In the wake of our secret nuptials, it's safe to say we were walking on clouds of bliss. Wide-eyed, oblivious, and utterly temporary fluffy clouds of bliss.
Eli & I, June 19, 2003; Little White Chapel Drive-thru, Las Vegas
In an effort to bask in the glow of this milestone as long as possible, we--naively--decided to keep things under wraps until we were ready to share the news on our terms. Of course, as the most clandestine information is wont to do, it came to light despite our best efforts. We'd been able to contain it for less than a week. Looking back, our actions seem so laughable, but considering the lukewarm reception we received, our intentions had some merit.
Reactions on both sides of the family were... mixed. A handful expressed joy at our union, but the majority communicated varying degrees of disappointment at the manner in which we'd gotten married and the way in which we shared our news. Words like "naive" and "selfish" were thrown about, too, as were speculations about my being pregnant. (I wasn't.) The consensus seemed to be that we'd moved far too quickly and no idea what we'd done. The biggest issue, however, seemed to be that they weren't present to see us exchange our vows, and were (understandably) hurt by the exclusion. We anticipated this sentiment and even sympathized with their feelings, but at the end of the day, we were more than secure with our actions.
The thing is, aside from being a heterosexual couple, nothing about our relationship really fit societal norms. Neither of us had any dating history prior to getting together; I'd never even kissed another man before I met my would-be husband! When we sat down and started talking for the first time, our connection was instantaneous, and from that point on, we were damn near inseparable. There were no games or protocols to follow; we were simply following our instincts. When Eli popped the question roughly two months after our first date, it seemed like a natural progression because it perfectly coincided with the trajectory of our entire relationship up to that point. We accepted that people wouldn't understand and chose not to let the fear of criticism derail us.
For me, this was especially poignant because at 21, it was the first adult decision I'd ever made exclusively on behalf of my own happiness. As the youngest and only girl in a somewhat conservative family, there were certain expectations surrounding the manner in which I would marry. Until that day, it was understood that I would remain the "Good and Dutiful Daughter" who was chaste, did as she was told, and gave no one reason to worry. Somewhere along the way, though, that yolk became heavy and my spirit chafed under its weight. I wasn't reckless, however, and was determined to wait patiently for the right timing. When Eli came into my life, I remained prayerful the entire time we were together and received divine confirmation that he was the right man every step of the way.
As for the question of race (I know y'all were thinking about it!), we've had no overt issues with either family and there are a couple of reasons for this. First and foremost, we are Christians and take the message of Jesus seriously. He has called us to love everyone and that is how we live our lives every single day. Lately, this attitude seems like anomaly, but I'm blessed to have been raised by and married into a family that puts the tenets of the Christian faith into practice. Secondly, our families knew each other relatively well. All the us had attended the same private school and our older siblings had maintained those bonds long after they'd graduated. As the youngest in our respective families, Eli and I missed out on this, but we knew of each other. We not only had a shared faith, but also a natural rapport made stronger by years of friendship. Lastly, Eli and I were undeniably in love; together we had something special that was palpable to everyone.
Remarkably, the hardest adjustment to being married turned out to be emotional: There were times when I simply couldn't believe this beautiful man, barely 22 years-old, wanted nothing more than to love and care for me. There were moments when the pain of my past would rear its ugly head, and I would once again find myself as that dark-skinned Black girl who was always overlooked, always "the good friend", always the one wistfully watching folks pair off and enter the rite of passage of that is dating. Logically, I knew I'd made the right decision, but my overactive brain failed to compute this reality.
As a result, I struggled with fear-- the fear that one day, Eli would come to his senses and leave me. Sadly, it took me too long to know I was worthy of love, that my husband wasn't going anywhere, and that this wasn't some elaborate trick to break my heart. Thankfully, Eli refused to allow me to wallow in these feelings, and took it upon himself to tenderly and compassionately show me the depth of his affection and commitment until I couldn't help but believe. In time, he managed to mend the many wounds I'd internalized before we met.
Oh, and because the God we serve is both omniscient and has a flair for the dramatic, we were able to have the wedding of our dreams just a few months after our elopement. Once more, we said our vows, but this time we were overlooking a beautiful Hawaiian beach, surrounded by the people we loved the most.
Our Family! October 25, 2003, Maui