The Marriage Post

1 Apr
Wedding_dress_princess_seams

Night of The Living Brides.

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wedding_dress_princess_seams.jpg

Given the recent cases before the Supreme Court, I figured now is as good a time as any for the marriage post. I’ve been trying to edit it up to my satisfaction for the last day or two and I’m officially giving up and just posting it before the moment’s past and I’m eaten by camp nanowrimo anyway. This post is pretty near and dear to my heart, so I may try to do a revised version of it one day. Or it may just stay here in all its sprawly glory.

This decision of Squiddy’s and mine to get married has actually been rather controversial in our circles. Our friends in Altlandia have a variety of reasons for being uncomfortable with and suspicious of the institution of marriage. My mom isn’t crazy about it either; my parents got married by a judge (by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actually) almost a decade into their relationship, pretty much only because they were about to have a kid. Though my parents weren’t really Altlander parents per se, my mother is as marriage-skeptical as the best of them.

Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg

How married are my parents? So married. The marriedest.

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg.jpg

So it seems reasonable for me to try and explain why Squiddy and I want to do this.

First off, I think there are two major kinds of marriage that get conflated – marriage (legal) and marriage (social). Squiddy and I want both, but I’m going to start with the one that I think is easiest to explain. I don’t think I need to tell you that marriage opens up a wonderful world of legal protections and connections between two people. Taxes, property ownership, medical decisions, child-rearing, you name it, marriage makes it easier and safer.

Let me get this out of the way right now and say that in my perfect world, marriage as it stands would not be the only way to get allthese legal rights and responsibilities with someone(s). I’m not even going to try to encapsulate all my problems with how our governmental bureaucracy categorizes people and relationships – in my utopian fantasy its role would be descriptive rather than prescriptive anyway. In my universe, when you came of age it would be de rigeur to march off to a lawyer and explicitly state who’s making your medical decisions if you’re incapacitated and who’s getting your money if you die. There would be a family registration form of some kind and it would be totally possible to register with whoever you liked. You could register with more than one person – poly families could have the same advantages as monogamous ones and sexual/romantic/familial relationships wouldn’t get automatically privileged over all others. Squiddy and I happen to be monogamous and romantic in a way that pretty much fits the current standard model, but it shouldn’t be everyone’s default.

Wow. I am...never googling rainbow unicorns again. I got some weird shit in results.

Wow. I am…never googling rainbow unicorns again. I got some truly weird shit in results.

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HappLand!.jpg

However, that’s not the world we’re living in and in these matters I’m rabidly pragmatic. I’ve had a lot of experience with the intersection of law, medicine, and family. I am viscerally aware of what it means for you and your loved ones to have a medical power of attorney and a written will when shit hits the fan. Even ignoring my qualms about marriage in general, the marriage Squiddy and I will be having doesn’t come with the full suite of legal protections yet. The legal security blanket of gay marriage is pretty thin. But does the inadequacy of those advantages mean we shouldn’t go get them anyway? Really no. The perfect, in this case, is the enemy of the good. Squiddy and I whatever chunk of security we can get for each other and practicality trumps everything in that area for us.

Practicality! Safety! Worrying about sad things! Real romantic. So why haven’t we moved somewhere gay marriage is legal, tied the knot in a judge’s office, and called it a day already? I think the explanation for why we want a legal marriage is pretty clear-cut, but why do we want a wedding?

This part’s more complicated.

I’m not going to lie to you; part of why it’s so important to us probably has to do with us being a queer couple. It’s harder than we would like to admit to have our relationship be unacknowledged and invisible. Even if our genuine belief is, screw what other people think, we know we’re a real, loving relationship! we get ground down by constantly having to correct people’s assumptions and answer their questions – and this isn’t just limited to strangers we’re meeting for the first time. There was a bit of a split between my parents on this, but for years my dad happily told people I had a girlfriend when people asked if I was seeing anyone, while my mom just said no, no boyfriend. Everyone I have ever dated, Squiddy included, has been “my friend”. Except the only male person. Mysteriously, everyone immediately knew about him.

Despite the fact that I addressed this with my mother directly and started trying to come out on my own as often as possible, Squiddy didn’t entirely graduate from “friend” until we got engaged. The fact that there would be a wedding meant that there were no more euphemisms, no more ambiguity. No more coming out to family friend after family friend, distant cousin after distant cousin, over and over again. I have spent a long time trying to rewrite all these long-calcified impressions of me through the power of conversation alone, with mixed success.

Not to mention, my family’s political and religious convictions are all over the map. Sometimes I’ll forget who knows and who doesn’t and accidentally derail catching up with Great Aunt Suzy by mentioning my partner. That’s going to be over when the wedding invitations go out. Marriage will be a formalization of a relationship that is already there, but that formalization is going to make that relationship real in the eyes of a lot of people I care about. *

None of this is prescriptive; if it’s important to someone to make their ideological stand by not getting married, that seems totally reasonable and fair to me. But I think Squiddy’s and my desire to make our relationship legible to the masses is also a legitimate personal choice.

Die, awkward turtle, die.

Die, awkward turtle, die.

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:When_in_an_awkward_conversation_or_situation_just_make_an_awkward_turtle.jpg

Okay, but that’s a bit joyless. You want to be allowed to visit each other’s hospital beds and send out a bulletin that your loved one exists to an oblivious horde of friends and relations. That doesn’t sound too exciting.

Yeah, but we also want to have a really sweet party about how love is great.

I know a lot of people who don’t think there’s any reason to celebrate birthdays. I hear a lot of Whatever, it’s an arbitrary day and it’s not like being born was an achievement. People seem to take wanting to celebrate your own birthday as narcissistic and wanting to celebrate other people’s as a sort of endearing but infantile habit. But you guys, I am the biggest proponent ever of adults celebrating their birthdays. I feel like the argument for celebrating weddings (or valentine’s day) is similar, so bear with me.

People think celebrating their birthday is self self-aggrandizing and childish because they make the mistake of looking at it only from their own point of view.

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Birthday-wish.jpg

But let’s take a minute to talk about celebrating other people’s birthday’s. Birthdays are a day for the people who care about someone to express how happy they are that that person exists. Ideally, of course, we express that sentiment to people we love every day. But the truth is we’re often busy and preoccupied. It’s hard to react strongly to what’s always in front of you. Often we forget to make appreciative gestures to our friends and family or we do, but they’re tiny and casual. It’s great to have a day that draws your attention to the fact that this person is in your life and has the qualities that make you like them. It’s great that there’s a moment where it’s appropriate to make your gestures of appreciation a bit extravagant. Having acute expressions of emotion now and then is just healthy relationship upkeep.

Now let’s get back to your birthday; it’s not wasteful or arrogant to receive that attention from your friends. It’s respecting and appreciating their affection for you. There’s too little expression of untempered fondness in the world and there’s no reason to get rid of one more day dedicated to it. Certainly birthdays aren’t inherently important- but they provide a convenient regular interval at which you are reminded that x person exists, isn’t that great? So eat some goddamn cake and exchange silly presents, make everyone’s life a little brighter.

I just rambled a lot about birthdays for someone talking about weddings (the birthday thing is such a pet subject, I’m sorry), but I think weddings suffer from a similar kind of narrow thinking. Weddings aren’t the beginning of a relationship, but they are the celebration of one. Choosing to enter into a permanent relationship is a public act, that has meaning not only to the couple but to their friends and family. Not to mention, how often can you gather everyone important to you in one place? It’s an awesome opportunity to fully be in the little world that is your community.

 It is worthwhile to Squiddy and me to take a day to appreciate each other, our relationship, and our community. Entering deliberately into a permanent, public relationship is daunting and lovely. It’s worth sitting up and recognizing that moment of choice. Not to mention, rituals and traditions are powerful even to secular, not terribly conventional people like us. They aren’t something you have to totally give up to be a real adult or a good liberal – though you might have to change them to make them fit you better.

When people hear Squiddy and I are having a wedding, I hope they don’t think about it as a Ratification of The Institution of Marriage. I hope they hear that we love each other, and them, and want to do something ceremonial to mark that. Then have a sweet party. People are cool, parties are cool, love is cool. So let’s have a wedding and be cool together!

—–

* When we were discussing this post, Squiddy had some good thoughts on wanting to ‘make it official’ I’m just going to straight-up quote:

“I mean, it’s the same kind of deal as being gay and saying, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me,” but still having to hear the awkward “Oh…” when someone asks if you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner of the “correct” gender, or getting weird looks when you kiss your partner in public. Nobody would argue that that doesn’t suck, no matter how much you try not to base your opinion of yourself on other people’s misconceptions.

It’s exactly the same with marriage. You can say that it’s nobody’s business to institutionalize your relationship, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t awful to have people treat it like it’s probably temporary because you haven’t got wedding rings, or look at you askance if you talk about wanting kids or whatever. People can talk about wanting to live in an ideal universe where marriage isn’t the yardstick by which successful relationships are measured, but we don’t currently live in that world and asking people to pretend that they do, and therefore it isn’t painful to lack recognition isn’t fair.”

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