I Support Traditional Marriage
President Obama FINALLY spoke up for something that everyone across the political spectrum can embrace: Marriage. Traditional marriage. I am vindicated.
I'm so emotional since Obama came out for same sex marriage. It means he values traditional marriage and doesn't want us cheapening the institution with some poorly constructed apartheid facsimile aka "civil unions." What in red flying hell IS that anyway? I always thought it referred to Robert E. Lee surrendering to Ulysses S. Grant.
Marriage isn't fodder for battle and Obama isn't fighting. Watch his interview. Turn down the sound and just watch. Look at his face, the softness around his eyes when he talks. He's talking about committed same sex couples and "the most divisive wedge issue in America." REALLY? Look at his face. You can't drive a wedge or fire a shot and maintain that face. When I listened first, I barely heard his words. It was something about evolving and some stuff about Sasha and Malia. All I heard him say is that he wants me to come home. He wants me to live here too.
If you're a LGBT person of a certain age and/or from a certain environment, you were raised with a picture of same sex relationships as furtive, doomed, miserable, meaningless and degenerate. It's hard to develop any self respect under these conditions. What a lot of us did instead was to get tough and eschew everything that had anything in common with the straight life. "We don't want marriage" we shouted in the 70's. "It's a patriarchal, oppressive institution and it's heterosexist. We don't need a piece of paper to make our love real!" we said. I always thought I heard a faint ring of "SO THERE!" at the end of that.
It was never me. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to be married, though I didn't dare hope for or imagine it. When the time came, I refused to register for a domestic partnership because I thought it was ridiculous. It granted me approximately eleven of the 1,138 "benefits, rights and protections" that are conferred upon straight couples who register for marriage. Plus, "domestic partnership" always sounded like some sort of housecleaning cartel.
I haven't had "married" or "engaged" or any of those identifiers to signify my state of belonging to that bedrock social institution we call a family. Instead I have sat through numerous tortured relationship deconstruction process sessions, parsing the definitions of "our relationship" and obsessing over clarifying the distinctions between being "lovers" and being "partners."
I never quite got the hang of this either. "Lovers" always sounded so clandestine and "partners" sounded so corporate. "Friends" sounds undervalued and delegitimized. But I've soldiered bravely through life pasting together pieces of marriage and settling for less and ignoring it when there were pieces missing or pieces from other puzzles spliced in.
Then you get to a certain age -- or at least I did -- when you go "I say it's spinach and I say to hell with it!" Marriage is marriage and you're married or you're not. I'm not talking about a Kim Kardashian kind of married, I'm talking bring on those traditional vows and hold me accountable to them. Give me sickness and health, give me richer and poorer, give me til death do us part and don't force me to hedge my bets. Let me go all in and make this commitment so legally binding that it'll be hell to get out of. Let me go through the heartbreak and anguish of disentangling all our affairs. It shouldn't be easy to break up a home.
I still remember a wedding I went to a decade ago in which the young man and woman said their handwritten vows, promising in the end to "love, honor and cherish as long as love lasts." "As long as love lasts?? WTF?," I said under my breath. "You mean to tell me I'm sitting here at an outdoor wedding in the middle of December freezing my tits off and all for 'as long as love lasts???'"
Let me tell you, honey, love can wear thin when your spouse goes quadraplegic after a skiing accident or loses her memory and half her personality in dementia. There's a wonderful article describing just this sort of test and what it meant to one woman who promised "in sickness and in health." I want what she's got. This caliber of love isn't a feeling, it's an attitude and an action and, like a child or a puppy or a garden, you have to feed it to keep it alive -- and to keep YOU alive for the times when it's not that cute. Feelings come and go but when you get married you promise to stay. I'll take my companion, my best friend, my wife, addle pated with dementia, in sickness and in health, and thank you very much.
I'm 54 years old and I'm still learning to conduct myself as if my love is worth something and as if my relationships matter. As if I matter. AS IF. I'd make a good wife. No scratch that. I WILL make a good wife. My life is worth the effort even if Mitt Romney says it's not and even if all my early media role models committed suicide or were killed by falling trees or lived their lives in quiet desperate loneliness. There's still time for "to have and to hold" for me. I want that.
Last week I saw an interview with a lesbian couple in their 70s and 80s who've been together for 45 years. The secret to their longevity, they say, is they share the same values. They wanted no part of a ceremony until they could have one that's legal, in their home state, with their families and friends. Bully for them! They didn't settle for less than everything. I want that.
Marriage. It's more than a piece of paper, but deserves nothing less.
I want that.