[English and Espanol version]
We live in a world where there just doesn’t seem to be a reason to get married anymore. We poke and follow each other on Facebook, send vague and flirtatious emojis on WhatsApp, or just look for a friend to ‘Netflix and chill.’
The river of love runs fast, today, making it shallow and without real depth in our human connection. ‘Love’ lasting about as long as a summer hit love song. We hang out in group settings and avoid any real one-on-one attempts at connecting.
Yet, perhaps, there is a chance that we may find someone. Someone where everything seems to happen naturally, not having to define every part of the relationship. Someone you see and don’t wish to change in any major way. Someone you can talk to and share things with as a best friend.
My goodness, you may have just found the one. Heavens forbid, you actually want to marry someone and the idea oddly doesn’t scare you as much as you thought it would. You’ve asked her with all confidence she would say, ‘Yes,’ and she did.
But now it’s time to start sweating… you now need to ask her father for her hand.
Now, whether or not you believe in this possibly antiquated tradition, (and believe me, I tried running away from it to as being sexist or chauvinistic,) it is a great measure of respect and courage to demonstrate to the man that raised your lovely lady your intentions and commitment to his daughter, perhaps his only daughter and undoubtedly his princess.
I have just recently survived this ordeal, and rather than preach about how or why you should do it, I will just share my experience in the hopes that if you are reading this and need a bit of bravery, you will find it.
Iris comes from the city, so like most city people, she is a bit more liberal in traditions than rural peoples. I come from the country, yet had been living away from home, mostly in France, for the majority of my adulthood.
Yet, the key here is that Iris comes from a liberal city in a very traditional country… Mexico. I come from a traditional area, small-town Arkansas, of a fairly progressive country… the US. Through some chance, we had about the same ideas on sexism, feminism, chauvinism, etc.
Iris and I had decided to get married a few months before. I asked her. She said yes. In quite possibly one of the most unique and oddest ways a woman has ever been asked (and said yes to.) After that, it was a sort of game we played with each other wondering if it was really going to happen.
For the most part, it seemed real, occasionally surreal, and any fight or disagreement became a huge decision of ‘Do we really want to be married to each other?’ In reality, it seemed like we asked and answered this question for months.
Not surprisingly, the morning of the day I was to ask her father, we were at yet another point of stress on the idea of a committed us. Of course, she wanted me to ask or tell her father before we shared the news with anybody else.
Before this big moment, Iris had given me a chance to follow her traditions and to respect her wishes. Like many in her home country, she was still living with her parents when we first met. A culture shock for me having moved away from home at 17. So at the first opportunity I had to step up to the plate and do as she asked, ‘Will you tell my parents we want to live together?’ I failed.
I didn’t agree with the idea of asking her father to have her move in with me. I didn’t agree with it in principle. I didn’t agree with the fact that it should even be a thing to ask a woman’s father if she can make her decision to move out of her parents’ house. But mostly I was scared. To ask a father something like that felt like a marriage proposal, and though it made sense to me to live together, I wasn’t so sure about marriage at this point. Also, I didn’t speak Spanish.
What was worse, I had agreed to doing it a week before the day I was supposed to ask him at brunch together. On the night before said brunch, I was starting to have second thoughts for all the aforementioned reasons. My concerns turned into anger on both sides and ultimately, Iris went alone to the brunch to tell her parents. I was relieved but ashamed.
Thankfully, things moved forward. We became closer, more in love. There were challenges living together, but for me, it was a sure thing. If I was meant to be with anyone in this world, it was her.
We were making the living-together-thing work. We survived so much together beyond just living together. We agreed on finances and groceries. We survived funerals and weddings of those close. We planned trips and enjoyed them. We spent the holidays with her family - even the Superbowl. We were passing all the normal test fairly easily. Our biggest challenge with each other was simply our pride and arrogance.
She is smart and beautiful and has had any option of men she has ever wanted, in any way she wanted, and never settled for one of them. I’ve been just as fortunate with women and never felt afraid to walk away when I didn’t see things the way I wanted them to be. Quite honestly, we both had lived quite selfishly. Each in our own way, but selfish nonetheless.
A week or so before we planned the comida with her parents for me to ask her dad for her hand in marriage, I was feeling scared again with all the same issues I had felt when I was supposed to ask him if she could move in with me. I knew what I had to do, but I wasn’t sure how. More than moving in with someone, this was a true test of the validity of my feelings and hopes with Iris.
My Spanish still wasn’t great, but of all the time that had passed since my first chance to speak man-to-man with him and chickened out, I had gotten a little more comfortable. Given, we still had never really spoken much, but we had sat together quietly over many dinners and games on the TV.
So I did what I always do when I’m emotional: I wrote. I wrote everything I wanted to say to him. I wrote it in my head for about a week, here and there, grabbing keywords and feelings as they arose. Then the day before they were to come, I sat down and wrote it all. I then deleted half of it and focused on what I thought he would want to hear.
It came easy, yet still felt like one of the most difficult things I had ever written. Like running a race, once you found the pace, it felt natural but left you feeling exhausted after as if the life force had been expended.
The morning of, we had found another reason to argue, to question everything. But we didn’t cancel. For me, it felt like we had come to the realization that we are just too strong and stubborn to go down without a fight. The point being, we knew deep down we were always fighting for us. Fighting for us in our own fucked up, yet special, way of fighting for us.
Her parents came, I was alone, Iris had a last-minute engagement with work. Greeting them at the door knowing what was soon to come left me almost shaking. I did my best to hide it. Serving drinks and running back and forth to the kitchen to cook and set up the patio table to eat.
Iris arrived and kind of gave me a look to ask, ‘How are you? Are you ready for this?’
Whatever issues and doubt we had before were gone. When the moment was on us, we were there for each other. I knew it. I was ready.
We played our roles as if nothing was happening other than having her parents and uncle over for an afternoon comida at our place. Later, she was going to distract her mom and uncle to give me the time to speak to her father.
The catch here is that I needed more than five minutes. I had written my declaration, had it translated in Spanish, but the one and only time I ran through the whole thing out loud for Iris to listen and correct pronunciation, it took me half an hour to read it - no doubt, sounding quite idiotic in the process.
In other words, a short trip to the kitchen to help with dessert wasn’t going to be enough time as the original plan was intended to be. So, Iris, somehow convinced her mom and uncle to go with her to a nearby store, knowing her dad wouldn’t want to come and leaving me and him there alone.
As I walked them to the door, Iris gave me one more look of encouragement, ‘You used to jump out of planes, baby.’ She said. ‘You got this.’
Fear wasn’t an issue asking Iris to marry me. The following months weren’t nearly as bad as TV had led me to believe. Writing the letter for her father wasn’t that bad. Yet, it was oddly like jumping out a plane. The idea isn’t scary. Putting on the parachute isn’t bad. Getting on the plane even. It’s when that door opens on this flying object in the sky and you realize you’re about to fall out of it that the fear hits.
I spoke to Iris’s father for a few minutes before I told him that I had something I needed to tell him, but due to my level of Spanish, I wrote it down. I even gave him a copy to read it with me.
[Para la versión en español, ver más abajo.]
Mr. Enrique Ramirez-Laffitte,
Your daughter has driven me crazier than any person I have met in my life - and I have siblings. She has made me smile in ways as if the light of God was shining from my inner core. We have both been through a third of our lives, and I can honestly say we have never wanted what we want now… someone to share a life with.
Iris and I are both guilty of being careless in love. We have also been the victims of others’ recklessness with us. We have hurt and been hurt on this path to finding each other. Yet, despite our reasons to mistrust love, we have not been able to give up on each other.
It may be unwise to say this, but Iris and I have been hard on each other. There has been yelling and a few tears along the way. I must say, you did raise a fighter and you should smile knowing she likes to win. I see the fighting, not as a reason why we may fail, but as a fire that is made of hope. We have so much hope for each other and an idea of us. We fight for an idea of us because we care so much about there being an ‘Us.’
Though there are many reasons based on romance I am in love with your daughter: we take care of each other, we quote the same poems, we understand each other’s sadness, and we read each other’s thoughts. All very sweet and important, but these things I don’t believe are enough to hold two people together, not always.
So, I wouldn’t be at this point of thinking if I didn’t also consider the more pragmatic reasons to share a life with your daughter: we have the same standards and expectations with our lifestyles, we are comfortable and open (and rarely argue) about finances, we have the same values and attitudes (should the day come) about raising children, we have the same needs and opinions about social interaction (work is enough), and (not to be vulgar) we like the way each other looks.
Sharing a life with someone, as unromantic as it may sound, is a deeply practical project. It’s like running a small business together. (Which, coincidentally, is something we have both done, and that I now and will continue to help her with). As partners in life, we will have to deal with property and household management, serving meals, planning holidays, entertaining friends, and raising children. I believe Iris and I complement each other and amplify one another in these life skills. I say all of this because I recognize that these very genuine contributions are vital to our existence in this world and I believe that all of this is still romantic in the sense that is conducive for sustaining our love.
Though I have been guilty of seeing Iris as the divine creature she is, I know she is far from perfect. Quite honestly, I know she will continue to be irritating, difficult, occasionally irrational, and even unable to fully understand me or sympathize with me the way I may need her to in every moment. Yet, knowing this, I would never give up having her by my side even with every distraction she may give. I can’t imagine anybody better than her even knowing her imperfections and flaws. God knows she has uncovered some of my own.
Sincerely, I believe Iris and I have started to learn to see each other as a team. We have even started to accept that in some areas one of us may be wiser or more reasonable or more mature in a certain area of life than the other. We are starting to learn from each other. We are gradually getting over pride and arrogance to allow ourselves to be taught by each other… though this is still a very slow beginning, I feel we are in the right direction.
It must be scary to be reading this knowing where it all leads. Am I mature enough to know how to love rather than just selfishly looking to be loved? So many confuse the two - loving and being loved. I don’t blame you for any doubts you may have. I doubt I will ever find the words to ease all of them. I believe only time will prove that to you.
I do know you loved and continue to love your daughter well. What Iris expects, the type of love she is used to receiving, what she no doubt feels is ‘normal,’ is based on how well you loved her growing up. You’ve left quite the shoes to fill. This is not to say she did not reciprocate the love, but I’m sure you can tell stories of how the love shared was on very opposite ends of the pole, unbeknownst to Iris. This is, I’m sure, a challenge for all adults in love. Learning to subdue our own demands and concerns for those of another.
How many times has Iris walked away from you with eyes of hate? Threatening to never come back? I have seen it myself and perhaps, shamefully, even done it myself. We are all children sometimes, never truly giving the state of the relationship its fair, patient, and thought-out examination.
I’m sure raising her, you must have learned that these words can be fueled and caused by something completely irrelevant to how she truly feels about you: hunger, a hangover from a late night, a desire to be somewhere else, or maybe just feeling a bit unwell. Quite simply, you have learned to hear not the words she says, but the words she means, ‘I’m scared or hurting or sad.’ It is with this understanding I hope to be there for Iris. Yes, as her partner, but when necessary, as a patient parent to not allow her inner child to do damage she may later regret.
This may sound weird. I don’t mean to say I wish to be her father. I would not wish that on myself. I hope the world will forgive us for whatever devils Iris and I may bring into this world. I mean to say I will do my best to listen to Iris and hear what she truly means rather than angrily responding to what she is saying. That whenever I have the strength to do so, I will try to care for her and love her in a way that you did and do. There will be times where loving her will seem unjust to what I feel I deserve or what I should give. I don’t see this as unfair. It is when we are hardest to love is when we need it most. And I believe it is this sort of parental and unconditional love that is truly one of the worthiest types of love that deserve to be attached to the word itself.
I used to think that life was a journey with a final destination, yet being with Iris, I have realized that life isn’t a journey with an end. It is a dance. A dance with no rush to get to the end of the song. A dance that should be shared with someone you want to hold close to you and forget the rest of the world exists.
Mr. Ramirez, I want to marry your daughter. And though times have changed, and this may be an outdated tradition, it is important to me that you approve and bless our decision to commit to one another. Undoubtedly, we will face many struggles ahead. Ones that we may never truly ever be prepared for. We are trying to do something enormously difficult, so it is not surprising if we have troubles. To know you support us on this endeavor would truly be a blessing.
I am not the first to ask your daughter to marry, though perhaps the first to ask her father for her hand. Yet, our pasts aside, I am the first that will truly understand and be the man she needs to actually make it happen. This is not just my decision, it is ours.
Iris is the woman that has read the poetry of my soul. I hope you will let me continue what I have started with your daughter through the bonds of marriage.
Steven Warren Stribling
I read the letter sincerely. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, I messed up a few words, but when going back to correct them, he helped. Some lines he read with me. Some times he just shook his head in agreement.
The event went better than could have been hoped. Iris and I even agreed after, we were taking a risk asking that day due to her father’s demeanor up until that point. He seemed a bit distracted or perturbed the entire visit until I asked him.
In the end, though, we did it. He was surprised by all of it - the words, the originality, the effort. And though there were still some things lost in translation, we spoke for another 15 minutes or so before Iris, her mother, and her uncle came back.
The letter was then given to Iris’s mother who read it with all of us in the room with her. She cried. We had our dessert and our coffee. We talked about wedding plans.
It is no doubt a day that won’t be forgotten easily.
Whatever doubts I had about following this tradition were redeemed after following through with it. And, at least, for my fiancée and her family, it was something appreciated and not looked down on as sexist or outdated. Its intentions were clear for all of us. It was meant as a sign of respect to join our families, not a business contract without full consideration of all involved.
Now, there’s just all that other stuff to do. ;)
Sr. Enrique Ramírez-Laffitte,
Su hija me ha vuelto más loco que cualquier otra persona que haya conocido en mi vida, y eso que tengo hermanos. Ella me ha hecho sonreír en formas como si la luz de Dios brillara desde mi interior. Ambos hemos pasado por un tercio de nuestras vidas, y honestamente puedo decir que nunca hemos querido lo que queremos ahora ... alguien con quien compartir una vida.
Iris y yo somos culpables de ser descuidados en el amor. También hemos sido víctimas de la imprudencia de otros hacia nosotros. Hemos lastimado y hemos sido heridos en este camino para encontrarnos. Sin embargo, a pesar de nuestras razones para desconfiar del amor, no hemos podido rendirnos el uno al otro.
Puede ser imprudente decir esto, pero Iris y yo hemos sido duros el uno con el otro. Ha habido gritos y algunas lágrimas en el camino. Debo decir que hizo una guerrera y debería sonreír sabiendo que a ella le gusta ganar. Veo la lucha, no como una razón por la cual podemos fallar, sino como un fuego hecho de esperanza. Tenemos mucha esperanza el uno en el otro y en una idea de nosotros. Luchamos por tener una idea de nosotros porque nos importa mucho que haya un "Nosotros".
Aunque hay muchas razones basadas en el romance por las que estoy enamorado de su hija: nos cuidamos mutuamente, citamos los mismos poemas, entendemos nuestras tristezas y nos leemos los pensamientos. Todo muy dulce e importante, pero no creo que estas cosas sean suficientes para mantener unidas a dos personas, no para siempre.
Entonces, no estaría en este punto si no considerara las razones más pragmáticas para compartir una vida con su hija: tenemos los mismos estándares y expectativas con nuestros estilos de vida, nos sentimos cómodos y abiertos (y rara vez discutimos) sobre las finanzas, tenemos los mismos valores y actitudes (si llegara el día) sobre la crianza de los hijos,tenemos las mismas necesidades y opiniones sobre la vida social (con el trabajo es suficiente) y (sin ser vulgar) nos gusta el aspecto fisico del otro.
Compartir una vida con alguien, por muy poco romántico que parezca, es un proyecto profundamente práctico. Es como dirigir una pequeña empresa juntos. (Lo que, casualmente, es algo que ambos hemos hecho y con lo que ahora pienso seguir apoyandola). Como socios en la vida, tendremos que lidiar con la administración de los bienes y el hogar, servir comidas, planificar vacaciones, entretener a amigos, y la crianza de los hijos. Creo que Iris y yo nos complementamos el uno al otro y nos amplificamos mutuamente en estas habilidades para la vida. Digo todo esto porque reconozco que estas contribuciones tan genuinas son vitales para nuestra existencia en este mundo y creo que todo esto sigue siendo romántico en el sentido que es propicio para sostener nuestro amor.
Aunque he sido culpable de ver a Iris como la criatura divina que es, sé que está lejos de ser perfecta. Honestamente, sé que continuará siendo irritante, difícil, ocasionalmente irracional e incluso incapaz de entenderme o simpatizar conmigo de la forma en que podria necesitarlo en todo momento. Sin embargo, sabiendo esto, nunca dejaría de tenerla a mi lado, incluso con cada distraccion que ella misma pudiera poner. No puedo imaginar a nadie mejor que ella, incluso conociendo sus imperfecciones y fallas. Dios sabe que ella ha puesto al descubierto algunas en mi.
Sinceramente, creo que Iris y yo hemos empezado a aprender a vernos como un equipo. Incluso hemos empezado a aceptar que uno de nosotros puede ser más sabio o más razonable o más maduro en un área determinada de la vida que el otro. Estamos empezando a aprender el uno del otro. Gradualmente estamos superando el orgullo y la arrogancia para permitir que nos enseñemos el uno al otro ... aunque este es un comienzo lento, creo que estamos en la dirección correcta.
Debe asustarlo un poco leer esto sabiendo hacia donde va. ¿Soy lo suficientemente maduro como para saber amar en lugar de solo egoístamente buscar ser amado? Tantos confundimos amar y ser amados. No le culpo por ninguna duda que pueda tener. Dudo que alguna vez encuentre las palabras para aliviarlas todas. Creo que solo el tiempo se lo demostrará.
Sé que amó y continúa amando bien a su hija. Lo que Iris espera, el tipo de amor que está acostumbrada a recibir, lo que sin duda siente que es "normal", se basa en lo bien que la amó mintras crecia. Me ha dejado menudos zapatos para llenar. Esto no quiere decir que ella no haya correspondido al amor, pero estoy seguro de que puede contar historias de cómo el amor compartido estaba en los polos opuestos, sin el conocimiento de Iris. Esto es, estoy seguro, un desafío para todos los adultos enamorados. Aprender a dominar nuestras propias demandas y preocupaciones por los del otro.
¿Cuántas veces le ha alejado Iris con ojos de odio? ¿Amenazar con no volver nunca? Lo he visto yo mismo y quizás, vergonzosamente, incluso lo he hecho yo mismo. Todos somos niños a veces, no damos realmente al estado de la relación un examen justo, paciente y pensado. Estoy seguro de que al criarla, debe haber aprendido que esta palabras pueden ser alimentadas y causadas por algo completamente irrelevante, opuesto a lo que realmente siente: el hambre, la resaca de una noche, el deseo de estar en otro lugar, o tal vez simplemente sintiéndose un poco mal. Sencillamente, usted ha aprendido a escuchar no las palabras que ella dice, sino las palabras que significan "Estoy asustada, herida o triste".
Es con este entendimiento que espero estar ahí para Iris. Sí, como su compañero, pero cuando sea necesario, como un padre paciente para no permitir que su niño interior haga daño de lo que más tarde pueda arrepentirse.
Eso puede sonar extraño. No quiero decir que quiero ser su papá (no me desearía eso a mi mismo y espero que el mundo nos perdone por los “demonios” que Iris y yo pudieramos traer al mundo). Lo que quiero decir es que haré todo lo posible para escuchar a Iris y escuchar lo que realmente quiere decir en lugar de responder con ira a lo que está diciendo. Cada vez que tenga la fuerza, trataré de cuidarla y la amaré de la manera en que usted lo hizo y lo hace. Habrá momentos en los que amarla quizás parecerá injusto desde el punto de vista de lo que siento que merezco o a lo que debería de dar. No veo esto como injusto. Cuando más difícil de amar somos es cuando más lo necesitamos. Y creo que es este tipo de amor paternal e incondicional uno de los tipos de amor más dignos y que verdaderamente merecen estar atados a la palabra amor.
Solía pensar que la vida era un viaje hacia un destino final, pero al estar con Iris, me di cuenta de que la vida no es un viaje con un final. Es un baile. Un baile sin prisas para llegar al final de la canción. Un baile que debe compartirse con alguien que quieras tener cerca de ti y olvidar que el resto del mundo existe.
Sr. Ramírez, quiero casarme con su hija. Y aunque los tiempos han cambiado, y esta puede ser una tradición obsoleta, es importante para mí que apruebe y bendiga nuestra decisión de comprometernos el uno con el otro. Sin lugar a dudas, nos enfrentamos a muchas luchas por delante. Algunas para las cuales nunca podremos estar verdaderamente preparados. Estamos tratando de hacer algo enormemente difícil, por lo que no es sorprendente que tengamos problemas. Saber que nos apoya en este esfuerzo sería una verdadera bendición.
No soy el primer hombre en pedirle a su hija matromonio, aunque quizas si soy el primero en pedirle a usted su mano. Poniendo nuestros pasados de lado, soy el hombre que quizas verdaderamente la entienda y el hombre que hara que suceda. Esto no es solo mi decision, es de ambos.
Iris es la mujer que ha leído la poesía de mi alma. Espero que me deje continuar con lo que empecé con su hija a través de los lazos del matrimonio.
Steven Warren Stribling