Gint Aras, the Good Men Project’s new marriage editor, introduces himself and his relationship to wedlock.
I never really dated my wife. Maria and I met in 1996; we were two painfully young artists, Russian-Ukrainian (she) and Lithuanian-American (me), blown to Austria by crisscrossing gusts of fate. When I lost an apartment following a party-gone-wrong, I moved in to the dorm down the street and was assigned the room directly across from hers.
She was engaged to marry a Swedish engineer. While he was busy setting up a life for them in some province north of Stockholm, he called virtually every day, sometimes every other hour. Maria spent the times between her conversations with the Swede—let’s call him Knut—either practicing the violin or sitting around with me. I cooked meals in the ragged kitchen. I introduced her to the latest American music. I’d bring back hash or weed from occasional trips to Amsterdam or Copenhagen (a Ukrainian passport severely restricted Maria’s travel) and we’d smoke up to walk along the Danube, wander to a favorite cafe or the home of a crazy writer I knew. I was desperately and foolishly in love with her, quite aware that I was living a romantic fairy tale, one I would remember tragically. I never told Maria how I felt. The whole thing was fleeting and doomed, as Knut was almost done with their Swedish nest.
During a particularly deep conversation, she told me, “If I move to Sweden, I’ll commit suicide.” She broke off the engagement to Knut just before New Year’s Eve, the final night of 1998. When she returned from a tumultuous visit to her parents’ home—they were not pleased to hear she was dumping a Scandinavian with a job for an American who could not afford to replace typewriter ribbons—Maria told me Knut was out of her life completely.
Two weeks later, I proposed. I would have done it sooner if not for the obvious question: Why would this talented, intelligent and gorgeous woman—the granddaughter of a Soviet minister, child of brilliant musicians, a speaker of five languages, a student of Bach and Mozart, my introduction to Sibelius, Prokofiev and Shostakovich—marry me, the son of refugees, a product of Cicero, Illinois, an idiot who once thought he had boarded a train for Hamburg only to wake up at the Italian border, a police dog’s snout in his crotch? She would never do it. Yet I could not dilly-dally around. I had to ask the question, face rejection and get on with my tragic memories.
Maria accepted my proposal with a bashful nod and iron-tight hug. In three months’ time we were standing before a justice of the peace, the office overlooking the Danube, our guests a Slovenian jazz player, his Armenian girlfriend, and the aforementioned crazy writer. When it was over, Maria went to her violin lesson and the Slovenian took me to eat Chinese.
She and I have faced the whirlwinds of fate for thirteen years. Their force was often furious; caught in their vortices, we’d stare each other down with matching fury, blame the other, fairly or unfairly, for raising the storm. Yet we’ve made it through together and it seems we’ll part at death.
I come to the Marriage section of The Good Men Project believing that the true narratives of our modern marriages, however we understand success or failure within them, are far more compelling than their idiotic myths. I am searching for essays from people who have married—or not—for every imaginable reason. Was it over money or citizenship, wealth or fame? Did you marry out of masochism? Did you divorce out of love? Is your spouse across the sea while your ex rents your attic? Did you marry to escape a madhouse only to find yourself unable to construct any sanity?
Our contemporary stories of marriage, coming as we extend the institution to more couples than ever before, central to any sophisticated discussion of modern manhood, fascinate me. I hope for submissions from artists as well as scholars, ministers and their shrinks. All well-written perspectives, including those previously published, are welcome. The only formal instructions: your non-fiction pieces of 500-1500 words (give or take a few) must adhere to the Good Men Project Style Guidelines.
I look forward to considering your work!
Submit and query at firstname.lastname@example.org