I am sitting with Rochelle Petrovsky in a psychedelically yellow hallway behind the stacks on the 12th floor of Robarts Library. She has just flown in from New York after shopping for the dress. She is effervescent, her life seems a fairytale, and I am trying to convince myself that miracles really do happen to ordinary people.
“I was a serial monogamist since I was 13,” Rochelle begins, grinning, her eyes a bit mischievous, but always sincere. She’d been dating since that time, and had to go through a few boys before life gave her Caleb as a reward for her persistence.
Rochelle was in grade 12 and dating someone else when Caleb sat behind her in English class for the first time. She and her best friend turned around and simultaneously mouthed, “Dibs!” After attending a Billy Joel concert together as friends, Rochelle was dazed by the new student. In her words, it was the most fun she’d ever had with anyone in her entire life. Why was this, she pondered, if he wasn’t her boyfriend, or even her best girlfriend? Then there was a Friday night party some time later, and Rochelle went in the hope of seeing Caleb. He wasn’t there, so she stole her grandmother’s car and drove up to Kitchener. By the time she was outside his door, it was 2 a.m., but that, ladies and gentlemen, is how history is made. That was the night of their first kiss.
From there, things went like they do in extraordinary circumstances. The two just “fit”. Like two halves of a zipper aligning. Like puzzle pieces creating an image. Five years of this synchronicity without any hang-ups, and they’re set to be married this July.
According to Rochelle, though, it would have been earlier, much earlier—“I would have rushed off to City Hall much earlier if I had the chance”—if not for her mother. But both parties wanted the approval and support of the parents, especially since Rochelle’s parents have asked to pay for the wedding. So it will be a traditional white wedding with people to please, yes, but in no way does this detract from the story.
Are there any differences between her and Caleb, I ask? Yes. She’s an extrovert who does a million things at once, and he takes forever. (She calls him “Snaileb”.) She’s a poet and a musician, graduating this year from U of T with an English degree, while Caleb is applying to law school for the social justice stream. They may have to move depending where he gets accepted, but Rochelle isn’t daunted. As long as there’s an artistic community, she’s game. Just as long as they’re together.
Was there a specific time when she knew that he was “the one”? Probably when it started becoming apparent that they were each other’s everything. There was a time when Caleb had to travel to Australia for a month of study, and that was weathered by the couple like it was “no big deal”. “We’ve been together for five years,” says Rochelle. “Why would we think we’re in danger of breaking up?”
Interesting points to consider: Rochelle says it’s important to have your own life outside of your fiancé’s. She has her own friends that are more hers than his, and so does Caleb. Jealousy is out of the question because there is so much trust in their relationship.
I ask her why she thinks there’s so much divorce in society today.
“It’s because people don’t put the effort in, because they don’t put the other person first. So I put Caleb first, and he puts me first.” So there is no subservience—or even better, there is mutual subservience. Everybody wins… I see!
We then spoke about some of the commonalities among people who marry young (Rochelle just turned 22). The replies were some that I had anticipated. Solid stability of the relationship over a period of time. No evidence to give one doubt about the success of the relationship. Financial security—a job, supportive parents, or both. Being part of a religion that encourages lifelong unions (Rochelle grew up Pentecostal, and now attends a nondenominational church). Parents who are happily married. And, of course, unconditional love for the other person.
“There is a dream guy for you all out there, so don’t settle,” was her encouragement for Larissa and me. I nodded blithely and felt like an eight-year-old in Disneyland.
But Rochelle left me with a note of caution: some girls of religious background in long-term relationships could feel pressured to get married before they were ready because of the chastity observance, and, well, people want to have sex.
Hey, she said it, not me. I’m still in Disneyland.