Punchlines: On Loving and Being Loved

My Someone’s name is on both of my marriage certificates.  Both times, he is the best man.

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This fact we laugh about with our friends two months, two weeks, one week away from the weekend my Someone and I decided to allow the government to acknowledge us as a united, functioning single organism.  But then, when the weekend is beginning, and our best pals from the other town we call home begin to trickle in to the first town we call home, we don’t laugh about my Someone’s promotion from Best Man to best man.  Instead, we laugh for the happiness that tickles our bellies.  We laugh for the bourbon that fills our cups.  We laugh for the secret wedding that will take place on Leap Year Day that will finally set the history books straight.

Those creaky jokes of second husbands, those awkward words of remarriage– we swallow them all weekend.  And then, we forget to say them at all.  I’m not forgetting where the jokes are from.  I am not jumping on board with evangelical ideas of second virginity.  I am just choosing that our story is not built on what I did wrong, but what we are doing right.

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The first time I had a conversation with my first husband, I approached him in the dark.

“My last two exes drove Jeeps,” I said, as he loaded his things into the back of his Cherokee.

“Let’s make it a third,” he said back.

And then, in a few long and short years, we did.

And I’ve been chasing everyone to the punchline ever since.

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With my Someone, we fell in love loudly, but we kept it to whispers.  We stepped lightly with loud jokes.  And then, as we rolled into one, the jokes became crutches and the crutches became apologies.  I became a hobbling comedian, too happy to keep from going on, too frightened to leave my mistakes.  So when I reworked the punchline to my future mother-in-law, there wasn’t any laughter left.

“I know that I am a hard sell to this family,” I said.  And she nodded.  It wasn’t an agreement.  It was an audience waiting for the laugh track to cue.  But there wasn’t a laugh track, because there was no longer a joke.  There was just a hobbler heaped with a hope that the joke was over.

I spent the next couple months wondering where the laughter turned to a cringe.  Where the funny story became a regret.  Where I had become the sad counterpart to a perfect partner.

On the day after Leap Day, we sat with our remaining friends.  A balloon flower bouquet and a few candles held vigil of the perfect day.  I recounted my apology to my future in-laws, and tried to formulate a new joke of how my Someone was easy to love.

“Compared to who?” Jessica said.

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This is why we instinctively held our tongues all weekend.  This is how I stopped hobbling: compared to no one.  My Someone is so easy to love.  And then, as she turned back to the pan on the stove, I heard what I had hoped anyone would say each time the jokes were made–

“I think you are incredibly easy to love.”

I am.

And now, my Someone and I are so free to love and be loved.  And we will choose to refrain from the punchlines lest the punchlines become ourselves.

Except maybe for the funniest jokes.

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