Tuesday, August 27, 2013

And also with you.

Step 1: Take a sheet of paper and pen, and move away from your fiancĂ©- far enough that he or she can't see what you write.

Step 2: Write down your answers to the following questions. Answer honestly without trying to predict what your 
fiancĂ© may want you to write.


Question 1: In 10 years, where will you live?


Question 2: In 10 years, how much money will your spouse be making?


Question 3: In 10 years, what will your family look like?


Step 3: Share your answers. 


Jon and I smirked at each other as we completed the homework assignment suggested by the priest overseeing our Pre-Cana class, the marriage prep course Catholics are required to complete before getting married in the Catholic Church. We opted for an "intensive" 2-day retreat instead of six weeks of Sunday classes. About 12 other Brooklyn-based couples attended. The group was relatively young and seemingly normal, except for one Nigerian dude who kept raising his hand to ask about abortion.

The retreat started with a Friday evening prayer service led by a jovial monsignor with a sitcom Brooklyn accent. He began his sermon by calling the group out on collectively screwing up the response to "Peace be with you" during mass. The response was officially changed two years ago, but most of us chimed in with the old, inaccurate, "and also with you." Clearly this isn't the most devout group, the priest joked.

Good or bad Catholic, Pre-Cana is a time to ask any tough questions and clearly communicate our expectations of marriage, he explained. The three-question exercise (listed at the start of this post) was offered as a way to make sure you and your future spouse are "on the same page." Jon and I agreed to do it when we got home. 

We were both a little nervous before reading our answers out loud. Of course we had talked about our future (usually with stained lips and flushed faces after polishing off a bottle of wine). We've discussed where we may want to live. We've agreed that we want lots of kids. We've even concluded that we both like the girl's name Olivia. But that three-question quiz, it doesn't mess around.

We said our answers at the same time.

Question 1: In 10 years, where will you live?

That's a tough one to answer when you're both from someplace else and you meet in New York. As far as I can tell, it's a city you move to, and it's a city you one day leave. Maybe you fall in love, with a guy or a job or a rent-stabilized apartment, so you stay a while. But it's rarely because you planned it that way.

In many ways New York is easy to leave. For starters, it's absurd. Someone is honking, pushing, yelling, jackhammering and/or peeing near you at all times (usually all 5). And the the contents of our rented 1-bedroom lives could get packed into the back of a U-haul by by a Craig's List man-with- a-van in under 2 hours.

But in many more ways New York is impossible to leave. As far as I'm concerned, the delicious squeezy bottle sauce at the areapa restaurant in my hood is a compelling enough reason to raise a family here. How do you leave the best city in the world? How do we know if it's worth it or not to stay?

Alright already, "In 10 years, where will you live?"

We both wrote Florida. But I think we both sorta hope it's Brooklyn.

Question 2: In 10 years how much money will your spouse be making? 

I remember the first time I showed Jon my bank statement. He was doing my taxes. Or maybe he was teaching me how to check my credit score. Either way, I showed him mine and he showed me his. The exchange was uneventful. No big secrets revealed. But sharing our balances, savings and salaries felt surprisingly intimate and bonding.

My finances are really the only thing I've ever kept private. The rest is on my Facebook wall. It felt good and natural to let him into that bit of my world. But it was definitely strange to predict our future 40-year-old salaries out loud. As a woman, I was especially nervous to blurt out a number.

As much as we wanted to poke fun at Pre-Cana (after a 45 minute presentation on "natural family planning"), that simple exchange of answers sparked an important conversation about our future, for richer or poorer.

Question 3: In 10 years, what will your family look like? 

I can't remember Jon's answer. I think I hoped for three kids and a dog.

Either way, we all know the real answer: as many little big noses as we can afford.

***

The last 6 months since we got engaged have been awesome. The planning and parties have me excited for the wedding. But Pre-Cana got me excited for marriage. We're really doing this.