Let's start off on a nice bleak note.
The standard line these days is that one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. Given those odds and the trauma of pulling the threads of your life free of the marital tapestry, why would any woman marry? Even if the couple hangs on and guts it out, lousy husbands and dysfunctional families have become commonplace, an almost expected tragedy. And yet, brides still dream of a glorious wedding. People still smile and say, "Congratulations!" The institution soldiers on despite the decimation of its ranks. Why? Polls and surveys and social-science books aside, what do women think about marriage?
The following roundtable interview never actually took place. It is a compilation of six separate interviews with women who were engaged to be married between last summer and next. Some questions were added to certain interviews to account for common themes.
The brides, in order of appearance:
Jill Solomon, 24, sometime model and basis for the character Gaijin in the Image comic Immortal Two. Husband Mike, 25, is creator/writer/artist for Immortal Two. They were married July 5 at Old Temple Beth Israel in Heritage Park. She is a Messianic Jew, he is Christian. ("We were going to have a Jewish-Japanese wedding," she laughs, "but we decided my fiancé would look funny in a kimono and me in a regular wedding dress with a yarmulke.") Jill is slighter than her comic-book counterpart. Her long dark hair contrasts with her blue eyes, which are often lost in a smile that crinkles them into obscurity. Though she is close in age to several of the other brides, she seems younger, more carefree.
Trini Yeager, 38, vice president of Direct Check, Inc. She's married to Sheldon, a former employee in a previous business, now president and equal partner at Direct Check. They were wed July 27 at the Aviara Golf Club at La Costa's Four Seasons Hotel. They are both Christian. Trini is a very composed woman; her movements are elegant and measured, her clothes are muted and tasteful, her makeup and hair are carefully placed. She is earnest, and her large eyes rarely leave mine during our conversation, in which her answers are as measured as her movements.
Natalie Aguirre, 29, a retailer at a local mall. Husband Tom, 29, works as a laser technician. They were married on May 31 at Ballast Point in Point Loma. She was raised Catholic but says, "I don't live it." Tom "would like to think of himself as being more Catholic than me, but we've lived together for five years." Born to a German mother and a Mexican father, one can see the influences of both. Her features are strong and her complexion is fair, but her hair is heavy and dark. Where Trini is earnest, Natalie is frank. Though she does not know me, she is at ease, matter-of-fact in telling about her parents' difficult marriage.
Jennifer Brookins, 25, substitute teacher. She married Greg, 27, an SDSU student who works at Target. They were wed October 11 at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Pacific Beach. She describes herself as "not terribly religious" and doesn't think "religion is going to play all that pivotal a role in the marriage." Her long blond hair frames a face that is open and untroubled; a one-word first impression would be "friendly."
Sarah Gisla, 24, teacher at a small Catholic school in San Marcos. She is engaged to Jeremy, 29, who "works with computers." They will be married next summer at St. Mary's Church in Sacramento. They are both Catholic. She has longish brown hair, soft brown eyes, and coffee-with-lots-of-cream skin. She is a friend, so I notice her changes of expression - from kitted-brow thoughtfulness to wide-eyed reminiscence - more than the others. Because she is a friend, she talks to me like one, though at times she tries to assume a formal interview distance.
Lillie Lovorn, 24, just certified to teach K-6. Her husband Rick, 24, is an account coordinator for a New York City ad agency. They were married July 26 at the Torrey Pines Christian Church in La Jolla. "My family has been raised Presbyterian, but same difference. I don't really keep much track," she says. When we meet, Lillie 's clothes are relaxed, but her intensity can be seen in the way she holds herself and in thoughts such as, "If you really want to get where you want to be, you're always working. It's always a challenge, and you're always conquering the next step. What can you do to get further in life, what can you do to develop yourself better - that kind of thing."
Matthew: By today's odds, three of your marriages aren't going to make it. What are your thoughts on divorce?
Jill: Today everybody's getting divorced. We don't believe in divorce. We believe in staying together. And then, being Christian, you think of staying together. You work it out. Mike's parents got divorced back when he was younger, and it affected him. I look at that, and I know he really wants to keep our marriage together from going through that. I've always believed in getting married once, and that's it.
Trini: I've been married before. This is actually going to be my third marriage. The first time I got married, I was 19. I thought "Well I'm in love; I really love this person." Some very unfortunate things happened in that marriage. I was married nine years. It ended due to an affair - he was having an affair. He also did not have a belief in God, which I did. It was something I had a continual emotional tug of war with. So I divorced him.
Matthew: You had two sons from that marriage. Did that influence your decision to remarry?
Trini: Yes. The second time I jumped in very quickly because I wanted to be a family. I met someone who was very deceiving about who he was and his intentions, not only on a business level, but on a personal level. He was a business partner and husband - very dishonest, zero integrity. Immediately after we were married, the real person began to surface. That was a very short marriage, just over a year. It was definitely a mistake on my part - I'm not saying it was all him. But that is why I remarried, because of the children, and that's totally wrong.