My girlfriends in high school voted me, in a midnight giggle-powered teenage girls’ poll, “The Most Likely to Be the First to Have Babies.” At the time, I thought it was spot on. No, not because I was slutty. That wasn’t until after I got married, and we call that being a sacred slut and we shouldn’t even be using the “s” word, but I digress. I won the title because I was Southern, raised in a conservative Christian family and the trophy on my future mantel was sure to read “The Best Stay-at-Home Mother.” But first, love and marriage.
So, picture this: The quintessential scenario for a country song.
Gearing up to, I suppose, meeting my girlfriends’ expectations and collecting my prizes for winning this make-believe life race, I got engaged at age 17 to the boy next door. That’s right, that wasn’t a mistype, seventeen. As kids our families owned neighboring ranches, and during the summers, while our parents were away at work, he and his sister climbed our barbed wire fence and trekked through the pasture to come swim in our pond, play basketball on the dirt court next to the barn, jump terraces in the pasture with an old Subaru that my parents gave my oldest brother when he turned 16 — you know, general shenanigans of country kids. He once drove an hour from a hospital the day after he had knee surgery because I had called and asked if he could come talk to me about a boy who broke my heart. My parents would ask if I was ever going to give that boy a chance. He would do anything for me and they believed it was a testament to how he would treat me forever.
With each kind and hopelessly romantic gesture, the probing questions of conceding to his pursuits would rain down upon me once again. Somewhere in my sixteenth year, after realizing that I didn’t like how the “bad boys” test drove my heart, I started to see his appeal. Things escalated quickly because we had been best friends since we were kids (well, even younger kids than we were at that time). Several months in, he popped the question and we drank heavily upon that eye-gazing, butterfly inducing young love potion for a year. Somebody get me a banjo and a pen, this one is going to be a hit song!
… And then there was an excruciating, three-year, immaturity-fueled, messy breakup. We were like two children trying to undock our spaceships with no training. You see, he stopped being nice and I got my first bitter taste of not listening to my intuition. Miscommunications led to resentments, and familiarity and fear of the unknown left us hanging on for far too long.
Somewhere between that bended knee and the final breakup, I bought a dress and picked out invitations only to later chop the dress into a costume for a photo shoot and throw the invitations into a bonfire in a muddy field on a full moon while I danced barefoot around the flames. There’s a saying about lemonade in there somewhere, but first engagement and almost marriage in the basket, swish.
During those four years I lost my lead in the love and marriage race to children with my girlfriends. This failure and heartbreak made me start questioning my direction in life, my faith and did I even really care anymore? And there was something about a magical city that I was sure I was forgetting… that feeling in a dream where you go out in public with no pants on. Something obvious that I was overlooking…
But, what’s that? An attractive, hip, newly ordained preacher rounding my love corner and coming in with a date offer? I smell a second engagement perfectly from here…