This is an essay I wrote in 2002.
A MAN OF LETTERS
It wasn’t that Micha was smart. It wasn’t that he knew a number of languages fluently or had charm or was learned in art history. It wasn’t his grand opinion of me, or even attraction. Marriage would be an easy out; when he proposed, I couldn’t think of quick reason to say “no.” I didn’t find him sexually appealing, was disgusted with his alcohol habit, his projection of self-pity, his assumption that all women are shallow. I did, however, like the sense of purpose marriage might bring. I knew I had enough money to last until the end of college, but not graduate school. Micha offered stability and companionship–did it matter if I disliked him, didn’t enjoy his company?
I returned home and blew a chunk of my student loan on a round-trip ticket for Micha to visit America, meet my parents, and see if he liked it here. I was twenty-three.
Micha became the caretaker of my parents’ wine cabinet, buying bottles of this and that to “take the edge off.” He told my parents his wish to convert to Judaism, and openly stated his plan to undergo circumcision. He revealed his bisexuality and said he’d prefer to keep separate bedrooms, with me as his wife and other men his lovers. He wept in front of every male he encountered; I never learned if these tears were willed or accidental. In short, he embarrassed me.
One night at dinner, Micha announced, “Julie and I would like to get married.” My parents asked, “How will you support her?” A lively interchange ensued between Micha and my father, who wanted to ensure that his only daughter would be properly taken care of; there was much discussion of the money a translator would make, and where we would make our home.
When I could stand it no longer, I barged in and asked, “Doesn’t anyone care what I want, what I feel, whether I want this marriage? Don’t I matter?” I realized then that I did matter; I needed to assert myself to avoid living the rest of my life with a man I detested. I learned the importance of love in a relationship, that marriage was more than a convenient reason to share a home, children, and money. By cutting Micha from my life, I closed a chapter that didn’t have to be written, years of life that could have been spent in unhappiness, not that I didn’t otherwise waste them.