The memory goes away for a short time, fading in and out, but when it returns, there isn’t any radiance about it—just a pit in my stomach. It’s 1977, a very warm June morning. I’m standing in my parent’s bedroom in Virginia. I’m wearing a peach-colored polyester shirtwaist dress with waterfall pleats and a belt that won’t stay fastened. My mother tries to help with double-sided Velcro tape. It works, but I look in the mirror and say, “Ugh, I look terrible.”
I’m wearing a dress that I purchased at the East Lansing Jacobson’s store, near my college dorm. I didn’t spend much time selecting because I didn’t really care about wearing it. Only a few people were going to see it.
I was about to be married at 21, just three days after my college graduation. I was about to go into a synagogue I did not belong to, before a rabbi I did not know, to marry a man I did not love—all because I was too afraid to say no.
My parents had moved to Virginia while I was in college. Dave was working in Indianapolis; we had a tumultuous relationship—mainly because I always wanted to date others, and he wanted to be exclusive.
He was a good man, kind and loving—my first real love. But I didn’t really want to marry him. I just wanted to live with him and see how it would work. But our parents wouldn’t hear of it. I was too afraid to break up, too afraid to move to Virginia, and too afraid to try to make it alone.
So I agreed. It was my wedding day, and I was scared.
My dad asked me why I was so angry, saying it was not a good way to start out. Me, saying if it didn’t work out I could get a divorce.
No one gave me the strength to back out and I couldn’t find it myself — so I said, “I do.”
We married and divorced a year later.
I caused pain to a wonderful man because I was too afraid to say no and too petrified to be alone. It was wrong on so many levels and the pain reappears whenever I see him.
Time and again, I think about apologizing to him, but I’m still too afraid to revisit the experience with him. Has he forgotten? Will he care? And really—why now? What good will it do? Will making amends just make me feel better? Why do I carry this 35 years later? And what have I learned? What can I share?
The powerful lesson I learned was never again will I be that young woman in the mirror devoid of courage on that warm June morning.
As I reflect on that wedding day, and my life in those past 35 years, I see a woman who has grown into bravery. I remarried shortly after my divorce to a man I loved. We had a child together. However, my career didn’t mesh with his definition of a wife; so again, I was faced with an internal dilemma.
As a young girl, my dad always told me not to accept being a wife as a job and that I needed my own career. And I believed him. But it was so conflicting.
I wasn’t happy—being a wife and mother wasn’t enough. I was growing in a career in politics, as a communications expert, poised for helping men and women climb to higher office. Everyday at work was an adrenalin rush.
I was yearning for more growth and felt stifled at the idea of being “just a suburban mom”. I believed I had a higher calling. This time, I was as afraid. I had some courage. So I jumped ship. I filed for divorce.
I had a good job, health insurance and was able to support myself and help support my son. I did it. I looked back occasionally, to the kinder, gentler days of married life, but my passion for politics propelled me.
Soon after that, I married again, this time to man totally different than my first two husbands. They were all good, kind men—but this one gave me the career encouragement I had as a young girl. Some say you marry your dad and in certain ways, he is like my dad. He supports my dreams and pushes me to be the best I can be, never settling for second best, even if it means I’m not home for him. He married me when he was 47. I am his first wife. We both love politics and share a business and a life together. We’ve been together 20 years.