One year…give or take

8 April 2011 § 1 Comment

Last night as we were falling asleep – or really as PG was falling asleep and I was curled around my laptop watching Friday Night Lights with earphones on – I suddenly jerked around and yelled at the sleepy PG “Happy one year! Sort of!” And he sweetly grabbed my hand, kissed it and then turned over and asked me to turn off the light.

Anniversaries in this relationship are a complicated matter. PG and I started dating under the radar not only because my parents would not be having that shit, but also because our friends were more or less against the idea. Or rather, my Egyptian girlfriends and my art therapist (more on that some other time) were more or less against the idea for various reasons but which basically boiled down to, “We love you. We love PG. We don’t know why you would do this to yourself.” I have a gay friend who once told me that that’s the exact same argument that some family members used with her when she came out to them – why would you put yourself through that kind of suffering and the necessary stigmatization from society?” Anyway, before this dwindles into a post about something completely different, the point is PG and I ignored the concerned pleas of all (who felt like they were) involved and started dating and then proceeded to not tell anyone about that for a few weeks. It helped that about a week after we started dating I went to Philadelphia for a few weeks and was therefore able to avoid most of my friends in Egypt. It also helps that PG is good about just keeping things to himself. When I got to Egypt and slowly started telling friends that we were together, I left the details of when we had started dating vague. So PG and I celebrate that date privately between ourselves (well, ok, along with pretty much everyone around the world as it also happens to fall on an international date of remembrance).

Then one year ago today we had our katb kitab – which we then had to keep under wraps from extended family and most friends for another seven months because PG was only in town for a couple of weeks and we wouldn’t be able to have a proper “event”, and also due to other complicating factors like the recent death of a beloved aunt which would have made it totally inappropriate to have any sort of celebration at that time. And so even though PG and I were technically married, we kept our wedding bands on our “engagement fingers” (right-hand ring finger) and continued to refer to each other as fiance. Even when PG came back to England to complete his studies he did not tell most of his coursemates that he had gotten married while in Egypt. We talked about it back then but never really agreed – would this day be when we celebrated our wedding anniversary or would we save that for the day when we had the public mosque ceremony when we made our union official before our friends and the 300 members of my family (and the 5 of his)?

We’ve never really settled the question though we have visited it a few times over the past year. I think partly this has to do with the fact that neither of us really feels married, but in a good way. We’ve been a couple for a lot longer than anyone knows. We’ve been friends for much longer than that. In some ways it feels completely and utterly natural that we are living together, making a life together. We made it official for everyone else involved, but for us the fact that our relationship would end up “here” long ago stopped being a question for us. Still, people like to know these things. I know that my siblings and I still make a kinda big deal out of my parents’ wedding anniversary. I wonder if our (maybe possibly) kids will want to do the same? In which case, we will have to figure something out.

I know of at least one other couple on the internet who are in a similar situation, albeit for very different reasons and under very different circumstances. (I kind of want to add “getting surprise married at book club” on my list of things to do before I die. Yes, I know it’s not really a possibility anymore, but this blog is really all about doing things that were seemingly impossible so I’m sure I’ll figure something out.)

But for now let’s go ahead and say that one year ago today PG and I most certainly did not get surprise-married at book club. No, one year ago today, PG and I led my parents and siblings and two witnesses down the dusty and dirty halls of the Ministry of Justice. We waited on uncomfortable wooden benches for our turn to be called into the office of the man who would officiate and certify our marriage contract. We tried not to gawk too much at the red-veiled girl on the next bench over who looked to be about 19 waiting with an antipodean-sounding man many years her senior. We fought with the clerk who didn’t like the way we wanted to write PG’s name on the wedding contract (“We must put his father’s name! Not his middle name!” “Can’t you pretend that his middle name *is* his father’s name?” “No!” “So, you really want us to put the Greek word for Christ on a Muslim marriage contract?” “Is it his father’s name? Then, yes!”) We averted our gaze as the lawyer we had brought along to facilitate the process slipped 20 pound notes into this or that hand. We kept our eyes fixed firmly on the worn linoleum floor as the red-veiled girl haggled over her dowry with the woman charged with noting it in the contract. (“Um…one pound!” “No, it has to be a real amount. Can’t be symbolic.” “Oh, fine.” “50,000 pounds?” “Fine.” “Fine.”) And finally, I tried real hard not to slap the officiant when we told him I wanted to write in an equal right to divorce into the marriage contract (as a matter of principle), and he looked up at PG and said, “Do you realize what this means? She can divorce you ANY TIME!! She has the same right as you!” Like this made PG less of a man.

Suffice it to say, it was an interesting experience. And whether or not we ultimately decide it’s the day we want to remember as the day we got married, it was certainly a memorable one and not just because of the strange and funny things that happened, but because in retrospect it ended up being a bright shining spot of a day in what would become a string of very difficult months for my family. And everyone involved in that day – except maybe the asshole officiant – was well and truly happy for us. Afterwards we went to the Conrad Hotel to have a little celebration lunch, and as I rode along the sun-dappled banks of the Nile with my brother and my newly-minted husband I remember having that feeling like it was my last day of high school and the summer was going to be totally awesome.

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