Transatlantic Marriage - from Indy to Dublin

Elizabeth Coffman-Mackey
January 7, 2019

“So, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get ahold of a SIM card as soon as I land in Ireland, so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to talk to you that first day. But the student housing has wifi, so I’ll be able to send you a Facebook message to tell you I’m okay at the very least.”

“Yeah, I know. The parent-slash-guardian email I got said to give the student a few days to settle in before bugging them about calling.”

My wife says this with a grin, and I have to laugh too. On the university website, there was a blank space where I could put information for my emergency contact, and next to that, a drop down menu to select my emergency contact’s relation to me. The problem being, of course, that there was only one option, which was Parent/Guardian, and my emergency contact is my wife.

Piper and I got married in August of this year, and when two twenty-one year old women get married in almost matching white ball gowns, it tends to generate a little confusion. From the parents who asked if we were sure we were ready, to the passers-by watching us get our photos taken and asking where the grooms were in this double wedding, to her occasionally getting mistaken for my mother on college forms, because for most students my age, their moms are their emergency contacts.

Ever since I applied, it’s been a running joke that Piper is my mom. This is, actually, especially funny for us, given that we’re gay, and before gay marriage was legalized across the country, lots of same-sex couples would have one person adopt the other so that they could be listed as emergency contacts and receive inheritance and have bedside visitation rights. It becomes a darker joke in historical context, but one that we still think is pretty funny.

“Anyway,” I say, “I’ll get ahold of you as soon as possible, and hopefully we’ll be able to Skype. I hear the wifi is a little patchy, but we’ll figure it out, yeah?”

“Yeah,” says Piper, squeezing my hand, smiling even though she looks sad. “We will.”

So, I guess reading all this begs the question: why go to Ireland? Especially if you got married less than six months ago? But I’m not studying abroad in spite of getting married six months ago - in a way, I’m going because of that.

As a child of a white, middle class family, there is a certain way you see your life laid out in front of you. The way you are told the world works is that you go through childhood, go to college, fall in love, get married, have kids, and repeat the cycle. In high school, you’re asked where you want to go to college, and in college you’re asked what sort of job you want. There’s a set order to the way you’re supposed to live your life, and those who don’t follow this timeline can feel subversive.

Because of the structured way we’re “meant” to live our lives, when people don’t follow this timeline, it’s assumed they’ve jumped forward somehow. It is as though, for me personally, because I’m married, my college and adventure days are over.

Which is, of course, totally incorrect.

I highly doubt if even most people go through their lives in the designated order that they’re supposed to. I have friends who chose to have kids when they were twenty, friends who went back to college at the age of thirty, people who never plan on getting married or having children at all. Through all this, I can’t help but notice that people don’t follow the pattern more often than they do. And I also can’t help but think that, freshly married as I am, there’s no wrong time to study abroad.

I doubt if I’ll ever be truly ready to up and leave the country for four months. The idea of spending a whole semester without my wife and my cat is daunting, but still an adventure. After all, who’s to say I wouldn’t miss my parents or my girlfriend as much? Is there a more “right” time to study abroad? Earlier on in the college experience, when I’m still growing used to the university I’m studying at? Later, when I could be building a family? I think not.

I reached the conclusion that I won’t ever be ready for something this big. But I didn’t feel ready for so many amazing experiences in life that at this point, “ready” isn’t a factor. I have the next few months of adventure ahead of me -- of seaside views and intensive writing and all the famous hospitality of Dublin -- and then I have my family waiting for me back at home.

So, Piper helps me pick out luggage and squeezes my hand, and she kisses me in the taxi on the way to the airport. Ready or not.

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Elizabeth Coffman-Mackey

<p>I am a fourth year college student living with my wife and our cat. I spend most of my free time writing stories or attempting to "vegetarianize" meat dishes. I love all kinds of fantasy, but especially the likes of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and I hope to learn enough about English in college that I can spend the rest of my life getting paid to do the writing I will be doing anyway.</p>

2019 Spring
Home University:
Indiana University
Urbana, IL
Creative Writing
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