When you’re a little girl, you dream of the proposal and the big-puffy-white-wedding-dress-day, but you never think about what comes in between. I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed being engaged. Of course it gives you license to plan a bigger-than-life party of proportions which few of us will ever do again unless we are socialites or event planners, but it also gives you a different social status. When you are pushing thirty, and your ‘boyfriend’ is inching ever closer to forty, it seems rather ridiculous to call him a ‘boyfriend.’ Not only that, in Korea, where living together before marriage – or even living by yourself before marriage is still a rarity, and where there actually are enormous social and legal benefits to gain from getting married, taking that step into married status means much more than just ‘signing a piece of paper.’
Being engaged has given me a very different status in Korea. If we were in Canada, Mr. Lee would have met my family loooong before we ever started discussing marriage. He would have met the folks early on, come to Christmas dinners, Father’s Day golf games, and cousin’s Christenings, and we would have been slowly recognized as a serious couple as we integrated into my family as a couple. I’m not saying that there isn’t a change in how people are treated in Canada when they get engaged, but in Korea I did not go to any family gatherings until we had already set the date. In fact, I ordered my Canadian cake and chosen my wedding menu before I met Mr. Lee’s siblings and extended family. The reasoning I have always been told for this is that ‘because family is important, we only introduce our partner when we want to marry,’ but of course in Canada, the sentiment goes, ‘because family is important, we introduce our partner long before we want to marry.’ We have had a few friends who have been introduced to their future in-laws much earlier in the dating process, but they are younger and essentially of a different ‘generation’ (even just by 5 years) to Mr. Lee.
But being engaged has also meant that I get all of the recognition of our engagement, but less of the responsibility of marriage…and…well that’s nice! I haven’t had to cook and clean for an extra person, I haven’t had to collect dirty-boy-underwear from around the house, and I have been able to spend my free time as I like it. Living with another person – no matter how enlightened or do-your-own-thing- they are, means more compromises in how you live…and I haven’t had to do that yet. I’ve also had time to think about what my vision of ‘wife’ is…and about the kind of wife I want to be, but I haven’t had to actually implement or work through the process of any of those changes yet.
However, this will all change in about 10 hours when I will legally become…a wife.
I woke up this morning with a glee-tinged panic attack. Until today I really didn’t get the concept of ‘cold feet.’ I love Mr. Lee, and I think I’ve found myself a pretty good catch. I’ve also made, what for me, is the ultimate commitment to him by deciding to renew my visa in Korea again and again and again so I can stay in his country and be with him. But there is something culturally or cosmically special about signing that piece of paper and legalizing a partnership, and it’s been hitting me in waves again and again and again throughout today that I am going to be a wife. It’s an awesome commitment in that old sense of the word – incredible and powerful, but also full of responsibility and meaning. I guess because I’m getting so close that I am now sensing sense the importance of marriage instead of just cognitively understanding the concept, that I also feel weighed by the enormity of the commitment I am about to make. I have the same feelings about divorce as I have for abortions: they should be legal, but I want to do everything in my power to avoid putting myself in the situation where either would ever be necessary.
I guess when you get married, there is also that spark of nostalgia for the ‘single’ life. I myself spent many many many years as a very very very single girl, and for the most part, I didn’t like it. But I did learn a hell of a lot about myself, and I did come to trust my understanding of who I am and what I need – and I think this tinge of sadness is about that difficult but enlightening process is officially morphing into a very different life path at this moment. When the future looks delightful but new, sometimes we still cling onto the tried and true old path simply because it is the known path.
But beyond the fear and the nervousness, I’m also excited to be starting a new chapter of life. It’s a chapter I’ve been wanting to open for a long time, and it’s a life stage I am ready for. I’ve heard so much about being a wife – I’ve heard so much about love that endures all things and all ages, and I’m anxious to be done with the waiting and try my hand at wifedom myself.
So, so long ‘single’ life. So long my fiancée status. On this day, I will be a wife.