Vows.

Two weeks ago, I got married.

One week ago, I gallivanted across London.

Last week, I watched a hateful man become president-elect of the United States.

Today, I am tired.

I think we humans gravitate toward hope. We crave new beginnings, opportunities, second chances. We love a good redemption story. We claw for the light. We want love to conquer all. But how do we define love?

Noah and I flew to Texas on the second-to-last Saturday in October. In one week, we were getting married. We spent the intermittent days travelling, cooking, revisiting old haunts, and reading together. On Saturday the 29th, we sat in my childhood bedroom.

“I don’t know what to say to you. You know everything. You know how I feel about you, what you mean to me. That’s for you – I don’t want to say all of that to everyone else.”

Our wedding was scheduled to begin at 7 that evening, and we were writing ur vows. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I had stage fright. A powerful protectiveness was standing at the forefront of my brain; I wanted our ceremony to be beautiful, and I wanted the words I said to Noah to matter. But to the degree that it was easy for me to express emotions on stage as a character, it was equally difficult to fathom expressing my feelings to Noah before a crowd as myself.

In the end, my vows were short. Not flowery, not even pretty. But I told him that I love him, and that I always will. His were longer, more eloquent, more beautiful. But even those moments speaking to each other couldn’t distract us from the misogynistic mess that was masquerading as the rest of our wedding ceremony.

Our marriage was conducted by a Justice of the Peace from Houston. We’d never met him, but we’d written a script for the ceremony and received confirmation from his office that it had been received and would be used.

We were mindful when we wrote the script. We wanted it to be dripping with equality. For phrases like “you may now kiss your bride” to be noticeable for their absence. When the JOP arrived at the house, we immediately got nervous. When asked about the script, he deflected by saying that he liked to do humorous ceremonies. Noah ardently expressed how important the words were to us, and we doubled down on our request that he stick to the script.

He didn’t stick to the script.

He opened with a sexist observation about money, asking me if Noah grudgingly paid the credit card bill after I’d done my shopping. He went on to fumble the script, discard it before it was finished, and ham up his own added vows after we’d said the ones we’d written to each other. He told Noah, “You may now kiss your bride,” and announced us as “Mr. and Mrs. Noah Nofz.”

My skin was crawling throughout, as was Noah’s. Looking back, I wish Noah and I had said something. “No, actually, we both work, and we make financial decisions together as a couple.” “I am not his. We are equals.” “Actually, my name is Mary Cate, and I’m keeping my surname.”

But neither of us did. And it was awful to feel voiceless during my own wedding ceremony, to fear upsetting my parents or causing a scene.

I’ve felt that way so often – afraid to say what I think. But I’m learning. Slowly, with piles of second guesses, and fussing over word choice, and fear. But I am learning.

Being married to Noah makes me horribly happy. Living in love is unlike any other living, full of hope and support and equality. And celebrating love was wonderful, especially along such beautiful streets as England’s.

Then we were landing back in the United States and voting and feeling confident and excited and proud and then fearful and disbelieving and afraid and sick and overwhelmed and numb.

Noah kept reading me polling updates from his computer. I waved him off. “It will be fine. She’ll win. She has to win.”

We went to sleep late, shaken, with only a glimmer of “maybe.” I woke, startled, around 3AM. I grabbed for my phone, hit my News app, and stared. I was convinced I wasn’t seeing. I lay in the dark, my mind useless in its frantic carousel, rotating between pain and disbelief and confusion.

How did this happen?

I cannot understand supporting Trump. I cannot understand even stomaching him. I reject his sexism, his homophobia, Islamaphobia, his hatred of immigrants and women and people of color.

And I am mad. I am mad at the people who voted for Trump. I am mad at my family members who did so, too. I reject the Trump ideology. I reject those definitions of freedom and independence, that concept of the United States, that concept of this country’s place in the world, that disregard for human rights.

Love is a verb. To love is to be kind. It is to listen and to be patient. It is to offer the benefit of the doubt, to look past fear, and to be honest. It is to recognize your shortcomings and ask for other points of view. It is to treat others as equals. To love is to value.

Fear is a verb, too. To fear is to protect yourself. It is to trust only your own mind and to withdraw. It is to assume the worst, to belittle, and to lie. It is to wear papier-mâché and deny the mask. It is to tear others down to gain a sense of power. To fear is to devalue yourself and to hurt others in the wake of your pain.

I think we humans struggle with fear. We crave love and acceptance, second chances. We are afraid of making mistakes and being hurt. We claw against failure. But beneath the hurt that feeds fear, we still want love to reach out and offer us peace.

Fear was expressed on Tuesday. It surprised and upset and overwhelmed. But love was expressed, too. Queer and trans people and Muslims and women and allies answered fear’s verdict with their voices. “We are still here. We are important, we are equals, and we will not stop seeking our rights. This is our identity. You cannot take it.”

The last weeks have been a pendulum of extremes for me: from most moony love and adventure to numbing fear and disbelief. But I gravitate toward hope. I reject my wedding ceremony, but I embrace my marriage. I reject the nation’s president-elect, but I support every person affected by the election.

Every day, I wear my wedding ring. It reminds me of Noah, of our vows and our love. And every day, I am wearing a safety pin. It expresses hope, a vow of solidarity, and my promise to keep practicing using my voice. I hope you will, too.

I love you.

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6 thoughts on “Vows.

  1. Hello Mary Cate & Noah,
    I loved reading this interesting perspective on love, fear and equality. It is worth not settling and to hold out for the one person in search of the same – a true partnership. Your wedding was beautiful and probably one of the most unique celebrations I’ve attended in recent years. It was warm (your parents and guests) and inviting, simple yet rich in detail from the classic novels placed on velvet and lace draped tables, colorful flowers and dried fruit, white lights strung about loosely to frame the natural arch under which you recited your vows beautifully stated…then completed with bride and groom serving homemade ice cream! The two of you are unique and no amount of words can hide the fact that you were truly made for one another. Please come visit us in Chicago where there is much to explore. Love, Aunt Lynn Nofz

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  2. Hi Mary Cate and Noah,
    Your wedding vows are what mom and I really heard, because they came from both of your hearts! Background noise? (Hiccups?) Eventually fade to obscurity.

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    1. Hello, hello! We quite agree that the most important, meaningful parts of the evening were those we shared with each other and our families. It was a lovely evening, and we’ll always remember it.

      But so often, I’ve been silent when something has upset me, and silence has come to mean acceptance, and some things shouldn’t simply be accepted, because then there’s no opening for conversation or change. So, I’ve been challenging myself to speak up when I see or hear things that I think deserve to be challenged. In this case, Noah and I felt that our wishes were disrespected, and we wanted to talk about it. We also wanted to challenge the sexist phrasing that was used in our ceremony.

      If this post seemed like a string of complaints, then that is bad writing on my part. The goal was to challenge, to shed light on, to say “We don’t accept this.” But our challenge will never mean that we don’t cherish the memories of our wedding. We were so happy that day, and we continue to be.

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  3. No, no… your essay wasn’t perceived as complaining at all. It is thoughtful and insightful, and maybe a little sad in that there was little respect where it should have been offered in abundance. We all have memories along the lines of “I should have said something.” For me, many more than I care to admit. You have spoken up here in your writing, and you’ll continue to do so. Be encouraged. I was a terminally shy and awkward student before I became a “can hardly keep his mouth shut” professor. So much so that I have had to learn to tone it down and work on listening more!

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