Taking My Time
I used to think that men were afraid of commitment. That notion, however, has been tested because lately all I have been meeting are men who want to get married - quickly. Matthew, the latest man in my life, is thirty-eight and is trying to rush me to the altar. But I'm not in a hurry to get married - again - and at thirty, I have learned the importance of loving myself, enjoying my life and taking my time.
Matthew, however, has visions of how wonderful marriage will be. He refuses to hear anything anyone says about marriage being a perilous undertaking that must be entered into with extreme caution. He is in a hurry, but being in a hurry often results in calamity. I wanted to communicate to Matthew the importance of taking one's time, and so I thought of an analogy that perfectly illustrates this point. It concerns a dress I wore to a wedding that Matthew and I attended together.
I am a full-time graduate student, so I'm on a tight budget and am always looking for ways to cut expenses. I decided that for this wedding, rather than going out and buying a new dress I could not afford, I would just wear a dress I had made myself. My dress had an African pattern that was perfect since the couple getting married wanted an African theme and asked all the guests to wear African attire, if possible.
I went to the closet and pulled out the dress. One whiff told me that somehow this dress had escaped getting washed, and so I hand-washed it (the material was delicate) and then threw it in the drier (delicate material or not, I was running out of time.) I did a perfunctory job of ironing it, and then I put it on. Or at least, I tried to put it on, but I couldn't remember exactly how to do it. I don't like to restrict my creativity, so I had designed the pattern of the dress myself. It was a two-piece summer dress, and the top part left my shoulders and much of my stomach exposed. The problem was, if I didn't wrap the dress around my chest in just the right manner, I could end up exposing more than just my stomach.
The other problem was that when I made the dress I was in a terrible hurry. I had procrastinated up to the last minute and ended up not having the time to do a thorough job, so I took shortcuts. I didn't put in a lining. I didn't hem all the edges. I didn't even sew the darn thing properly and had to rely on safety pins. My mother, who was an excellent seamstress, would have cried to see my shoddy work.
The first time I wore the dress, I was able to hide its imperfections, and everyone only had praise for it. However, after thirty minutes in the drier, the true quality of my work became apparent. What was I to do? It was time to go; Matthew was getting impatient since we were already late. I figured that since I made it work once, I could do it again. I grabbed a few more safety pins and dashed out the door. That was such a mistake.
Worried and Restricted but Mostly Embarrassed
The entire time I was at the wedding, I was so worried about my dress falling off and about my stitches coming unraveled and about my uncut strings showing that I couldn't even enjoy myself. I was restricted, afraid to move too much because I knew that my dress was literally hanging on by a thread. I was even afraid to laugh too hard because I didn't want the heaving of my chest to cause a safety pin to pop open and puncture my lungs. When it came time to catch the bride's bouquet, I knew I didn't dare reach for it. I feared that if I reached up, my top might fall down, so I kept my arms pressed tightly at my sides. I looked like a stiff, uncomfortable soldier in the midst of a celebration.
The worst moment of the evening came about when I was talking to a lady whose dress looked like it was brand new and expensive. We made small talk for a few moments, and then she looked me up and down and said, 'So, did you make your dress?' I was so humiliated! Normally when I make something, people are so impressed by it and want to know where I bought my outfit so that they can go buy one. In those instances, I proudly tell them that I made it myself. This was the one time that I was ashamed of something that I made, and in deep embarrassment, I admitted to being the designer.
I think that what I experienced at the wedding is what many people experience in their marriages. I know how to sew, but I didn't take the time to sew the dress properly. I just wanted to have a dress to wear, and I didn't do everything necessary to make sure that the dress wouldn't restrict me or embarrass me. The dress was fragile; it was weak, and once I put myself into it, I ended up feeling insecure and uncomfortable.
Many people rush and enter into marriage without first taking the time to make sure that relationship is sewn together tightly enough so that it doesn't fall apart and leave them exposed. That's what happened to me in my first marriage, and I don't ever want it to happen again. I don't ever again want to be in a relationship where I am trying to hide my hurt from the rest of the world just as I was trying to hide those safety pins. I don't ever again want to regret - too late - that I didn't do all the preparations necessary to hold everything together, the preparations necessary to make sure that the relationship really fits.
The lady I mentioned above is the only person who asked me if I made my dress. Several other people actually came up to me and told me that they liked my outfit. I know that they were being sincere, but I also know that they didn't look too closely. Too many people - people in the church, people on our jobs, people in our circle of friends - have relationships that look good on the surface, but if we looked closer, we would see that those relationships are on the verge of falling apart at any minute. But it doesn't have to be that way.
When I think back on my embarrassing moments at the wedding, I have to laugh, but I also have to learn. And I have learned. If I want something of quality, whether it's a dress or a relationship, I have to give it quality time. I can't take short-cuts and expect to feel secure.
Matthew says that he understands all of this, but he's still anxious to get married. Oh well. I tried. Maybe he'll just have to experience what I experienced before he'll really understand the importance of taking his time. But for his sake, I hope not.
Written by Michelle Stewart in 1998
The Relationship Repair and Care Clinic