wedding-gift-wrapping-ideas-imagesHe got down on one knee, just like he was supposed to, and as the words came from his lips, “…marry me?”  I knew I could make it.
“I’ll just do the wedding,” I told myself, “then I’ll divorce him. Yes. That will work.”

Dad had chosen him, taken him under his wing, groomed him as a protege and son-in-law long before it occurred to Tom. Mom had imagined our hypothetical children to such a degree she spoke as if they already existed.
“If you buy this house” she would say, pointing to the real estate listings in the paper “you would have room for the baby. And you’d be close in case you need help. With the baby.”

Everyone assumed I loved him, because it was easier than asking. It was easy to assume because he was fine, in fact the very definition of fine. Thin, soft, so lacking in density you could hold him in your hand and not feel a thing. Boring as skim milk and as creative as the Dewey Decimal System. Fine.

Dad brought him home from the office like a stray cat one day and presented him to me as my new boyfriend, and Tom was happy to play along. Shy and malleable but smart and reliable, he was the perfect straight-arrow, middle management husband for their docile, easily manipulated daughter.
We played our roles very well, all the way to the natural conclusion, so when he asked, I thought I could make it. I would marry Dad’s favorite golf partner and Mom’s sperm donor, and I wouldn’t  have to disappoint them. Until later. Yes. That’s what I would do. Yes.
“Yes.” I said.

“I like the sleeveless dresses for summer weddings, remember your cousin Kim she had that beautiful one with the flowers but I thought it was a little heavy on the sparkles don’t you think it was too many sparkles…….” Mom scanned through catalogs excitedly, so absorbed in taffeta she barely noticed me in the room.  I had underestimated how hard it would be to feign happiness for the months leading up the blessed event under such scrutiny.  People expected a bride-to-be to be bathed in joyous light, not a clammy sweat. She should be lingering over conversations about hair-do’s and high heels, not leaning against the wall of the dressing room in a rare moment of solitude, pausing to step out of yet another gown while her tears landed silently on the fabric.

I might have made it.
I might have walked down the aisle holding Dad’s arm, bathed in the rarely seen but often sought glow of his pride on full display. I might have felt love and acceptance from my mother as I became the daughter she always wanted me to be. I might have opened a small fortune in wedding gift envelopes that night, and started my comfortable, affluent, fine life. I might have made it if not for Mom, who ambushed me after my bridal shower, an exhausting death march of forced excitement, bubbly smalltalk and expensive cookware I had no idea how to use.

“Something’s the matter. Tell me” she demanded, in an unprecedented plea for honesty.  She surprised me, I couldn’t remember another time when she had been concerned with my feelings at all, and perhaps that’s why for the first time ever, I allowed the truth to spill from my lips like champagne. I didn’t love him, I didn’t want to marry him.  The relief was immediate and intoxicating.
“I don’t want to marry him” I said as my father raged about the price the calligraphy artist had charged to address the wedding invitations before falling into stony silence and walking away.
“I don’t want to marry you” I said to a bewildered Tom who accepted the news quietly and respectfully before falling into stony silence and walking away.

None of it was the catastrophe I had feared, the drama was heartbreaking but not life-threatening, the sun rose the next morning like it had the day before.  I realized I wanted a man who would fight for me. I realized disappointing my parents was something I could survive. I realized I wanted a lot of things I didn’t have.

It was Mom’s idea that I return the shower gifts in person because I owed an explanation to the family who had spent so lavishly on toaster ovens and towels. Having me stoned by the villagers would have been her first choice if it had not fallen out of fashion, this was the best she could manage in terms of punishment. I agreed, enamored by the idea of three days alone in the car, away from their judgement and shrill voices.

I looked down at the folded map on the empty passenger seat, red orbs drawn like crop circles and the route between them heavily outlined. Mom had meticulously arranged the Road Trip of Shame ahead of time, like everything else in my life it was deliberately constructed without my input. It was supposed to humiliate me as I had humiliated them, but driving down the empty highway with stinging eyes dry from the hours behind the wheel I could only feel a helium balloon expanding in my chest, lifting me out of my seat and into the blue sky. Exhilaration, strange and new, but exhilaration just the same.

“Thank you so much for the gift, but Thomas and I aren’t getting married after all, so I wanted to return this to you.”  After Aunt Beatrice’s house in Columbus I got into a groove, bowing out of follow-up questions and confused eyebrows squinted in curiosity by backing away like a gift-ninja, saying I had more houses to visit, more penance to serve.

“Thomas and I aren’t getting married” I said over and over, to uncles and cousins and former business acquaintances, and each time I believed it a little more. Each time I felt lighter, happier. I would soon head home to a shattered life with an uncertain future. A few more miles and I could start over. A few more hours and I could be free.
“Thank you, thank you so much for the gift.”


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