“Here, you. Come and help me with this zip.”
My partner and co-parent is in our en-suite, trying on the bridesmaid’s dress she is to wear to her best friend’s wedding this Saturday.
It looks great, all faux-lace lattice work and floral designs in pale pinky peach, the fit one notch tighter than snug, not quite at asphyxiation.
“There should be a clasp at the top there,” she advises, as I fumble at her back, “BE CAREFUL YOU DON’T BREAK IT.”
We’ve been together for nearly twelve years, nine of those engaged, but we’re still not hitched. I proposed beside the Taj Mahal at dawn back in April ’07, a gesture so romantic that I have been resting on its laurels ever since.
Amid the maelstrom of parenting (seven years and counting into that gig), getting married has become one of those things we mean to do but never get round to, like painting the bedroom, doing our taxes or having that weird mole looked at.
Why, then, ever since I became a father, has every doctor, teacher, administrator or fresh acquaintance I’ve crossed paths with assumed that I am married?
So little pressure has been applied to me by my parents-in-law to “do the right thing” by their daughter and grandchildren that I sometimes think they’re hoping a better prospect might turn up. Perhaps I’m being paranoid. My longstanding fiancée was married before, after all - they’ve played that scene already, once might have been enough.
Plus they know we can’t afford it.
And surely, in 2016, society is way past any stigma being attached to children “born out of wedlock”, right?
Why, then, ever since I became a father, has every doctor, teacher, administrator or fresh acquaintance I’ve crossed paths with assumed that I am married? I don’t wear a ring. The only thing they’re going on is the fact that we have children.
“Say hello to your wife for us,” my fellow parents ask me.
Naturally, I don’t correct them, just mumble that I will and move on, not wanting to get into an exposition on my marital status, to have to trot out the Taj Mahal and all the excuses.
I even find myself talking to these people about “my wife” for simplicity’s sake, “partner” sounding pompous in the playground, “girlfriend” out of the question. What are they going to think if we ever do get married? I’ll look like some kind of matrimonial charlatan; I could be internet-shamed for having faked being a husband all these years.
Maybe it’s time to change tack. The next time anyone mentions my wife, I should put them straight with something like:
“We’re not married, no. Neither of us is religious, and we’re committed enough to one another not to need a certificate to prove it. In truth, we’d love to celebrate our union with a wedding, a party would be nice and I won’t pretend we couldn’t do with the presents, but until marriage equality has been achieved in this country, we don’t think we can do it, in all good conscience.”
I am a masterful toast-maker. I’m not getting any younger, and I’d like to play the strapping groom while I’m still vaguely mobile.
On second thoughts, that sounds even more pompous than “my partner”.
As for the kids, they know we’re not married and they like the idea of a wedding.
“Can I wear lipstick to it?” asks our daughter, nearly seven, when the subject comes up.
“Ask your mother.”
“Can I wear lipstick?” chimes the boy.
‘I don’t see why not.”
“That’s not fair. Why does he get to wear lipstick but I have to ask mum? He’s a boy anyway. He’s only allowed to have a moustache.”
“I don’t know. We’re not getting married. Please leave me alone. Can’t you see I’m on the toilet?”
They’d love it if we did get spliced. The cake, the dancing, the confetti and the funny grown-ups falling over. Right up their alley, for now at least.
If we’re going to do it, we should do it soon. Let them enjoy their big day.
Their big day? The hell with them, what about mine? I’ve never been married. And I am a masterful toast-maker. I’m not getting any younger, and I’d like to play the strapping groom while I’m still vaguely mobile and don’t necessarily require a nap during the reception.
Next year we’ll have been engaged for a decade. Most likely (surely, Australia?) this marriage equality farce will have been settled by then, by plebiscite or parliamentary vote, which will mean sayonara to one more excuse.
And looking at my significant other, who now turns towards me in her fancy frock, as the moonlight pierces the en-suite window to frame her lovely face, all of a sudden I’m hearing wedding bells.
Though I suppose it could be tinnitus.