When people find out we’ve been married 10 years, they all have the same response: Shock. And a little bit of confusion.
I see people’s eyes glaze over as they do mental gymnastics trying to reconcile that fact with all else they know about me. It doesn’t help that we both look young (myself especially, sorry y’all).
I might look 22, but no, I didn’t get married at age 12! I got married at age 19, which is slightly less insane.
But still absolutely insane. (Don’t blame me, love made me crazy. If it doesn’t, you ain’t doing it right.)
Honestly, I get a little embarrassed when people I don’t know well find out I was 19 when I got married. To me, it sounds romantic and hopeful and devoid of rationality. I would totally judge someone in that situation. Don’t you know statistics are against you? But for us it felt like there was no alternative. It was just right.
So how did we get here?
A not-so-simple series of events, simplified.
We met online.
On September 4, 2005, my senior year of high school, way back in the era of Myspace, I received this message from a guy who went by the name of “Joey” who was living in South Korea for a year. I had been friends with his sister Lerin when we were younger, and we’d recently gotten in touch via Myspace. He saw my picture on her wall, clicked on it, and changed our lives.
He sent me this embarrassing message:
Hi, I’m Lerin’s brother and you’re cuuuuuuuuute. You should definitely IM me. My AIM username is **embarrassing username**
Yep, AIM – AOL Instant Messenger – another blast from the past! Joseph and I are outliving technology, which kinda makes me feel like a superhuman/robot. BTW, his AIM username included the word “kisser.” Gross.
We chatted throughout the year. We mailed each other letters, and he sent me gifts. We definitely liked each other, and he admitted it to me. But I wouldn’t admit my feelings to myself because it just couldn’t work. In the fall of 2006 he would be moving to Italy for four years, and I would be moving to college.
We saw each other in person.
He had a few weeks of vacation between South Korea and Italy, and he tagged along with his sister to a Harry and the Potters concert. We didn’t talk. I chatted with Lerin while he was in the bathroom, but as soon as he came near me I ran back to my friends. Throughout the concert I stayed away, nervously pulling at my clothes and trying to look busy. And he was doing his best to avoid me.
Here’s what we looked like that day.
Can you tell we were both a little excited about having seen each other?
I emailed him as soon as I got home. Something like “WHY DID WE DO THAT WE ARE SO STUPID” and he responded “I KNOW I’M SORRY.” Then we resumed our normal AIM relationship.
We interacted in real life, like normal human beings.
A couple weeks later I moved into my dorm room. We were running out of time. He was leaving for Italy soon. But things were getting really intense between us, and we knew we needed to see each other. Weeks on end of that delicate beginning rush, the feeling you can know so much without knowing anything at all.
I finally agreed to let him come visit me at college, but in an effort to be noncommittal I told him to arrive any time between 1-3pm. Bad idea. We were both ready and waiting at 1pm, me nervously pacing my room, him nervously circling the building. I heard a knock at 2:59, opened the door, and said to him, “It’s 2:59.”
I think a part of me was hoping spending time together would help ease some of my feelings, but that’s not what happened. Everything intensified. We saw each other one more time before he left for Italy, and when he said goodbye and left the room I felt an actual, physical pang in my heart. Then I had to shuffle off to my Chemistry class and pretend like everything was normal.
We dated long distance.
Spotty email service, spotty cell phone service, spotty landline service. We did it all. I racked up a HUGE cell phone bill. My parents paid it, and then they bought me a landline for my dorm room.
We spent the entire fall talking to each other for hours a day. We lost sleep, I missed classes, I skipped homework. I was productive only during the hours we couldn’t talk. Good thing we were in such different time zones or I might have never left my room.
We traveled in Italy.
On my winter break after my first semester of college, I went to visit Joseph in Italy. The morning of my flight, my dad made me promise I would return. I was like, “yeah, duh I’m coming back.”
We all knew there were two ways this could go. The most likely outcome would be me realizing I didn’t like him that much and certainly couldn’t spend that much time with him. I tire of people quickly. I always called my mom to pick me up after two days with a friend – a weekend is too much for me. And this was two weeks with someone I barely knew!
But that’s not what happened. We had a great two weeks traveling the country.
The morning of my return flight, I emailed my mom and said “Joseph’s going to drive me the airport, but I don’t think I can get on the plane.” So I stayed. It’s like there was no other option. My body physically wouldn’t do what I knew to be the logical choice.
We lived together.
I dropped out of college, and we lived in that small apartment in Northern Italy. We adopted a cat, Leonardo. I read a lot of books and learned to cook. We traveled as much as we could. We took our first picture together in February 2007 in Verona, aged 18 and 23:
We dated long distance, again.
In the fall of 2007, Joseph was deployed to Iraq. I returned home to go to college for the semester since I didn’t want to be in Italy alone. We were back to where we’d been a year ago – living apart, spending all day wanting to talk to each other. This time with an added level of warfare! But it was better. It wasn’t fun, but we were stable. We didn’t have that pain from the year before when we were falling in love. We were already there, and we were solid. We were just focusing on passing the time until the deployment ended.
At some point we decided the only logical thing to do was get married. As nice as it sounds to loaf around Italy, I couldn’t live there legally, and my day-to-day options were limited. My plans were derailed, and I needed to get back on track, for both of us – I needed to return to school.
So it was all or nothing. All: get married, live in Italy. Nothing: break up, I return to the US. Nothing wasn’t an option. We didn’t even consider it.
We got married by proxy.
Ever logical, we decided we didn’t want to wait around for the paperwork that would allow me to return to Italy. We didn’t want to add to the months we were already spending apart. So we decided to have a proxy wedding, which is legal in several states for people in the service or in prison. It’s fairly common in the military, although I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone who did it, now that I think about it…
There was a lot of paperwork, powers of attorney, affidavits, etc. Joseph assigned his dad as his proxy, and our wedding day Joseph and I talked on the phone before I left the house. I wore a dress from Anthropologie. My family was previously friends with Joseph’s dad and stepmom, so we all ate lunch together. Then we drove to the courthouse. In that little room, I sat at a table and got married on December 14, 2007.
Joseph finished up his deployment, and I got a seasonal job. We did the paperwork the military needed so that I could join him immediately. We waited. Waited. There was so much waiting in our first year and a half.
Exclusive content! I’ve never shared this before. These are photos from our wedding!
We were newlyweds.
Joseph and I first saw each other again in February, a few months into our marriage. We spent a few weeks visiting family, and more importantly, meeting family! Joseph hadn’t even met my family! He met my mom quickly once several years before (I was only 12!), but he’d never met my dad, brothers, sister, or grandmothers. He’d never even met any of my friends. We had existed in our own world, but it integrated perfectly into the normal world.
We traveled, we worked, we learned.
We lived in Italy until June 2010, at which point Joseph got out of the military and we moved to our home in Fort Worth, Texas.
During that time we traveled as much as we could. Slovenia and Austria were favorite places to drive to. We had a wonderful few days in Paris. And we ventured to Egypt for a week (our favorite trip).
I took as many classes as I could, some onsite in Venice. Joseph learned Italian. He finished his degree. We cooked together. We hosted and traveled with friends and family when they visited. We had a few years alone in that apartment, and I think it helped us build a strong foundation.
People throw rocks and things that shine, and life makes love look hard. The stakes were high, and there was always someone who disapproved, but we had our cozy apartment and our orange cat and solidity in each other, and we knew we were safe. And that’s all you need.