Can we still get anywhere by taking the untraditional road?
Thanksgivings prior our family played roles out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Mom and I cooked for three days straight to make multiple courses from family recipes. Dad sharpened knives for his customary meat carving duties. My brother came in and out of the kitchen sampling the fruits of our labor…only stopping his role as chief taster to help my father with any duties that required male biceps. I was raised in a home that celebrated tradition-from holiday baking to gender roles.
This year my parents abandoned Thanksgiving tradition to take a three-week trek of Vietnam. My brother stayed with his wife’s family and ate dim sum. And I grabbed a girlfriend, flew into Phoenix, rented a Camaro convertible, and drove up to the red rocks of Sedona.
Perhaps it was the open road with an eight-cylinder vehicle. Maybe it was the Thelma and Louise inspired headscarves. My friend and I spent hours talking about love, life and gender roles, hopeful that there was a way to have our cake and eat it too. Although both of us romantically coveted the idea of a life partner that would open up our doors, we both had created a life of fierce independence that made conventional relationships challenging. We chose against early marriage to travel the world, build interesting careers, and stay out all night. I was a loved, yet worrisome anomaly in my family.
“We love your adventurous spirit,” they said, “but you do want to settle down at some point, don’t you?”
When I was younger I wasn’t sure that ‘settling’ was ever in my plans. Yet as the years crept up I started to doubt myself. Ex-boyfriends came out of the woodwork asking me “why” and “what if” and I started to wonder if my road less traveled was going to take me anywhere at all. Should I have, indeed “settled” down? Was I missing out on something else entirely?
My dear ‘Thelma’ friend told me, “The great tragedy of life is that you only have one life to live and that each choice you make eliminates other experiences.”
We had both chosen as many experiences as possible hoping that a family would come eventually. Of course there is no guarantee that the things we said no to will every return. We can only move forward….and perhaps create a new picture of family life (think Salvador Dali vs. Norman Rockwell).
For the free spirited, “settling down” is an ugly, misused phrase. A commitment shouldn’t mean that you stop experiencing life (or at least it shouldn’t!). Nor should there be any dictated time or format to do so. Plus can’t independence be seen as a feminine trait? After all Carla Bruni, the former Italian model didn’t marry French President Nicolas Sarkozy, until she was 40. Previously she had led a fantastic life filled modeling gigs, music projects, humanitarian work and celebrity love affairs. She has shared banter and beds with the likes of Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, and Donald Trump. With a life like that, why race to the altar?
Of course there is something to be said for tradition. I like chivalry as much as I like making the same pies that my great grandmother did. I just want to mix up traditional choices and timelines a bit. There isn’t just one route to romance.
For our Thanksgiving dinner, my girlfriend and I decided to order bottomless champagne. We toasted Ms. Bruni and our own eclectic live choices underneath the Arizona stars. We were hopeful that we could still have it all, even it wasn’t on the most traditional path.
Louise (from Thelma and Louise): “You get what you settle for.”