Getting Married for Less Than 30 Altarian Dollars a Day

Happy April Fool’s Day, alternately known as my wedding anniversary. It’s the 16th one, commemorated by toilet paper or broken china or something like that. My beloved lies snoring in the other room, occasionally irritated by the racket that I make in the kitchen every morning around 5am. One must have one’s tea.

canstockphoto16775729I stopped reading women’s magazines when I was about 22. All the quizzes suggested that I’d better be ready to settle down with low maintenance pets and a penchant for crochet projects that never quite get finished. What I knew about marriage or children could fit on the back of a sugar packet. What I knew about myself was that I wasn’t very good at crocheting.

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”
Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless

canstockphoto33412127In 1998, I moved up to Minneapolis, leaving behind a dead-end job and a dead-end relationship. Impatient to get on with things, I placed an ad online, in the quaint days of free Yahoo personals, in order to get back into dating. 27 responses later (26 of which I think were written from a prison library computer), I met him. We exchanged emails and phone calls for a couple of weeks and then, after I ran a background check, drove by his street address and emailed all his relevant information to a friend (Subject: If I am dead, THIS guy did it), we went on a date.

“There are some people you like immediately, some whom you think you might learn to like in the fullness of time, and some that you simply want to push away from you with a sharp stick.”
Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Two years later, we got married. I was 32. He was 35. It was the beginning of a long line of compromise and arguments over house projects and why I didn’t want to spend yet another holiday with his family. I kept my name. He got a wedding. I wanted to get married in a park with a justice of the peace and ten people, to whom neither of us was related. We ended up getting married in a Lutheran church with a gillion people I didn’t know, but who seemed to like him very much.

As a requirement of the church, we had to meet with the pastor a couple of times for “the talk” before the date. Not that talk. She asked us a lot of questions about our canstockphoto35602496families and on a big whiteboard, drew our family trees side by side. On my side, divorce, suicide, alcoholism, more divorce, death by misadventure (usually while drunk) and another divorce or two for good measure. On his side, married for 50+ years, or until one of them dropped dead. For generations. The pastor smiled wryly. This might be something you want to think about as you prepare to make a commitment.

“You know what a learning experience is? A learning experience is one of those things that says, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”
Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

While my husband-to-be took it in stride, I thought we’re totally screwed. If anybody is going to mess this whole thing up, it will be me. Planning the wedding could have been the ending point. I didn’t want to wear white or spend time or money shopping for all things bridal. I didn’t even like church. Or groups of people in general.

Anything traditional gave me the heebie-jeebies. But he was rather happy about getting married, so I tried my best to do the bride thing, which included breaking out in hives the night before our wedding. I look back on our pictures and all I see is him smiling, surrounded by the people he loved most and I’m so grateful that I didn’t behave like a complete shit.

“Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”
Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

One early morning, four years later, I calmly announced to him that I was pregnant. I get spookily calm when I’m losing my mind and panicking. Too many years of singlehood caused my brain to turn in on itself. Pregnant?! Oh wait, this is a good thing. It is, right? His silence gave me pause. Then I realized he was still asleep.

“Don’t Panic.”
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

In the early hours of a chilly April morning, after hours of her mother swearing while sitting on a yoga ball, our girl came into this world dramatically. So I hear. I was completely stoned after having a complicated and unexpectedly scary delivery. My husband was traumatized, as he was not stoned and had to be a witness to it all.

We were ready for her. I say that, because after years of working out our differences, clearing out the extraneous furniture (older meant two households) and learning that sleep was often preferable to cuddling, we’d settled down a bit. We were ready to learn more.

“Don’t you understand that we need to be childish in order to understand? Only a child sees things with perfect clarity, because it hasn’t developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don’t expect to see.”
Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

This kind of life is not for everyone, sometimes by choice, sometimes not. I’d like to believe that if I’d never met him, never had her, that I would have found my way to a loving circle of friends and a purpose that gave me joy. But now that I know and love them, now that they are a part of my soul, every April I celebrate like a happy fool.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soulcanstockphoto16837343

Note: When I was a child, every Saturday I would listen to the BBC production of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” on the radio. A few weeks ago, my daughter asked if I’d read to her at bedtime like I did when she was younger. We’re reading the whole 5-part trilogy by Douglas Adams. Even if you’re not a science fiction fan, the wordplay and nonsensical joy of this series is a lovely escape.

61 thoughts on “Getting Married for Less Than 30 Altarian Dollars a Day

  1. Married in a Lutheran church, ay? Those Lutheran pastors can be a real pain in the ass. I’m glad you survived it.


  2. It’s probably only of moderate interest for the rest of the world, but I just felt like mentioning that today happens to be also my 16th wedding anniversary. Here in France, 16th years of marriage are celebrated as ‘noces de saphir’, so it is sapphire (the gemstone) you ought to be expecting, not toilet paper.. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Happy anniversary! Your comment made me laugh. Apparently, the actual gift in the UK and the US for the 16th is holloware, which I had to look up because I had no idea what that was – it’s tableware. Because one does not get enough of that useless stuff for wedding gifts. The French apparently have a better sense about these things.


  3. Yessss, the Hitchhiker on PBS! We were newlyweds then and listened to it on the radio, too! I especially remember the intro music. Loved it. Imagination goes wild on reading/listening to stories. Years later, I read the entire series! (didn’t like the movie,tho) Our fav is ‘Zaphoid Beeblebrox stared at the other head and wondered what the ZB meant’ or some such quote. We reference it often as a kindof family joke thing.
    Have fun re-reading them to your daughter!

    ps-congrats on the wedding aniv.


    1. One of my fondest memories was borrowing my mother’s radio every Saturday evening to listen to this series. I was delighted, many years later, to find the CDs of the original series. And it is wonderful to be able to share it with my daughter, laughing at some of the very same things I did when I was her age.


  4. Happy anniversary! It’s a lovely story of your time together and I love the quotes you used 🙂 I only discovered the Guide last year, went straight for the “trilogy in five parts” and finally get why towels are so important. I just read part 6 last month. The writer changed, the humour didn’t and I loved reading this unexpected extra part of the guide!


    1. Thank you! If you ever get a chance to hear the radio series, it’s adapted, but quite enjoyable as well. There is something about British humor that really resonates with me – especially the wordplay. I have not yet read “The Salmon of Doubt”, but will once we get through the five books.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Would have enjoyed and appreciated this post without the Douglas Adams, but the Douglas Adams made it even better. Those books are an absolute delight, for the very reasons you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When Douglas Adams died, it felt like a bit of my childhood went with him. I’m glad to be reading his books again, and sharing them with my daughter is an unexpected gift. We so badly need his sort of gentle satire these days…


  6. Smiling here … and remembering my and the Hubbit’s internet romance. Also, wishing I could make Douglas Adams’ technique for learning to fly work for me. (You hurl yourself at the ground, but get distracted on the way down and forget to land.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Adams wrote things in such a way, that phrases and concepts have stuck with me for years – flying being one of them.

      I don’t know that I would have survived today’s online dating schemes. Placing an ad seems so quaint and simple now, compared to the algorithms and flash-rejecting of today’s apps. Maybe I would have learned to crochet, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, you toughed it out this long…congratulations. I love that you said he and she are part of your soul – a perfect description of true love. Here’s to true love and naps!


  8. What was that pastor thinking? Trying to get him to break it off? You are scaring me. Son is engaged and I had no idea how difficult this process would be for us, especially since most of us are pretty easy-going about stuff like this. All it takes is one that isn’t and the forces that be as well. (that one is not son, fiancee, or me, so you guess who it is). Her parents are not very involved so it isn’t them either haha.


    1. I actually think it was a pretty good idea to have the conversation about backgrounds. I think she was just trying to get us to think about some of the challenges we might have.

      You’re right about this whole wedding business – one high strung hand-wringer is all it takes to muck up the works. Thankfully your son’s bride isn’t as surly as my husband’s was. I wanted to strangle the bossy church coordinator and run away to Vegas. By myself.

      Still, it worked out well and as I said, I’m so glad that my husband had the wedding he wanted, because all those little battles were unimportant in the scheme of things. Best wishes to you all!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you so much for writing this. It’s comforting to know that someone with a difficult family history can walk hand in hand with someone who hasnt had that, that the sense of being an outsider that difficult family backgrounds bring can be overcome.


    1. I think this was the upside for marrying later. I’d spent many years working through stuff, so by the time I met my husband, I was able to recognize what a good relationship might look like. It was a challenge in the beginning. I was so suspicious and cynical, that dating felt like hostage negotiation. Fortunately, he was a very calm and patient person!


  10. Ah, this was one of my favorite stories of yours in a while, thanks for sharing Michelle. Funny you did the online dating in 1998. It makes me wonder how I met my wife without doing that, I never considered it. I like the scene with the pastor best, can see him making that comment about considering this commitment (or reconsidering). We’re celebrating our anniversary too this month, and we met in 1999 — got married in 2004. I relate to you too on the calm-when-you’re-losing-your-mind bit. Lovely post. Bill


    1. Thanks, Bill. The ad thing was an odd bit of luck. In a metro area of 3.5+ million that covers 11,000 square miles, we lived 2.5 miles from each other. We are both introverts and likely would not have met otherwise.

      Congrats on your anniversary as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. My favorite memories of your wedding: 1) it was on April Fool’s Day – awesome! 2) the unity candle re-do moment. It made the entire congregation smile!


    1. Oh wow – I completely forgot about the unity candle incident! It’s a good thing that I wasn’t a superstitious person! So glad that you have some good, or at least amusing memories of my wedding. It seems an awfully long time ago.


  12. You managed to make me simultaneously think about similar ideas, discussions, and experiences (and some quite different ones) about marriage, wedding, and child-having in my own partnership—and get deeply nostalgic for the BBC Hitchhikers’ Guide production. What a wild ride, in both instances! (Maybe I’d better revisit the ‘trilogy’ read as well; it’s been decades since I got to enjoy those books.)


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