A Traditional Marriage


This weekend I will be traveling to New England to attend the wedding of two dear friends.  Naturally, I love weddings---the pageantry, the ritual, the attention to detail---and I know this one will be memorable.  Part of the fun with weddings is evaluating each of the selections the couple has made.  One of my favorite activities is getting into bed after an event such as this and breaking it all down piece-by-piece with my husband.  We like to do the full debrief, including, but not limited to: fashion, ceremony elements, weird family dynamics, food and decor.  Clearly, I will be inspecting the floral design with a critical eye---it is a brave soul that invites a wedding professional to the Big Day. This wedding will be much the same in that I know how deliberate and painstaking this whole process has been and I can't wait to see how the couple will be reflected in their choices.  Additionally, I have been made aware that the guest list is rich with characters and we are to be seated at a table with some of the more dynamic friends of the couple.  As usual, my husband and I will immerse ourselves in all the action and take mental notes along the way for fruitful discussion later.  Although we are always delighted to participate in bearing witness to a public commitment to love, something that distinguishes this wedding from the many others we have attended is that the people getting married are two men.

The grooms-to-be in question, are, in actual fact, already married.  They ran right out and got married here in New York on the very first day it was legal.  It was that significant a step in their relationship---they didn't want to wait a single day more than they had to before making it "official."  Anyone who has ever doubted how critically important, how equalizing and normalizing a right it is to be able to get married, should really watch any footage or read any story from the day it became legal for gay people to wed in the few states where that dream has been realized.  New York was no exception when this happened in July 2011.  Appropriately, there was a collective sigh of relief in our community followed by raucous festivities---much like a wedding.

Certainly there is so much to celebrate here.  The idea that we have progressed to the place where there is majority (sometimes overwhelming) support for gay marriage in various corners of the nation is, in itself, staggering.  Although it is easy to wring hands over many social policy and civil rights issues these days, states legalizing gay marriage and our nation's president endorsing gay marriage are heartening signs.

When I think about the relationship that I am traveling to exult and sanction, I am struck by the fact that theirs is a marriage quite similar to and also much more “traditional” than my own.  Both men are working professionals with advanced degrees.  One of them is self-employed and owns a business.  They are both public servants in some capacity.  They value social justice and give to charity.  They share the aspiration of having children and are expecting a baby in the coming months.  They sit down to dinner together each night to a meal they have often actually cooked (!!), candles lit, and discuss the long day behind them.  Their home is warm, comfortable and impeccably decorated.  Most important, they are demonstrably in love and I have only ever seen them speak to one another with kindness.  I already look up to them as parents and their baby has yet to come.

When I consider the controversy around gay marriage, I absolutely cannot understand it from an entirely practical standpoint.  No question, I recoil at the notion that two men or two women couldn’t or shouldn’t love each other as much as a heterosexual couple or that they wouldn’t have the same legal rights and social empowerment.  But this couple bears out my experience that gay people who want to marry thrive in such a way as often puts most straight couples to shame.  They are doing “us” better.  Perhaps it is all the years of being “other” and observing relationships from the outside that has honed their skills within the partnership?  Maybe it is that being with somebody of the same sex has distinct advantages and allows for smoother communication?    The bottom line is that who is anybody to say that they shouldn’t have the right to kick our ass at marriage and/or bomb miserably at it?  I say, WELCOME.  Come on in, the water is fine.

So the next few days will be a whirlwind tour and I am so honored that we made the short list for this one.  These are selective people and not just any person scored an invite.  We are gearing up for a life event that will look a lot like so many that have come before it in terms of the customs.  But, the magnitude of the occasion might just mean slightly more.  I say this both because of what these two men marrying represents and who they inarguably are as individuals and as a couple.