I come from a long line of strong women.
My great-grandfather left everything to my great-grandmother in his will. Unless she killed him. He felt the need to put that on paper, along with the make, model and serial number of her pistol.
My grandmother was a single, working mom to seven children.
My mother was once bitten by a dog. She bit him back.
So it should come as no surprise that I came into the world fiercely stubborn and independent: a mini-feminist, even in kindergarten, as I complained that girls were underrepresented and miserable in the world of the Letter People. I was a tomboy in Chuck Taylors, playing ball in the neighborhood vacant lot by age nine. By seventeen I was a card carrying NOW member who wore t-shorts that read, "People call me a feminist when I do anything that might distinguish me from a doormat."
I'm not sure how, but my parents, in their more traditional gender roles, never discouraged me.
Nor did they ever take up drinking.
By my mid-thirties I had a career, a beautiful daughter, a full-time graduate school load, and a really neat guy that wanted me to be his wife.
But I didn't really want to marry my husband.
It wasn't him, but the wedding. The dress and the flowers and the people staring at us when we made a vow and shared a kiss, something sacred and private.
But he really wanted a wedding, so did his family, and some of mine.
Everyone else I could have told no, but HE, he really wanted it all.
So we planned it. Sort of.
There were podium rentals, and music selections. A 19 page wedding contract with the Church.
On more than one occasion I defended our decision not to have a unity candle with the same emotion and defiance only seen in SEC rivalries.
And though I'm not positive, I've been told that our marriage might not be legal because I don't have a bridal portrait of me staring into a mirror. That and I abhor flower girls.
About three weeks before the wedding I found myself cross-legged in the middle of a bed in one my parents' guest rooms, telling all within ear shot that I didn't like anyone at all anymore unless I gave birth to her. Oh, and that I was not getting married.
He didn't ask if he could come in, just kneeled down next to the bed, and said. "We don't have to have a wedding. We can get on a plane and fly to Vegas today or drive to Alabama. We don't even have to get married at all. Just agree that we will spend every moment together. That is all I need."
And he meant it. No cake. No tuxes. No ceremony. All I had to do was say the word and it wouldn't have to be. It was up to me.
After that, he sat everyone down and told them that I agreed to the wedding, provided NO ONE spoke to me about it, asked me any questions, or addressed me in any way. (I've since learned that I was not the only middle-aged, professional woman bride to have an absolute meltdown. Solidarity sisters. Weddings aren't for the weak.) Any question would go through him, and whatever I decided would be acceptable. Period.
There were tears and nods, hugs and forgiveness. It was, after all, people who loved us.
There would not be Christmas decorations, carols, or the freaking unity candle. But there was a dress and song and a ceremony.
And in the end, we were married.
We don't talk about weddings much; I'm secretly hoping that if baby girl ever marries, she'll elope. He wants to walk her down an aisle.
She says that it won't happen either way because she is NEVER getting married.
She is confident in this, so sure of herself. She doesn't need anyone, but her. After all, she comes from a line of strong women.
And the strong men who love them.