NYRican in LA: Not Getting Married and Not Happy About It

PHOTO: Mamita Mala and her boyfriend do the photo booth at a friends wedding. But will he put a ring on it?Courtesy of Maegan Mamita Mala Ortiz.
Mamita Mala and her boyfriend do the photo booth at a friend's wedding. But will he put a ring on it?

June is the most popular month for weddings in the U.S. but I will not be walking down any aisle in a white dress in the foreseeable future. For most people who know me, this isn't a shocker. I was never one who dreamed about taking another person's last name or picking bridesmaids. For most of my life, I rejected the idea of marriage. A piece of paper won't validate a relationship and being someone's wife isn't a goal I need to attain to feel complete or closer to someone. Marriage seems like an arcane institution based on certain class, gender and sexual orientation privilege. Then why am I upset that my live-in boyfriend told me that we wouldn't be getting hitched?

Growing up, my parents' 17-year marriage failing due to infidelity showed me that wedded bliss ends in disappointment and depression. That's not to say that I completely wrote the idea off. I happily accepted a ring on my 18th birthday in a Greenwich Village Spanish restaurant from my then boyfriend. That fell through in large part because of us attending colleges in different states, meddling mothers, and us just being way too young and idealistic, thinking that young love based on us being politically-active young Puerto Ricans was enough.

When pregnant with my first daughter at age 19, again I allowed myself to fall prey to the fantasy that a whole family meant one with married parents. I expected the Chilean father to come to New York and marry me in the white dress I wore in a church for my high school graduation. He canceled those plans at the last minute and I wrote off the idea of ever being a bride.

Call it justification or deeper political awareness but from then on marriage seemed like something that straight couples did, often for convenience. Friends of mine married to get health insurance or to get their green cards and sponsor children left behind in other countries. I didn't know many people in my circle who wed out of love and a desire to publicly state their lifelong fidelity to one another. I rejected the offer from the father of my second daughter to marry me and I'm pretty sure my childhood and adult experiences with that institution led to my justifying getting emotionally and sexually involved with not one but two married men.

At first I was I grateful that my current pareja held the same negative feelings about marriage. He had been in a relationship with the mother of his child for over a decade without exchanging vows. He grew up witnessing his own parents' dysfunctional marriage. But one night on the phone, he from Los Angeles told me in New York that I was the type of woman who made him reconsider, who made him want things he never thought he wanted. He wanted to marry me, eventually.

Suddenly the issue was on my life table again and instead of rebuffing the idea, I embraced it. I was flattered and excited and deeply in love with this man. It would be nice to share something just between the two of us. It would mark the merging of two lives that via technology challenged distances. It was incredibly romantic and I fell for it. I suddenly wanted it.

Together in a hotel room in Detroit, we watched same sex marriage become legal in New York. The political tide of the issue seemed to be turning along with our emotions. Before I moved, we discussed having a non-legal commitment ceremony in the Unitarian Church he occasionally attended. A member of the church offered to write a song for the occasion. A friend offered her Highland Park yard for a party but with the logistics of uprooting my family from Queens to City Terrace, it fell through the cracks and remained unfulfilled until I brought it up months later.

When my pareja's best friend announced his third marriage, we planned to make a family trip to witness the nuptials in Mexicali, Mexico.

"So when are we getting married?" I asked.

When he told me we weren't, I felt sad and angry at his unilateral decision. It wasn't for another month that I would learn that from his point of view there were things he learned during the course of our nine month cohabitation that made him change his mind. He says I need to be more stable. I should be in a better job situation. I should be back in school. On a practical level, I understand. On an emotional and psychological level, I feel like I didn't prove myself worthy enough. Like I've failed at something.

We've been to one wedding together and that proved to be intense for both of us. Before my friend walked down the aisle, my boyfriend took a phone call leaving me sitting alone for a few moments. As I sat in Union Station, where my pareja and I shared our first date, a moment I had hoped would be incredibly romantic was anxiety-inducing. In a few weeks we will be at a wedding dinner for his high school friend and part of me worries about how we both will feel being in the presence of a couple who have decided to take that leap. I also worry about the inevitable questions that will be asked about our own status.

Our lack of marriage plans won't make or break our relationship. Things like communication, empathy, love, honesty, respect are the foundations of a good, long term relationship and to be real, both of us clearly have much work to do in all of those areas. I am happy and willing to do that work together and with each other. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't care about not getting married now. A Pandora's box was opened and I'm not sure how easily it can be closed.

Follow Maegan "Mamita Mala" Ortiz as she chronicles her adventures as a Nuyorican in LA, including how she got her nickname, her young daughter asking if she can be Chicana when she growns up, being grateful for not having to smell her vecinos, her musings on different Spanglish accents and slang, and the story of how the self-proclaimed original "Twitterputa" fell in love and ended up here in the first place.