"What’s going on here?" Gramma Karen found me sitting in my mother’s Ford van in the passenger seat, the door open in a failed attempt at combating the summer heat.
Tears fell from my eyes, and embarrassment burned my face. "I just wanted to make sure Merrick has something to eat that he likes, and I don’t know why it’s such a big deal."
"Ah, so that’s what the fight was about," Gramma took a drag on her cigarette and exhaled a cloud of smoke that smelled like summer days at the cabin. "Do you want to fix this and get married tomorrow?"
I knew I didn’t want to, but I didn’t trust myself.
Watch: When I knew our relationship was over. Post continues below.
In the year and a half I’d been engaged, no one asked me if I wanted to get married. I felt my stomach clench. My brain screamed, "No! No, I don’t! I want to travel the world and figure out what I actually want to do with my life. I want to write! I want to live in a crappy studio apartment that’s walking distance to a cafe where a barista knows my coffee order. I want to make my own decisions, and I want to be free."
Then, the part of my brain that has been repeatedly duped by societal expectations chimed in and reminded me that I’d dated this man for five years, so getting married was the next step.
What else did I think I was going to do?
Getting married meant I was valuable as a daughter and a woman; being single was definitely not the next life-move expected of me.
If I walked away now, I’d disappoint my family, friends, and everyone who knew me. Besides, it’s not like I could make it on my own. (I’m not even kidding, I actually believed that!)
The shoulds won, and I nodded. Instead of disappointing my family and friends, I disappointed myself.
Gramma brought my fiancé outside and talked us through the situation. I’d gone against his mother’s wishes. I ordered a burger for my younger brother at the rehearsal dinner instead of forcing him to eat the barbecue chicken or spinach lasagna she’d provided on the menu. I asked her about it in advance, and she’d refused, saying he could just eat what was provided.