I’d resigned myself to my solteirona1 status long ago. And I was comfortable with my ambiguity, my cats and my dressing gown. I would sail this ship alone, feeling already whole, not ever having known loneliness, for the world is a constant box of surprises, and adventure is always ready for those who know where to look.
I have loved, after all, and I have been loved. But we are creatures of habit, and I confess I am a Bolter2. I do have a heart, but it is a refugee from frontline action.
After a long time, I knew that the only way love could try to take me in was if it clubbed me over the back of the head and dragged me off unconscious into the cave. Love Chooses You, I often claimed. Like Malkovich’s excuse from Dangerous Liaisons “It’s beyond my control”. That’s the only love I’d settle for. Unquestionable. Definite. Certain.
If one was ever looking for husband, I could tell you how not to go about it. When I first arrived in Cú de Judas my mother asked wistfully “Is there anyone nice3?”. “Mother”, I replied, “I did not find anyone nice in a dynamic city of three-and-a-half million, or another cosmopolitan city of four-and-a-half million, so the chance of me finding anyone nice in a backward village of 20 is unlikely.”
And-But, if I ever had a list of qualities most desirable in a husband, “Surprise” would surely come before #2, A Sense of Humour, #3. Intelligence and #4. Beauty. And there it is.
We met only a year ago, and I was first struck by his number four. He was with someone. Next lunch I was with someone, but the third lunch “to talk shop” he made a reservation. As a woman of the world I knew that this was a sign. Straight from Emma’s How to Flirt Basics4 I can also tell you that the ordering of anything with breasts5 in the dessert-title is a signal that you or your dining partner have other things on their mind.
Then suddenly we were engaged. We don’t know quite how this happened, but it was not on the agenda on the first date: How to make Piri-Piri was. Somewhere between dinner at his place and Great Whites Under 3 Euros it was All Decided and rings were on fingers. Of course, no one knew what to say. There had been no warning, no back story, no relationship, nothing really to explain it.
So I didn’t tell anyone for a while, except my Sister-in-Law who rather fortuitously came for a luxy weekend in Lisbon. Thus, a fab wedding dress was bought, from the only possible place, A Outra Face Da Lua. Vintage heaven. Thanks to them, their enthusiasm and their creative chutzpah, that I turned out like an angel. Can’t remember the shop assistant’s name who picked out the frocks, but he was a winner. Thanks.
Luxy Sister-in-Law put me onto the earrings. She has a nose for antique french jewellery and that night her blackberry brought me my chandelier fantasy. Unique, collectable, 1960’s pure glamour gluttony. Really expensive, naturally, so now they are going on ebay because we need firewood. But thank you Helena, Harlequin Market, Paddington, Sydney, for this wonderfully delicious decadence.
Well now the story turns a tad dull because the paperwork part of getting married is absurdly bureaucratic and somewhat unromantic. Dunno ’bout you folks but waiting in line at Registos for six hours does not make me smile. Cast aside one’s ideal Beach Wedding, Castle Wedding, City Wedding: my advice to young noivos6 would be just to find a cooperative and courteous Registo who understands the difference between Love and War. Seriously, I’d begun to think I’d mixed up the words for gun license and marriage licence. Or maybe arms trafficker. The paperwork went on and on, not at all unlike getting my visa: Bureaucrat Modus Operandus Page One: Stop the customer getting what they want. Never mind that the customer is a taxpaying Portuguese resident and therefore pays your wages, dumbass. Never mind this operation-marriage-invasion is costing the customer a small fortune which goes slap into the Portuguese economy direct from their mothers’ foreign bank account. And certainly never mind knowing the law, regulations or procedure – just make it up as you go along. Every Registo had its own special set of requirements, including the procurement of stamps from departments overseas who could not, did not, provide them. Over their dead body were we getting married. We went through five conselhos’ Registos but I single out Porto for being the worst. Rude beyond rude. Easily gets the prize for rudest Portuguese I have ever met. City of Porto, you lost our business. You suck.
Almost defeated and being threatened with Gretna Green by The One and His People, we re-visited the Registo of Lousã, where they employ human beings. Fernanda, god bless her, was excited for us. One small tweak to the paperwork (and even an apology from the Aussie embassy for a typo: an apology from a government employee? I nearly cried. God bless you too, Cristina) and we had Salazar’s approval. Oh the joy. We were free to be together. To be Us, We. Each One, of Two7. Wedded and Bedded.
By convenience, or just more serendipity, Lousã has an adorable palace hotel which I have a soft spot for. We coordinated dates between the Conservadora and The Mélia. Wedding, Honeymoon, credit card, tick tick tick.
All I had left to panic about was that summer had turned into winter and my dress had been bought in July. So I dragged my flu-ridden self to Coimbra for a last minute thermal underwear mall attack, where Etam sorted me out with a sexy kit. Not recommended for Antarctic explorers, perhaps, but undergarmets nonetheless.
It’s all been a learning curve obviously, but did you know that a bride is required to submit to a hairdo rehearsal? This I never knew, and will never know. I went instead to a proper hairdresser who knew when the 1960s was, and she made me look like a glamourpuss in half an hour. Ana, Cabeleireiro Hair Studio, thank you, gorgeous work.
Now all I have to thank is two extraordinarily talented people, Tango, AtomicdogmA.com and Penfold, papersurfer.com who came to document the event, to give us some proof that we weren’t making the whole thing up. Are the pictures brilliant or what?
I’ve never wanted to get married. I have always disliked weddings. And I’m not sure I have believed in love for a long time. I certainly do not subscribe to the notion that “there is someone for everyone”. I absolutely refute that being a part of a couple is an ultimate goal of life.
But I believe that being happy is the meaning of life. And to love and be loved is our greatest, noblest ability. And now I also believe in chance, perhaps in fate and I believe that if this amazing stroke of luck can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
Thank you, meu querido marido.
1 old maid
2 Love in a Cold Climate
3 Potential suitor for settling down with
4 The book that comes after “My Life as a Peasant” and also after “Mary and Fred’s Guide to Cat Massage” but before “Great Toilets of the World”.
5 Burgo’s Seios De Noviça
6 engaged people, or bride/groom-to-be
7 as in, Seven of Nine, borg identity, Star Trek