Every woman gets asked the question by well-meaning friends and family members any number of times throughout her life. Here's how I've answered throughout mine.
A gazillion years ago, I really thought I'd be married at 26. I'd have babies, live in the house with the white picket fence, have a dog and a cat and spend the rest of my days truly, madly, and deeply in love with my perfect husband.
As it happens, when I hit 26 I was very in love, and so ready for the other pieces of my vision to fall into place. I made myself available to start the rest of my life with this person... who, as it turns out, was not quite mentally ready or available for me. Leaving someone you love is devastating, but I knew it was the right thing for me. That heartbreak took some time to get through.
I celebrated my 30th year by deciding it was time to be the driver in my life and not the passenger, and well, I shifted right into gear. I quit my job and got a new one with a higher salary. I bought my own townhouse. I never felt more empowered than I did signing those papers. So, marriage? How about so, me!
It wasn't long after I had closed on my house that the road I was driving took an unexpected turn. I learned that I was going to have a baby.
No, you didn't miss a part of the story - I wasn't dating anyone, but remember my... unavailable friend?
As it turns out, when I was doing well he was available alright. Just not for very long, and certainly not to be a parent.
So, no marriage. I went down the path of motherhood alone. I say "alone" in the parent dynamic, but I never felt alone. My family stood beside me and became the inner workings of my support system. I was alone but not lonely. I wasn't sad about being a single mother most of the time. I would feel the pangs of loneliness around the holidays or when something exciting happened and I wanted to share it more intimately. But at the end of the day - I was getting it done. I brought home the bacon and was raising my son. Marriage could wait as there was nothing more important than what I was doing. So, marriage? So, baby!
At 31 with a baby -- let's just say dating was at a halt, but that was just fine. I felt very fulfilled, and let's face it, exhausted. As my son, John, got older - I did go on a date or two, but there really wasn't anyone I would introduce him to. I knew that when the time was right then it would just... be right. For a long time, marriage would have been a decorative frosting flower on the cake of my life (not necessary for a good cake... but still, might be delicious.)
When John was 6 I signed him up for karate. After seeing him so happy with the classes and improving every day, well, I signed myself up too! Before I knew it I was donning an all white karate uniform (not my best color) and working exhaustively hard, but I had never felt so good. While practicing self defense techniques, I was paired up with Carl. There are differing reports of who could kick butt better (me!), but it was a great time. I can't say we fell instantly in love, but what a wonderful friend he would become. Over time, he became my everything. Our first date he took me to a local restaurant / bar where we snacked on some nachos and had a few beers. Then, the karaoke started. He sang Friends in Low Places and I'll always remember how much fun he had singing up there. I knew he was someone I wanted to spend a whole lot more time with.
Not long after that Carl and I blended our families and even added another boy of our own to the mix. We bought a house, took in a stray cat who landed on our stoop, and even had a pet pig for a very very short period. Life was, and still is, so good.
Would a ring and a piece of paper make it any different, any better? No. A piece of paper changes absolutely nothing about how we work as a family, or how much we love each other. This was our cake, a life we had made together just the way we liked. At first I had wished we had met years, before but I'm not sure I would've been ready -- and we wouldn't have had the wonderful kids we now have. I think the path was exactly the way it should've been.
And then, in December 2017, in front of family and friends and singing karaoke to me (once again, Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks), Carl got down on one knee to ask me to marry him. And even though I would have loved him for the rest of my life regardless of paper or diamonds or marriage or otherwise -- I smiled, and said yes.
My ring does not change how I feel about him, but the gesture that he wants to be with me forever... makes me feel amazing. Next month, we will say our vows in our gorgeous front yard with our nearest and dearest. At the "experienced" age of 46, I know who I am and what I want in my life. I know I wouldn't change any of my decisions as the path could take me in another direction. I have met someone who makes me be a better me. Marrying Carl is my icing. He's my fantastic and this journey with him is the path I'm meant to take. Now we're on to the next step together.