Andy and I got married a week ago: October 5, 2013, almost one year after the day we met. The ceremony was concise and meaningful, and despite our pre-wedding walk around the neighborhood rehearsing our vows so that we might stand a chance of not losing it during the real thing, the longest part of the ceremony was me trying to pull it together to get past the first word of my vows, which was “Andy.”
You may have heard that we got married in a tiny family ceremony on our friends’ sailboat a few dozen feet off the shores of Lover’s Key State Park. The ceremony ended with Andy and me holding hands and leaping from the starboard side into the Gulf of Mexico, followed by my brothers, Andy’s brother, my sister-in-law, and our dear friend and officiant: none other than Cristina, my compatriot in Skunk Ape tracking, the person who brought Andy and me together, and my former boss now current sister friend, who is without a doubt the hottest and most generous officiant in all of south Florida. Her husband Mike jumped overboard, too, followed by our captain friends Gale and Maureen who own the sailboat, while our mothers cried on deck and Andy’s father cheered us on.
I got married in the dress I bought for the candomble ceremony in Brazil, and I wore my Orixas beads as well as a sacred set of beads handmade for me by a spiritualist in Wilmington, another dear friend Jill Lahnstein, who also handmade a blessed necklace for Andy crafted from a mysterious dagger-shaped slice of obsidian he found among the keepsakes in his grandfather’s library. Andy got married in old board shorts and an off-white button down shirt we found in a second-hand store. We made our wedding cake ourselves, which was a straight Southern pistachio cake baked from a box white cake mix, pistachio Jell-O pudding, 7-up, coconut oil, and eggs. My friend Melina Reed, a metalsmith in North Carolina, designed and hammered out our silver wedding rings, which have each other’s named stamped inside.
We jumped in with our vows tucked in our clothes, our hands tight together, fully conscious of baptizing ourselves into this new world. We were fully conscious of this new world not because Andy and I have some kind of special love or magic bond. We knew this because, three weeks prior, we laid in the bed next to each other, looked each other in the eye, and admitted the terrifying truth: I have very serious doubts that I can do this.
By “this,” we meant “it.” The marriage. The relationship. The consistent compromise and communication, the vulnerability, the unflinching emotional honesty, the laying down of pride, the owning up to our own bullshit maneuvers, the steady march into the unknown world of working. it. out.
So, this blog is about surrender.
Andy and I hit a rocky patch at the end of July when I almost relapsed drinking and he was unaware of a creeping bout of depression that would culminate in the conversation on the bed. We’d subjected the other to the dark parts of ourselves without apologies. We’d engaged badly, we’d brought up old hurts, we’d projected the worst on the future and on the other, we’d wallowed in insecurities, mixed up in that twisted business of trying to will the other into a state of submission to Not Disappoint Our Expectations. And we did all this with great intentions. We did all this still deeply and madly in love with each other. We did all this because, in the final analysis, Andy and I had to let go of our old ideas about what our lives were going to be like, or what our lives *should* be like now that we had finally been saved by the loves of our lives.
It was a crucible for the relationship. We hadn’t been saved, of course, merely presented with an opportunity to practice unconditional love. What a double cross, universe.
Naturally, we got sideways of each other in this brief period, and, boy, then did we ever have to put up or shut up about whether or not we were committed–about whether or not we had it in us to walk the walk of the talk that had so intoxicated the both of us.
This negotiation was difficult. And awkward.
It was sobering. It was liberating.
Somewhere in this time period we also had a long and painfully awkward conversation about the definition of unconditional love, and my God did we get many, many opportunities to practice emotional honesty. It is hardcore and raw to look Love in the eye and know in our heart of hearts that whether or not we get to keep it depends on our willingness to be honest. Then there’s the part about listening to each other. Then accepting the truth. Then making the necessary changes without judgment or resentment.
But we did it. This is how we started our path to peace. This is surrender.
It is not the same as submission, which leads, sooner or later, to abject misery.
Andy and I figured out quickly that we had no interest in setting up a battle of wills; we are both too argumentative, too headstrong, too intellectually prideful. We both prefer flight to fight, and for the only time in our love lives we did not want either option. We wanted to stay. We wanted to figure out how we needed to change.
All this we learned during the graphic but instructive dissection of the anatomy of our relationship. We took the parts we found that we couldn’t identify to Andy’s therapist, who was a great help. He gave us a lot of perspective.
“The world is a fucked up, messy place. That’s what you’re dealing with. The reality that definitions of certain words like ‘freedom,’ and ‘compromise’ and ‘integrity’ have to change. It’s chaos,” he told us. “Shit.”
We thanked him and left his office alright with the world. He was right. We could do this.
We walked to a pizza place in downtown St. Pete right before the bottom dropped out in a late afternoon thunderstorm. When it subsided, we went to the grocery store and bought all the ingredients for pistachio cake.
We went home and made a practice wedding cake.
We frosted it–like we were told–with Dream Whip.
It turned out too stiff.
When we made the cake again for the wedding, we switched to Cool Whip, which went on smoother but didn’t taste as good.
The point is, nobody cared.
At the dinner, our families kept saying, “I’ve never seen you happier.”
I didn’t change my name the first time I got married. Both my sisters-in-law and several friends remarked about how proud or surprised they were at me taking Andy’s last name, depending on the person’s relationship to me. I didn’t take Lenny’s last name for several reasons, the main one being that his last name was so ultra boring and plain that I couldn’t abide turning into someone so…unoriginal.
And, I think the patriarchy is a racket run by self-congratulatory scumbags and reprobates. I’m no one’s property, you social overseers.
Then there’s the ugly truth that I wasn’t anywhere near being emotionally or spiritually or physically ready to be in a marriage, and so I could always live in the unaltered universe of Me.
But that was a long time ago and I’ve changed so much, we all have, jesus, and I have really been surprised by the amount of people commenting on me changing my name, and that’s all about surrender, too.
The patriarchy is still a system of slavery with intricate etiquette. But I’m no stalwart feminist here. Andy has a terribly cool last name, one that suits me perfectly, and I am beyond ready to be in a partnership, a family, unified, total solidarity. I’ll surrender. No problem there.
When I emerged from the Gulf holding hands with Andy, I became this new thing, this new person, this woman called Marlowe Moore Fairbanks. I don’t know her, as I am, with Andy, in the process of being created. This, too, is surrender. Andy and I talk of these principles of our life and lives often; we’re solidifying our practices, our disciplines.
We were goofing around one day and christened our union as a country, the Free Republic of Fairbanks. In one of our cigar-smoking and cranberry-juice drinking brainstorms, we concocted a national flag, which is pink and brown with a white stripe ascending the bias.
“For surrender,” Andy said.
night night beloveds. Yours truly, Marlowe Moore Fairbanks.