Yesterday, I bought an engagement ring for down the road when I propose to my girlfriend. I imagine it will be a particular amount of time before the opportunity to propose arises (due to distance constraints, it doesn’t feel right at all to propose over Skype, no matter how in love two people are with each other), but after being with her for nearly six months in a wonderful, fulfilling romantic relationship (having known her for years prior), it only made sense for me that the next time I do fly down to see her, we could very well be fiancées.
I was having lunch earlier that day with my mother, having planned in advance that I was going to tell her that I was going to propose to my girlfriend in the near future, and her response to me was rather eye-opening about my perception of both my mother’s marriage of nearly twenty-seven years, and what I want out of my own marriage down the road.
She told me that she my father didn’t actually go through with the whole process of proposals and matrimony. They were both living in their native country before immigrating to Canada, and their relationship was purely based on strong mutual feelings of love and a remarkably open line of communication, both of which have coincidentally (though unsurprisingly) become the pillars of my own relationship right now. Their perception of marriage was something of a social construct, a formal public obligation to stay committed to a marriage partner, which came with it the marital status that allowed for my mother to not only immigrate to Canada, but also to sponsor my father to tag along as well.
In their minds, a tiny slip of paper didn’t bind them together, their love did.
I always knew that my parents (and by extension, my uncles and aunts, who went through similar immigration proceedings) placed less emphasis on the logistics on marriage, and only made use of it whenever it was convenient for them to move to Canada. With their children born and raised in this wonderful country, things have changed during my generation; immigration laws are stricter, but since everyone lived in Canada already, there was more freedom and flexibility to marry without having to worry about residency. I was the lone exception in my extended family, having found my true love on the other side of the 49th parallel.
The stories of my parents’ marriage and immigration told to me when I was younger immediately came to mind when my girlfriend and I got together, and I considered the applications of those stories in the context of our relationship. A few months back, I had communicated these options with my girlfriend as a means of exploring the different avenues in which we would eventually be together on a geographically permanent basis; the difference back then was that I feel I wasn’t emotionally ready to get married, which essentially dismissed the viability of these courses of action at the time.
Fast-forward back to lunch with my mother, these options were mentioned again, this time by my own mother, who had not known about the discussions that already took place; given how time passed by between these two events, I’ve grown a lot in my relationship and my love for my partner, and now I feel like I love her enough to want to marry her. These “options” are merely cherries on top of the cake (in this case, perhaps a bride and groom on top of a wedding cake would make for a far more apt metaphor). I want to marry my girlfriend because I love her, not because I want a US citizenship, even if it’s a wonderfully convenient bonus to have.
All that matters right now is that the love in my relationship is strong, mutual, and is open in its communication. I’ve found someone who, just like my mom and dad before me, do not view marriage as the defining gesture of ultimate commitment. We don’t need to get married in order to commit ourselves to each other for life. Unlike my parents, however, we still think of all of these things as wonderful things to have because hey, why not have the experience of proposing and getting married. Those things are fun as fuck, and I’m not against celebrating my lifelong commitment in a way that our respective families and friends could understand.
My girlfriend and I are not like most people (although challenging the traditions of engagement and marriage is slowly becoming the norm anyway), but we’re enough in love that we allow ourselves to relish in the enjoyment of social tradition without having to adhere to what they symbolize. We derive our own meaning from our relationship, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
As for the ring, I got it for a pretty great bargain at a whopping hundred dollars. 2 month’s salary? Why bother saving up for 2 months when I can buy it now, and propose to her whenever I want? I love my partner, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard. She’s going to love it. I’m sure of it.