I do not want to get married again.
Yes, that sounds harsh, but before everyone cancels their RSVPs and returns their gift cards, perhaps I should clarify. The statement “I do not want to get married again” is a true statement, with the key word being “again.” That word, those two little syllables, imply Marriage the Reboot, which, simply isn’t the case.
I had accepted, even encouraged, the thinking that I would be alone the rest of my life. I’d become a hollowed out person, unable to allow anyone to come close enough to hurt me, let alone love me. Sure, I’d date, perhaps even attach a label to it, but I wanted that distance, needed it to survive, even though it was killing me.
In almost exactly one week from this moment, I will be huddled in a hallway with the woman who changed all that, and our small gathering of guests will be listening to a song that captures us. It is not a shock to anyone that it will be a Bruce Springsteen song, but what might escape everyone is just how on the dot the lyrics to “Tougher than the Rest” are.
I first met Angela Earwood on a ridiculously hot June day in 2014. We’d been exchanging messages for a couple of weeks, going from Facebook to texts to phone calls that lasted until 3 a.m. She gave me fair warning: her marriage had recently (and abruptly) ended and nothing serious (or even non-serious) could possibly happen but we could be friends. She asked if I’d be OK with that.
I said yes. It’s the best lie I’ve ever told.
She had enough interest, though, to at least want to meet, so a date was hatched and I found myself driving to Nashville one Saturday in June. Cue the Springsteen.
“Well, it’s Saturday night, you’re all dressed up in blue.
I been watching you awhile, maybe you been watching me, too.
So somebody ran out, left somebody’s heart in a mess
Well, if you’re looking for love, honey, I’m tougher than the rest.”
She wasn’t wearing blue; poetic license granted.
The drive to Nashville should have taken about 3.5 hours, but thanks to some construction traffic, it moved closer to five agonizing hours. By the time I pulled up to her house, the back of my shirt was soaked with sweat, and I warned her not to hug me because, quite frankly, I was disgusting.
I quickly learned nobody tells Angela Earwood what to do.
When her arm splashed down on my back, I knew right then it was over for me. No, it wasn’t love at first sight (or even first nasty hand-patting-sweaty-back), but something in me knew that she would be my girlfriend … if I could convince her to let me be her boyfriend.
“Some girls they want a handsome Dan or some good-looking Joe
On their arms some girls want a sweet talking Romeo
Well, around here, baby, I learned you get what you can get
So if you’re rough enough for love, honey, I’m tougher than the rest.”
I’m fairly certain “you get what you can get” includes sweaty backs.
We’ve barely stopped talking since then. I say barely because we had a dark period – it all fell apart. Things got real, got SERIOUS. I got scared, she got scared, and in our fears, those nightmares of being left alone again, came back to haunt us, driving us apart.
We did not, however, give up. We talked. It’s amazing what actual communication can do. We put down our defenses and opened up to each other like we hadn’t done previously. We were raw and exposed, but we realized something: yes, we love each other, but we actually LIKE each other.
“The road is dark, and it’s a thin, thin line
But I want you to know I’d walk it for you anytime. Maybe your other boyfriends, they couldn’t pass the test
Well, if you’re rough and ready for love, honey, I’m tougher than the rest.”
We learned to let our pasts stay behind us, no matter how badly we’d been hurt. We learned to face things hand in hand, arm in arm, partners to the end.
“Well, it ain’t no secret, I’ve been around a time or two
Well, I don’t know, baby, maybe you’ve been around, too.
Well, there’s another dance, honey, all you gotta do is say yes
And if you’re rough and ready for love, honey, I’m tougher than the rest.
If you’re rough enough for love, baby, I’m tougher than the rest.”
When these words play Sunday, forgive us for not being in the room with everyone else. We’ll be behind the scenes, sharing one last private moment together before publicly sharing that dance.
We’re both ready for love. She is, I have learned, tougher than the rest.