At a bridal shower, I’m given things to create a home. A grandmother’s cookbook, ripped-out pages, pictures of housewives in pearls whipping cream. I feel her loss in my bones. Borrowed, blue, old, new: my mother-in-law sends me her garter, robin egg blue. Was it hard? I ask. Yes, say the women. I introduced myself the wrong way for months. I am the descendent of many teachers, who changed their names in the middles of school years. Jared’s mother, a nurse, traded in “Hamilton.” She assures me that “Lucky” comes with advantages; it always cheered her patients up to know that fortune incarnate was caring for them.
But in spite of that change, my mother-in-law and the rest of these women have always been entirely themselves to me, not new iterations or pastless people. Connected to their husbands, but also entirely themselves.
These pre-marriage rituals ease the transition. Relics, of course, from a time when wifehood was the feminine endgame, a teleological achievement. As a bride, I wear an engagement ring, signaling an intermediary period. I choose my dress with my mother, aunt, mother-in-law, and grandmother clustered on a couch. Bridesmaids write me letters to read in the days before the ceremony. I prepare to change my name. My female community is anticipatory. It acknowledges sanctity, understands burdens and mixed feelings.
Jared, I think, misses these traditions. Men don’t have preparatory fuss; they just show up. These months, he’s had no ring to signify the change. A bachelor party, but no meetings with older men, no sanctioned sharing of advice. He ordered his tuxedo alone. Our venue’s men’s changing room has a poker table and television. The women’s room has mirrors and space.
Jared is expected to be blithe. If his taciturn mood is any indication, he will not be. “My job,” he tells me, “is to let you write:” a breadwinning ethos designed for my flourishing and possibly requiring his sacrifice. His name stays the same, but his life changes too. What a reassurance that is.
Psalm 139, my favorite of the songs, describes God’s knowledge of each creation while she is yet in the womb—knitting skin, cataloguing hairs, fashioning limbs, laboring for a body to encapsulate a soul. Two weeks out, I close my eyes and focus on the small, still part at the center of me that is me. This part (I imagine it blurry-edged, luminous) knows what it was to grow up in my home and eat our family’s meals, play my father’s games, knows all the wishes and crushes and strange, lucid dreams I’ve ever had, has quiet jokes and embarrassing questions, words it still doesn’t know how to pronounce, smells, secrets and associations so deep my conscious mind doesn’t know them, could never be put in a memoir, could never be overtaken by another person, even the man I love. If God can know me, always, if He can never be far from me even with ranges and depths in the way, than something about me must be constant: intentional, elemental, unchangeable, even as I learn new things, change my mind, grow up, become someone’s wife. I imagine this self as quicksilver mass, swirling beneath conditions, entirely separate from the records of banks, my paper trail, my legal status, my yearbooks, anything that could and will happen.
These months have not always been blissful or sure. Faith, as I’ve noted, doesn’t promise either. But it has reassured me of a self known by God, and thus, a self that cannot be lonely. One week from marriage, I work out a new signature, try to get my “L” loops right, renaming this person inside of me, knowing that I’ll still recognize her on the other side.