the boy i was going to marry

the boy i was going to marry

When I was, well, according to the date in the corner of this photograph, it’s August 1982, which means I was not quite 3, my family went to Arkansas. I don’t remember much about this trip, because I was not quite 3 at the time, but I do remember a few things about it. I remember following my uncle Ted (actually my great uncle) around like a puppy because I thought he was THE COOLEST. EVER. And I remember learning that you can’t actually sit on the surface of water without something to hold you up. (Yes, I tried to sit on water.) (Of course I did.) And I met the boy I was going to marry.

In that photograph, that’s me and the boy I was going to marry. He was maybe 4? So my theme of liking older men has been lifelong. He’s related to the Jewell family, so I’ll refer to him as That Jewell Boy. I don’t remember why he was the boy I was going to marry, I just remember that he and I sat together in that chair (there is another photograph of us in the same chair, probably taken moments later, and we’re holding hands, though I couldn’t find it last night, and so there’s a part of me that wonders if I’m not hallucinating it, and maybe we weren’t holding hands, maybe I had my hand on his leg, which seems to be one of my signature moves) and my grandma said something to me and I replied “I am going to marry him.” I was so certain about everything in the universe when I was 2, so it stands to reason that I’d know beyond any shadow of a doubt that if I sat in a chair with a boy, then he and I were obviously meant for each other.

The following morning, we went to church. A photograph I am absolutely 100% certain I am not hallucinating is one of me and That Jewell Boy standing in front of the church in our Sunday best.1 We are smiling in that way that is more like we’re squinting into the sun. It was the last time I ever saw him, the boy I was going to marry. In the intervening years, I have forgotten his name, though suddenly my brain just said “I think it’s Nathan,” so maybe his name is Nathan? Which is perhaps a better name than That Jewell Boy. If it is Nathan, I wonder if he would ever find this post if he Googled himself. Hm.5

Anyway, in the years that have come and gone since that summer when I was two and in Arkansas and sitting in a chair with That Jewell Boy: Perhaps Nathan Edition, my grandmother, whose greatest desire6 is to see me married off to some nice young man so I can start having babies already because I’m not getting any younger, you know7, has brought him up from time to time, usually at family gatherings, with all the tact she can muster8, “Do you remember when we were in Arkansas and you were going to marry That Jewell Boy?” “Yes.” And then there is a pointed look.

And oh, isn’t it adorable, being 2 and certain that you’ve met your future spouse? Totally. I mean, they say that when you know, you know, so there’s that, and furthermore, I’ve never been so certain that I was going to marry someone ever again in my entire life.9 Except it should be taken into consideration the fact that my concept of marriage was that when you were married that meant you sat together and also you rode in the same car when you went places.11

And so, even though I’m not going to marry that Jewell Boy Who May or May Not Be Named Nathan, I figure if two-year-old me could give the world any advice, it would be this:

If you’re going to marry someone, you’d better make sure you like sitting together and riding in the same car. That’s as sound advice as any, I think, which just goes to show you that I have always been a genius in the ways of love.12

1. Here’s a little bit of trivia for you. The church was located in Dyess, Arkansas2, which is where my mom’s family used to live back in the day before they wound up in Michigan. For that matter, the chair that I sat in with That Jewell Boy was also located in Dyess. So it’s a magic place, where I met my first love. It is also where Johnny Cash3 is from, which I thought I’d tell you, so if you’re ever having a conversation about Johnny Cash (I imagine this happens all the time), and the person you’re talking to thinks Johnny Cash is from Memphis, because people think that, you can be all “Nuh uh! He was from Dyess, Arkansas! GOD, YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING.” Like maybe this would come up in Trivial Pursuit or something? I don’t know.

2. Just in case, pronounce “Dyess” like “Dice” sort of, more like if you were saying “Dice” but you were from Arkansas.4

3. Total badass.

4. What’s the protocol on footnotes within footnotes?

5. On second thought, I’m pretty sure it’s not Nathan. Maybe not pretty sure, maybe only kinda sure. Maybe I just think that his name is possibly not Nathan. But it could be. For that matter, almost anyone’s name could be Nathan, but the percentage of people named Nathan out of the set of people who could potentially be named Nathan is reasonably small. I bet I could illustrate this with a Venn diagram. Like so:

Are you Nathan?

I know a guy named Nathan. I never thought I was going to marry him, though. Note also how much dust is on my camera sensor. Damn.

6. Okay, I’m not so self-centered as to believe this is her greatest desire, so let’s go with maybe it’s in her top 100.

7. She should trademark that.

8. For someone so concerned with being a proper lady, it is amazing how little tact this involves.

9. Of course, part of this stems from the fact that my attitude toward marriage as a concept and a pastime has become something along the lines of “I would prefer not to.”10 Though the comment thread on this photo may perhaps make me reevaluate my position on the issue, because, um, ROBOT.

10. Bartleby, the Scrivener, represent!

11. I also thought I was going to be a brain surgeon.

12. I can’t even tell you how hard I laughed just then, but I may possibly have snorted.


5 thoughts on “the boy i was going to marry

  1. You can’t imagine how delightful it is for someone who once upon a time started out doing a Math degree and ended up with an English degree (i.e., me) to discover a Venn diagram in a footnote.


  2. I’m in the big circle outside the boundries of the paper which includes those people most definitely not named Nathan. Have you tried a Google search for Nathan Jewell?


  3. Yeah, well… he looks like a laid back kinda dude… just sitting around waitin’ for sumpin to happen…


  4. Ha! This was so adorable. For me the boy was “Guiseppe” but I wasn’t 2 at the time. (I can’t remember anything that far back). I was 8 at the time. After a year of sitting next to each other in primary school he moved. I think he moved to Spain or Italy. Or maybe he simply moved to a new suburb but Spain/Italy sounds more exotic.


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