Words by Natalia Orenstein.
My husband remembers meeting me when we were thirteen. We were both in our local park with friends from the area, ignoring the opposite gender, but he noticed my blue eyes. Nine years later, and he still hasn’t stopped talking about them. I remember meeting him when we were nineteen and starting at different universities, but both attending a joint fresher’s event for Jewish Societies across London. A week before I had been in a car crash in Greece. I hadn’t told anyone, apart from my best friend, but that night, I shared it with him. He understood. We had both just come back from our gap years in Israel and felt the sharp distinction between a tense and precarious environment like Israel to London, where convictions seemed absent in comparison. I know now that he wanted to ask me out then, but I was waxed lyrical over someone else, and a week later I was taken. A few months later, I was single again and sad over it.
The first time I saw him – and thought he was cute – was the week after the break-up. I hadn’t told him about it, but we live in an insular community where even private hurts can spread through word of mouth. He turned up at my door with a tub of my favourite Baskin Robbins flavour — because he wanted me to feel better, at least for the time it takes to eat ice cream. What struck me was the lack of expectations that came with it. I wasn’t special. He would have done that for anyone who wasn’t feeling their best.
We became a lot closer after that, but I was going to Israel for a summer program and then to UPenn for a semester abroad. Even though we were adamant that we weren’t dating, we promised to call for at least five minutes every day. Two weeks into the summer, we were official. Long distance was hard, but I think that it was through our calls that we fell in love, as it was a pure emotional connection. When he visited me at UPenn, we were scared that seeing each other in-person after months of talk would change things. It didn’t. It proved to us that the love that we felt was real. My husband later calculated the amount of time we spent calling each other, texting, while I was abroad — 7.78 full days. We spent 7.5% of our time apart, together.
We got married at the end of our second year of university, when we were at the end of twenty-one. People sometimes ask me what it’s like to get married young and as a student, and will even profess their own secret desires to get married now, in university. I love my husband, but I don’t think that our choices are for everyone. Marriage is hard, harder than committed dating, and our unique situation meant that we had the opportunities needed to get married at the age that we did. Marriage also changes relationships, both with your partner and with yourself. You become an adult. You have to take your responsibilities and your life choices more seriously.
Another question I’m sometimes asked — are you glad that you got married? Yes. Yes. Yes. There is no greater pleasure than waking up next to someone who would do anything, go anywhere for you, when you feel the same. No greater comfort than talking with them, because there is nothing that you could say that would cause them to stop listening — all the word vomit, the dark little secrets, the 4 am anxiety. No greater safety than the ability to look at them across a crowded room and communicate with one look. I love my husband like I love myself — I feel primal protectiveness for him. I would do anything to keep him safe and secure. I have a deep, animal need to nourish him, to take care of him. He hears what I think. When he hurts, I hurt. This is the closeness that marriage can facilitate, and yes. Yes. Yes. It is worth it, but it wouldn’t be worth it if it were with anyone else. I don’t understand anyone else’s crazy, irrational, unconditional love — because how can that depth of feeling exist without my husband?
Note from the editor:
I asked Natalia to especially be a part of this series because I felt she had a very special and unique take on romance. Her love is completely unlike the love many people our age has experienced and I felt that her story was one that really embodied the theme of Modern Love Stories.