Chris Massey (himself married 30 some odd years) reminds me that you don’t get married; you are getting married. it’s an active verb; it does not pass into the past tense. Every day you get up and you are getting married.
It’s true. I’ve been (all but legally) married for only a fraction of 30 years, but I can honestly say it’s a choice, a commitment, that is made fresh every day. I think that’s what’s meant by “for better or worse, in sickness and in health,” etc. It’s choosing to be married, every day, whether it’s a deliriously happy day or an unbelievably disastrous one, and on those average days when it just doesn’t seem to be turning out like all the love songs, romance novels, movies, and sit-coms say it’s supposed to. As downright hokey a it may be, a certain one-hit-wonder pop singer had it more right than you might have thought when you first heard these lyrics. It’s saying yes even when it might be easier, or might seem easier, to say no.
And, as I wrote earlier, it saying yes in other sense too.
Because all of us have a stake in marriage, in a way.
It came home to me in a very real way a few weeks ago, and helped me give voice to an understanding I don’t think I had before entering a committed relationship and becoming a parent. Like Wallis’ experience watching the finale of Survivor, I had my epiphany while watching television. The hubby and I were watching Noah’s Arc, and one of the characters (Ricky) who was struggling with his first real relationship mused that “When you fall in love with someone that way, you’re supposed to be shutting out a world of trouble.” (Or something close to that.) Without even thinking about it or intending to speak, I heard myself saying “That’s not true!”
It took me a minute more to articulate what I meant, but it comes down to this. Making a commitment to another person, as a partner or a parent, is the furthest thing from “shutting out a world of trouble,” because it means making yourself even more vulnerable to an already troubled world; something that really comes home to you when you’re loved one’s walk out the door to go to work, school, etc., and you realize how vulnerable they are, how much can happen “out there,” and how little you can do to protect them. It means, or it can mean, committing to making the world you and your loved ones journey through each day a little less troubled if you can. By extension that means, or can mean, doing the same for and alongside the families in your community.
It means investing in hope that the world you and your loved ones live in can change and the others will take up the work with you, if you make a start.
Family is a choice too. We’ve all heard the saying “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your relatives.” That may be true, you can’t choose who you’re related to by blood, but I think many gay people have learned that you can choose your family. Hell, we practically invented the term “family of choice” because so many of us have been rejected or kept at arms distance by our families of origin. I’m thinking in particular of the first decade or so of the AIDS epidemic, when so many of us took on responsibility for one another and became responsible to one another in the face of an epidemic the rest of the world hadn’t yet become concerned with. We taught ourselves how to be family to one another, and sometimes had the example of supportive blood relatives to follow.
We learned that families are born when people care for and about each other in the best and worst of times, and how individuals and whole communities can be buoyed by those countless acts of commitment in troubled times. Is it any wonder then, that so many of us now are seeking to build families together?
And that’s probably one of the reasons we still encourage marriage in our society (albeit not as much or as strongly as some people think we should), and why we reward and support some people for making that choice.
At the same time, we penalize others for making that same choice. But we keep making it anyway. This week, that includes some LGBT bloggers and their partners. Dana and her partner of 13 years applied for a marriage license in Massachusetts earlier this month, and will be married soon. Shannon and her partner went to Vancouver and got hitched. And Chase got married to his husband, in London!
For some us the daily choice to be married is, and for the foreseeable future will have to be, its own reward.
And us? Well, my husband gave me the ring on my finger while we were sitting on a beach in Hawaii. I said yes, and have said yes every day since, as the ocean officiated and the stars acted as witnesses. But we haven’t actually had a ceremony yet. And what with buying a house and preparing for a second adoption, we didn’t end up taking the time or spending the money to travel to San Francisco, Massachusetts, or Canada to get hitched.
We will have a ceremony at some point, and have talked about doing it when our kids are old enough to participate and understand what’s happening. Then we may do it here if court case in Maryland leads to marriage or civil unions, Or maybe we’ll take a vacation to one of the states that’s marrying same-sex couples then. Or maybe we’ll go on one Rosie’s family cruises and have an intimate ceremony at sea. (And a reception when we get back home, maybe.)
I have until then to decide what to wear.