This story was published in The Write City Magazine, May 2013
The Bride wore Combat Boots
My mom divorced my dad the last year it was legal. That was twenty years ago, I was four. I don’t remember a time before government sanctioned unions.
A bead of sweat rolls into my eye and not for the first time I wonder what Extreme Temperature Training has to do with commitment. The wetness burns and I blink it away, missing just a little bit the wind and snow conditions we were tested in yesterday, and wishing one of my hands was free of the twenty pound sacks of groceries to swipe the salty violator.
My dad spent a week in jail for a union violation once. He remarried immediately and things were pretty rough. She threatened to file for divorce so they were sentenced to a ‘trial’ separation– both parties were to remain in jail until the trial. My stepmom changed her mind and they were released. I’m not sure if they’re living happily ever after, but their kids have a two parent home and they still receive government bennies.
I am so uncomfortable. I can’t believe they make us train in dresses, stockings and high heels. I only wear dresses on special occasions and trust me, grocery shopping would not qualify. But I shouldn’t complain, it’s part of the Equality Understanding Exercises.
I don’t know, but I’ve been told… Derek’s platoon crosses the lot ahead of mine. Commitment lasts until you’re old… I see him struggling with his own bags and heels and a smile buoys my cheeks. Every uncomfortable minute is worth it. He’s worth it. If all goes well, we’ll be granted our Certificate of Certainty in two more weeks, following training and testing.
Growing up, I only had one friend whose parents divorced. They hated each other so much that they filed to spite one another. My friend was gifted to her aunt and uncle for upbringing. Her dad died of a heart attack four years into his sentence, so her mom was released. Till death do you part and all that. Being widowed is not against the law, unless there’re suspicious circumstances. The government takes marital fraud very seriously.
I don’t know, but it’s been said, unions last until you’re dead…
I try to focus on the next leg of training: the in-laws. Derek’s parents seem to like me, but the brass makes everyone run through Landmine Preparedness Techniques. They bombard you with questions, comments, and demands. Your reactions on the field determine whether you pass or get blown up by balloons filled with colored paint. This test has had the most casualties of any, rainbow splattered men and women, confused, disappointed and angry.
In the old days, one out of every two marriages ended in divorce. With the new family-focus laws, the numbers are about one in fifty. Sure, lots of people choose not to get married, but they’re making that decision just as fully as those of us who choose to earn a cert. The current laws are based on GIIMF, the Government Imposed Ideals of Morality and Family. You have to be sixteen to drive, eighteen to vote, and twenty-one to drink liquor, but you can fall in love at any age. With anyone. It’s a two-party system, anybody can marry anybody, but both parties must participate in, and pass, union training, a sort of “bridal boot camp.” If you’re not willing to pledge three weeks of your life to proving your vow to your partner, and vice-versa, what makes you think you can commit the rest of your life to them?
My least favorite part has been Chore Camp. I can wash dishes and do laundry, although I think the fifty pound baskets they made us lug up and down three flights of stairs were a bit extreme. I mean, it’s only me and Derek. Even if I waited until we were wearing the last two things in our closets, all of our clothes would never weigh that much. My major fault is yard work. Raking, planting, mowing, I hate it. Luckily you don’t have to ‘pass,’ you just have to try, and have a partner who passes. I assume my high scores in household management will counter Derek’s inability to balance a checkbook. See? We were made for each other.
Long ago, a lot of troubled relationships were doomed due to being based on nothing more than physical attraction. The new laws require a multitude of compatibilities and camp is set up to test those. Thinking someone is totally hot does not a future make.
Of course, the hardest thing is not being able to spend time with Derek. That’s part of the process; they grade you on maturity, responsibility and individuality, rating your levels of dependency. I miss him like crazy, but I understand we’ll have the rest of our lives together. Plus I get glimpses of him occasionally and that always puts some pep in my step. Even when I’m clomping through the recycling dump in coveralls and work boots. At least there’re no heels.
I’ve heard it takes up to eight hours to complete the written part of the test. I can’t imagine why—they’re testing you on things you should already know: your partner’s birthday, eye color, shoe size, favorite sport, food, movie … You either know it or you’re not meant to be together, right?
Upon successful completion of Certainty Camp, couples go directly to the graduation/union; straight from the barracks to the Justice of the Peace. You’re welcome to have a traditional wedding, in a church or whatever, and a reception, too, but most couples opt out. Priorities have changed by then.
Those who don’t pass are sent to the Relationship Reclamation Center for discharge with Single Status. That won’t happen to me and Derek, I’m sure of it. His birthday is January 26, his eyes are brown and he wears an 11 ½. His favorite sport is football, favorite food is pepperoni pizza, and his favorite movie is Ender’s Game.
I smile and sigh, thinking of all the favorites yet to come, together.
Hopefully by this time next year, we’ll be applying for our Procreation Permit.