Happy anniversary Jeffy. I’m glad we have been together for a long time.