My Surprise in Getting Married at 49

Eric Green

 

That I got married at the relatively late age of 49 astonished me because it came after years of dates that some would describe as weird -- for instance, meeting a woman who freaked out because she mistakenly thought I was carrying a gun in my black bookbag. Another lady from the National Rifle Association wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship because I didn’t carry a gun and she did, which I hoped she wouldn’t use on me.

 

 One lady I actually could imagine seeing as a second date said she already had a boyfriend but was trying me out to compare how I measured up against him. She gave up on me before I gave up on her.

 

I imagine some women wondered why a middle-age man like me had never been married. Maybe they thought I was gay. Or just odd. It’s possible I was getting odder and ornerier the older I got.

 

What I envisioned in my future retirement years was moving south to an efficiency apartment in Miami Beach, where I figured there’d be lots of other old single guys like me enjoying the sunshine and beach.

 

I didn’t consider myself much of a catch because I was cynical about love, and especially since I dressed so poorly in sweatshirts and ragged jeans--but ironically, what I wore did lead to romance. I credit my 20-year-old winter overcoat for that.

 

 

When we first encountered each other at a shopping mall food court, my later fiancée said the moth-eaten coat was what initially captured her attention and alarm: Shouldn’t I be wearing something with fewer down feathers flying out from the insides? I offered a bad joke: that I had worn the garment since before the War of 1812, and at least there were still a few feathers left, which made her laugh and got the conversation rolling.

 

That overcoat reminded me of Henry David Thoreau’s warning to beware of enterprises that require new clothes. Maybe because he didn’t want to change out of his old clothes explains why he never married.

 

Perhaps there was a connection between wearing that overcoat and my previous strange dates with women. One divorcee said she didn’t want a second date because I’d never been married and divorced like her and preferred somebody who was cynical about love and romance. We didn’t get to know each other long enough for her to realize I felt about the same she did.

 

My fiancée told me after several dates that she felt a “connection” between us, that we bonded over a similar sarcastic sense of humor. Hers was part of the attraction for me. Before we got engaged, she told me she accepted my wish to not have children; it was not a deal-breaker for her. I was 49 going on 9 and still in some ways a child myself. With that in mind, we seemed compatible--I found being with her gave life some meaning and happiness.

 

Being a couple when I’d always been a single caused certain changes in my behavior. For instance, I started jogging incessantly and it was quite noticeable in that I suddenly looked tauter and thinner. I had to adjust my belt to the last notch or my trousers would droop below my waist. My fiancée wondered if I was jogging so much because I was running away from something scary, namely commitment. I wondered myself.

 

 

My fiancée was a straightforward person. After a number of months of seeing each other, she asked if our relationship was moving forward or was she just wasting her time? I was getting a dose of my own medicine. She caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting her to be so frank. I mumbled something like, yeah, we’re headed somewhere. My squeamishness wasn’t enough for her. She asked when. I said soon. It wasn’t long after that we got married.

 

I told my best friend at work that I was getting married, and he reacted with disbelief. He thought I was the selfish bachelor who needed massive doses of solitude and privacy and having another person always around in my apartment might prove too impossible for my loner persona--marriage would cause me to crave being alone again, and it wouldn’t be long before we were filing separation papers.

 

I asked this friend to keep my marriage secret. I didn’t want everyone at work rushing over to offer congratulations when I was still trying to wrap my head around the idea that I’d no longer be a solitary man.

 

My new “couples” status would mean not only better clothes, but more furniture in my apartment. I already knew I’d have to stop living like a minimalist; the few visitors to my spare digs wondered if I was moving out. My fiancée had big plans to take me both to Macy’s and Ikea, and eventually using our joint income to buy a condominium where she’d feel more comfortable and secure that unlike my bachelor pad, it would be a place that we both had paid for and would be joint owners.

 

The first thing to get tossed in the trash at our new place was my now-featherless overcoat, which even the Salvation Army rejected.

 

The unexpected development for me in getting hitched -- which I thought I’d never do, anyway -- was how my fiancée’s cause in helping her family became mine as well. More than a little astonishing for me, call it shocking, is that she was one of 12 siblings, and it was her goal in life to help them and her parents escape poverty.

 

 

I appreciate how my wife’s family expresses their gratitude to me for helping them out, with one of her sisters calling me a “blessing,” even if some might say I’m a blessing in disguise. But it’s not all going in one direction--I’m grateful too for the sense of belonging to something larger than myself, a chance to encourage a good family using our financial and emotional assistance to strive to do better in life.

 

Our support is already showing results. One of my wife’s nieces is now a dentist, another an architect, while two others have gotten jobs as nurses at established hospitals. Still others are studying for college preparatory exams, and it’s costing us a princely sum to help with their tuition. But it gives me satisfaction, after starting from practically nothing, to see her family doing so well. My wife also enjoys a successful career as an administrative assistant in the insurance industry, which along with my pension, helps pay the bills.

 

Another surprise about me getting married that my friends find even harder to believe than the nicer  sweatshirts, jeans, and overcoat I’m wearing is that after 24 years, I’m still married and not living by my lonesome in Miami Beach. We didn’t know you had it in you, they say. Me neither.

 

Author Bio:

Eric Green is a former newspaper reporter, U.S. congressional press aide, English as a second language teacher, and now a freelance writer in the Washington D.C. area. His articles have appeared in various newspapers and websites, including the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun.

 

For Highbrow Magazine

 

Image Sources:

--SplitShire (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

--Pikist (Creative Commons)

--Evil Erin (Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

--Pixabay (Creative Commons)

 

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