Friday, July 18, 2008

Love: A Pie or No?

Being in Tahoe for C & B's wedding--with all the typical ensuing craziness, frivolity, and mayhem--makes me think of both my own wedding ten years ago and Amy Bloom's short story, "Love Is Not a Pie." Though I haven't read that story in years, I still remember its vivid first line (though I cheated and looked it up online to get it exactly right): "In the middle of the eulogy at my mother's boring and heart-breaking funeral, I began to think about calling off the wedding."

The story is about a woman who comes to realize that her mother has been involved in complex relationships involving more than one man, and when she confronts her about this, her mother says something like, "Love is not a pie." I've always been intrigued by this idea that love isn't something round and finite that you divvy up into allotted slices, that it instead sprawls and meanders and is unwieldy (perhaps like a pie that isn't made with enough thickener, or more of a galette?), and the better for us, perhaps, to accept this--or, at least, the more interesting our lives might be if we do.

I thought about this line, "love is not a pie," when SB asked me for the second time "why" B & C are getting married (I think her exact question was "Why are they doing that?" as if "that" involved eating food off of a nontraditional surface). I said something like, "Because that's what people do when they love each other," but of course it's not that simple. For one thing, with rare exception, only marriages between men and women are recognized in most municipalities in this country. And certainly some people who love each other never get married, but their lives still seem pretty okay. So I gave her a short answer for a difficult question.

As for my own wedding, Alex and I had lived together for five years before literally throwing a wedding together in three weeks. It was one of those rare impulsively practical decisions: he was heading to grad school that fall and needed health insurance, we were feeling romantic one evening, and his family was going to be in town anyway. Why not get married? (Or, as SB might put it, "Why not do something like that?")

Ten years later, it seems silly, but not surprising, that I overthought something like getting married to a person I loved. Part of it was stubborn loyalty to my younger self and ideals of freedom, part of it was skepticism that marriage was such a great idea to begin with, and part of it was fear that getting married would be a public admission that I believed in something as unpredictable as love. It turns out that this last thing, admitting that you have faith in something or someone, is actually the best reason of all to get married.

I wrote about our marriage in a couple of different essays several years ago; one of them, "Plans Made Under the Stars," which was published in Notre Dame magazine, is still available online. Read it at your own risk: it seems like a painfully melodramatic piece to me now. The more interesting thing is a "letter of consternation" written by a woman who says that because of my essay, she and her husband weren't going to send their usual donation to Notre Dame. Apparently, the fact that we didn't tie the knot Catholic style and that the magazine chose to run my essay were terribly offensive to her. This is a person who clearly believes that love is simply a pie.


melissa s. said...

Well I loved your "amalgamation of words" (I’m going to adopt and love that phrase as my very own). I also love that you are the spider fighter of the family. hope your're having fun in tahoe!

Clarissa said...

if your story caused "consternation" in her life.... i can only imagine the HORROR she would express at the rest of your family. :) good thing we're free-spirited thinkers..... love you....

cb said...

I think that third reason is the best too -- throw your hat in the ring, against all odds.