The emotional aftermath of the California Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, at least for me, has been unexpected. I have vacillated from feeling utter shock, to muted disbelief, to pride, and later still discomfort at the resussitation of an old, long-since buried vulnerability. Not at all what I would have expected.
All of this is mixed with unexpected sorrow that this milestone — my legal marriage today, on my eleventh commitment ceremony anniversary — will not be witnessed by my mother, not even known about by her. We got only so far down the path together, my mother and I, of her understanding this part of me. Her feeling okay about it. I can’t think that seeing this wouldn’t have shifted something in her, helped her to feel that maybe it might just be okay. I mean, really. Okay.
Scar tissue that has spent decades covering over a wound has been opened up. The wound it covered over — the sting of a seminal, fundamental, society-wide exclusion, no parental hand there to soothe it while it stung the worst — all that, oddly, is now laid bare, and all these years later, I am able to take its measure. Rather than elation that the source of that wound has been so fundamentally altered now, much of what I am feeling is: Wow. It has been that painful, for that long. Who knew.
If my beloved and I were just now freshly in love, and not nearly half-way through the second decade of our partnership, so much about the opening of this institution to us would be different. I would probably be reveling the campy role of the groom, she of the bride. Since for us there still would be an element of camp to it. But we have long-since become family to one another. This event — at least before we do it, and before we celebrate its being done with two dozen friends and family — has its closest analog in the court’s long-after-the-fact sanction of my parenthood via second parent adoption. As our daughter’s birth inaugurated my parenthood, so our ceremony eleven years ago publicly inaugurated our commitment to one another. This solemnizing? It’s hard to see where it fits in, emotionally. It’s still making itself legible, emotionally. Legally, socially, that’s a lot easier to see.
By now, my beloved and I are weathered: years of my depression following my mother’s death, a cross-country relocation, a body blow to the trust holding us together and the painstaking rebuilding of it, a commitment before all our nearest and dearest, a home, a birth, a death, a death, a move, a birth. We’ve lost and gained weight, lost and gained a sense of direction. Back and forth we have traded faith (in one another, in the future, in our own potential). One of us on track, the other faltering, then we switch places. Then we switch back again.
Our love is no longer the spark in the air between us, it’s the air itself.
A day can go by, probably more now, after the fullness of kids, when we don’t manage to hug or kiss one another. But we roll over and curl into one another’s bodies in our sleep, expecting to feel some part of the other — ankle, waist, wrist — as much as we expect the feel of the sheets. Our love is no longer the spark in the air between us, it’s the air itself. We are an old married couple, about to get married.
California is rife with stories like these this summer.
As the film All About Eve (screenplay by Joseph Mankiewicz) heads into its denouement, the fur that has been flying for the previous hundred and some-odd minutes has been smoothed. Margo, the aging doyenne of the New York stage and Bill, her longtime lover, have made peace and become betrothed. They sit and talk around a table with their friends Karen and Lloyd at a New York nightclub.
You know what I’m going to be?
A married lady.
With the paper to prove it.
I’m going to have a home. Not just a
house I’m afraid to stay in… and
a man to go with it. I’ll look up at
six o’clock – and there he’ll be…
You’ll be there, won’t you.
Often enough to keep the franchise.
A foursquare, upright, downright,
forthright married lady… that’s
for me. And no more make believe!
Off stage or on… remember, Lloyd.
I think at least for today I’ll ask her to call me “groom.”
[Later note, same morning] Oh, and duh. Happy for what our individual act today means, not really so much for us personally (though that is very very kind of you, and much appreciated), but for all of us socially? Please do two things: (1) Vow to Vote No on 8 (if you’re a California resident), to make evident the groundswell of opposition to the marriage ban, and (2) contribute to Equality For All’s campaign against the marriage ban. This issue is a clear pivot point. And love it or hate it — and heaven knows I’ve felt both, as a Californian born & bred — this huge state has a huge political impact. Those opposed to civil rights for LGBT people will be either powerfully emboldened or significantly weakened this fall, and I want everyone who’s frickin’ sick and tired of the corrosiveness of homophobia/heterosexism to step up on this issue. Okay so. Back to humming “Get me to the City Hall on Time.”
[next in this marraige equality series: Immediate Family]