Cesar and I were married just nine months after we met. It was not a shotgun wedding, as we reckon some assumed. We were madly in love.
But we didn’t marry for love only. We married because any real physical intimacy between us (you know what I mean) happened in hiding. For the most part at least. We were once asked to leave a restaurant lounge for basically making out on a couch. “We don’t allow this type of behavior here,” the manager said.
It may come as a shock to twenty-something women today but you were expected to marry a virgin. It was still a time (1991) and a place (Caracas, Venezuela) where, for good Catholic girls, don’t-ask-don’t-tell was the prevailing attitude around sex — sex with anyone but your husband. Naturally, living in sin was unthinkable. Heck, even going away together was out of the question.
Times were a-changing, though. While I still fully bought into the idea of marriage, I’d rejected the notion that sex was for married couples only. By the way, I still buy into the institution of marriage. Though it may not be for everyone, it’s a wonderful arrangement for many so don’t rule it out!
At any rate, since Cesar and I couldn’t move in or travel together, we made the logical choice to let my mom plan our wedding while we put all our energy into planning our honeymoon. We were happy to be getting married but we couldn’t wait for the day after the wedding.
We got married, then, for love and lust, both of which — along with a lax attitude toward birth control — led to an unplanned pregnancy less than a year later.
When we found out I was expecting, we were preparing for our move to Monterey, California, where we’d both be going to graduate school. After roughly two seconds of panic, it seemed obvious to us that my pregnancy could only add to our adventure. What a thrill to be having a baby and getting to be young parents (me, 24, Cesar, 27) in California, a place new to us both.
My mother, of all people because she had seven children and knew that being a mother changes everything, gave our ridiculously naive mindset a boost.
We were out with my family at a trendy Thai restaurant celebrating some event I can’t recall. The restaurant, though, I remember clearly, Thai being quite the novel, exotic cuisine back then. After dinner, as Cesar and I broke the news, I felt an acute sense of fear that we wouldn’t be able to handle a baby plus grad school plus moving.
Sharing the crazy news of my ill-timed pregnancy out loud and in public had made the monumental change ahead sink in. It was my mother who changed the trajectory of my thoughts that day.
“So what are you gonna do about grad school and California?” asked a discerning relative.
“Well, a baby will just bring more depth into your lives and plans,” my mom interjected before either of us came up with an answer.
My mom knew. She read me and knew I needed this reassurance from her, the person whose opinion always figures in any weighty decision I make. Not that she dictated my decisions or that my aim was to please her, but always she influenced them.
Even though I didn’t seek to follow in her footsteps and didn’t agree with some of her views (still don’t), “What will my mom think?” inevitably and instantly flashed in my mind when I pondered right and wrong, safe or too risky, wise or stupid. The question saved me from making some self-destructive decisions in college.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve felt serene when my choices make her happy, and shitty when they don’t. This is why I hid from her (not always successfully) many a choice I knew she’d find reprehensible.
That day, her words filled me with confidence that Cesar and I would pull it off.
We were crazy about each other and we would be crazy about our child. It would all work out great.