There’s really no reason I should react to marriage the way I do.
I love weddings—mostly because they’re fabulous parties—and love seeing my friends all happy and gushy-eyed. I especially love watching the groom’s face as his bride walks towards him.
It’s not my parents’ fault, either.
Twenty-six years and counting (or is it 27 now?), they’re still mush for each other. They go on dates, they crack jokes and laugh at each other, and I don’t think my father has ever gone on a business trip without bringing my mother along. They hold hands when they go on walks, and cuddle on the couch without saying a word. My mom is forever telling my dad how brilliant and amazing he is, and my dad can’t keep the pride out of his voice when he speaks of how clever and beautiful he finds his wife. Several days during the year, flowers randomly appear on the kitchen counter. They don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, because they’re positively nauseating the other 364 days in the year.
I haven’t the faintest clue, then, why the thought of using the word “husband” gives me a sudden desire to simultaneously climb a mountain and swim for miles in an effort to break free of feeling tied down. My heart feels constrained at the thought of saying, “I do” and having to live up to some set of expectations.
Then I met Derick and Ashley. Ashley’s cousin, Andrea, and her husband came to Korea a couple of years ago, and Derick & Ashley joined them back in August. The four of them showed up at the gym towards the end of winter, and we’d chat back and forth. Cool set of people.
Ashley had danced ballet earlier in life, and you could tell when you watched her glide across the footholds and curve lithely into the right angles to reach the next hold. Derick is much taller, but also very skinny. Gangly, I’d say. Very welcoming and pleasant.
One Sunday, I headed over to the rock wall at Munhak Stadium, which is about a 20-minute walk from my place, to join pretty much the entire gym for a little climbing.
Derick decided he’d run up the beginner’s wall real quick just to get moving. For some reason the gym owner’s wife belayed him. That’s important. She’s a bit gimpy from an ice-climbing injury.
As she lowered him back down, about 10 or 15 feet off the ground, she dropped the rope. Derick landed in a position that looked like he was trying to sit down, thereby bringing the entire weight of his body and force of the impact directly onto both his heels.
Everyone froze for several seconds. We weren’t sure if the height was large enough to hurt anything because Derick was quiet at first—trying to be strong I guess, or maybe in shock himself. Then it all exploded.
The next several minutes seemed to drag on as we tried to keep him warm, called an ambulance, hoped no damage was done to his spine, and made sure he was stable. He’d yell out if someone put pressure on his shins, and he furiously gritted his teeth as he sucked air in and out.
At first, Ashley stood off to the side as Andrea and I hugged her and tried to keep her warm. The shock had her mumbling, “I can’t believe I let her belay him, I knew she was bad at belaying, I never should have let that happen, I knew we shouldn’t have come today, I had a bad feeling about climbing today…”
Derick let out a panicked yell as someone jostled his legs, and Ashley ripped away from us gasping, “That’s my husband!” I’ve never seen the level of concern in someone’s face as I witnessed in hers. I’ve never heard that level of love and devotion and passion applied to the word that has always signified bondage to me. I was dumbfounded, trying to understand it.
The ambulance finally arrived. As they lifted the gurney into the back, Ashley stood with her cousin and I, wondering out loud, “Am I supposed to go with them? What am I supposed to do?”
I didn’t pause to think, I just shoved her towards the open doors as the paramedic readied to close them. “Of course you’re going, get in.”
My mouth kept moving and I threw out a rushed, “I’ll pray for you guys.”
She pulled herself up and into the vehicle. Her face turned towards me. As her eyes locked on mine, she grasped my hand and resolutely stated, “Thank you. I mean it.”
This 100-pound ballerina, with a voice usually so soft and delicate, in that moment, had enough passion and force to face a Great White.
She slid between her husband’s head and the back of the cab. As the doors closed, she held his face with her hands and choked out her concern, worry, and guilt for the harm done to him.*
It wasn’t until later that day, after returning home and grabbing some dinner, that I realized how much the afternoon had affected me.
I let my own tears fall as I felt the barriers I’ve so strongly built up crack and crumble.
That’s a love I can understand, one I can stand behind. It’s so beautifully selfless. No one was forcing her into some subservient status, or telling her her “proper place.”
Nope. She loved him. That’s it.
That afternoon totally reformed my view of the word “husband.” I’m grateful for that.
Now, “boyfriend” still makes me cringe and wish I could run for miles into the wind. But it’s a totally unnecessary word, really.
I’ll just do it Korean-style and call him “lover.”
That’s kind of Biblical, anyways.
My lover spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.” ~ Song of Solomon 2:10
*His ankles had completely shattered, but luckily no other injuries presented. He had to manage a wheelchair for a month or so, then moved on to those ski boots and crutches. The last time I saw them they were both very happy, and as sweet and pleasant as ever.