Today is Mom and Bob's 26th wedding anniversary. I was 8 when they married, which was a second marriage for both of them. And so the world goes around--I recently began a second marriage myself.
Our wedding this March was the day after my birthday. For a birthday/wedding gift, Pi Wen bought me a copy of Elizbeth Gilbert's book Committed. Gilbert is most famous as the author of Eat, Pray, Love. Committed tells the story of her eventual marriage to Felipe, the dashing older gentleman she'd met in Bali at the end of her year of exploring the world. Gilbert left the US in order to cope with a very messy divorce.
Felipe has also been married once before, so at first neither of them had any interest in remarrying. But US immigration law forced their hands. Felipe's a Brazilian citizen, and the only way he could remain in the US indefinitely was to marry Elizabeth Gilbert. Committed recounts her wide-ranging explorations of what it means to be married. Much of her research is in Southeast Asia, where she and Felipe decamp as their situation in the US is resolved. From this vantage point Gilbert realizes that Western, American notions of marriage--that it should complete everyone, that it should be optional and not required--are very modern and not at all universal. Thus she gradually comes to understand marriage from multiple lenses. Although she never completely resolves her ambivalence about being married again, by the end she is much more comfortable with the idea. The final scene is of a simple wedding ceremony in New Jersey, for which Felipe cooks lunch. She also confides to the reader that this marriage has been a much better match.
Committed resonated with me on several levels. From 2001-2005 the reality of having to square my affections with the laws of my country was ever-present. Helen and I married in February 2001 and began proceedings for her to become a US citizen in March. That was in Chicago. We continued the process throughout our time in Washington DC, and she became a US citizen in November 2005 when we were living in New York. There was a lot of expense; one filing fee was close to $1,000, and very early on we consulted with an immigration attorney. This was not the same situation as Elizabeth and Felipe faced. We didn't have to get married in order to stay together (Helen had a green card). But nonetheless I recognized the angst caused by wondering if you'd done everything correctly in order to move to the next stage of an official process.
Of course, Helen and I divorced. As thngs were becoming more serious with Pi Wen, people often seemed surprised that I'd ever want to remarry...or at least not so soon. This makes sense, I guess, but I always knew I was the marrying kind. Gilbert discusses the constraints marriage places on women at length, but also notes that marriage (by design) is a constraint on men. But I guess I'm different; when Helen and I split the hardest thing for me to accept was my loss of identity as a married man. All's well that ends well, though, because now--just like Elizabeth Gilbert--I'm in a marriage with a much better match.