Saturday, August 20, 2005


I have been engaged three times.

The first time I was engaged, it was to Ricky, the boy who lived one house over on Yellow Green Street in Middletown, Connecticut. Ricky and I walked around holding hands and kissed when no one was looking. If grown-ups asked us about our relationship, we told them we were getting married. I don't remember how we came to this understanding, but I was serious about it. We hid in the forsythia bushes at the edge of my yard and lay on top of each other and kissed with our mouths closed. We'd both glimpsed our parents in bed together and knew that lying on top of each other was part of being married. We didn't understand what they were doing and we were always clothed. We did see each other naked, as I recall taking a bath with him one night when his sister was babysitting. Did I mention that we were four?

We moved to Knoxville, Tennessee before I started kindergarten and that was the last time I saw Ricky. I used to tell my best friend, Carla, stories about him. I was sure that I would see him again. I talked about him so much that Carla was mentioned him in letters to me when we were fifteen after I'd moved to Seattle. I had other little boyfriends when I lived in Knoxville, but I thought about Ricky for many years. I know we weren't really engaged. But weren't we? If you're reading this, Ricky, please get in touch.

The second time I was engaged was not as serious as the first time. My "friends" Claire and Jude were having a casual sexual relationship facilitated by living in the same house. Then they took the drug known as "ecstasy," realized they were in love (!) and decided to get married. They were sixteen and seventeen. I was sixteen. I'd heard the story, but I didn't quite believe it. I was in the HUB (student union) cafeteria with my friend Shawn (who was at least twenty), who I met when he began a casual sexual relationship with Claire that turned into a serious year plus relationship. Shawn and I were friends and destined to become close friends (we're still friends--he's married now with a couple of kids). Claire came by our table and told us how wonderful Jude was (he was far from wonderful), how their engagement was serious and that no one understood how deep their (drug-assisted) feelings were.

This was a particularly insulting speech to give to Shawn, who had come relatively close to being engaged to Claire--they lived together for a school year and even moved to San Francisco together. Shawn moved back after they broke up and Claire came home a few months later.

When Claire left that day, after announcing her engagement to Jude, I turned to Shawn and said, "We'll get married before they do. I want to get engaged. Why don't we get engaged?" And we did. I told every single girlfriend Shawn had for the next eight years that we were engaged. "It's ok," I'd say, "it's an open engagement." It was also an unconsummated engagement.

When Shawn got engaged to Sara, the woman he married, we had to break it off. We were both a little sad. What, you might ask, happened to Claire and Jude? They started fighting but renewed their deep connection by taking drugs again. When they broke up a few months later, Claire demanded that Jude return an expensive leather jacket she'd given him. When she got it back, it had a tear, so she took him to small claims court. Ah, the course of true love never did run smooth.

The third time I was engaged...well, that's a little more complicated, because I'm engaged right now. (It's a joke engagement, but a serious joke engagement.) I've been hiding it from you, dear readers, because I am a bad, bad person.

I'll tell you more about it tomorrow. I do expect you to hate me for being a tease.

Bring it on.

Grateful for: young love.

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