The first time I heard the question was a year ago at my brother’s wedding, an occasion where such coaxing is commonplace. “When are you and Christian going to get married?” asked a well-meaning aunt whose daughter married another woman several years previously. “I know it’s legal in New York. Wouldn’t it make your mother happy?”
Weddings always make my mother happy, so I have no doubt that it would, but I always fancied myself not the marrying kind. Like I do to everyone who asks about my and my boyfriend’s plans on making honest men out of each other, I reminded my aunt that while it might be legal in our state, it wasn’t legal in the rest of the country, so it just didn’t really matter all that much and would probably make everything more complicated that it needed to be.
That is no longer true. Now that the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is the law of the land, a marriage with my boyfriend in New York would be just the same as my brother’s. Like all those people who immediately washed their Facebook profile photos in a rainbow bath, I’m overjoyed at the decision and glad to finally have the choice to get married. But, as of right now, it’s a choice that I’m deciding not to make.
Speaking of Facebook, immediately after the verdict was handed down, I posted, “Christian and I are happy to announce that with today’s historic decision we have decided to continue being legally unmarried forever.” My friend Lux, a woman who is in a long-term relationship with a man, almost immediately replied, “It brings a tear to my eye that you’ll now finally have the right to constantly defend the decision not to get married, just like straight couples have been able to do for forever.”
I realized that now I’m going to have to start fielding this question all the time and, well, it’s a little bit annoying. Despite my parents entering their fourth decade of wedded bliss (and they’re still one of the happiest couples I know), I’ve just always been incredibly skeptical of the whole institution. Maybe that was because it was one that I was barred from, and I thought I would never be able to partake in. Putting a spin on that Groucho Marx quote, I didn’t want to be a part of any club that wouldn’t have me as a member. If the two people in the partnership decide how it should run, isn’t that enough? And why is the government even bothering with organizing us into pairs? Let’s just abolish the federally recognized institution altogether and let churches bless unions and have every individual file her own taxes.
I actually thought it was a virtue that I couldn’t get married, and I still do. Because the state and society wouldn’t accept gay couples, the gay community had to come up with their own ways of codifying their existence. Wedding announcements for same sex couples ran in gay papers, some gay couples adopted each other so that there would be some official recognition of their union, and enterprising couples looking for a big party founded the “commitment ceremony” (which sounded like it would be held for someone involuntarily entering an asylum). More important, not having a standard set of behaviors to pattern ourselves after, gay relationships became more varied. Each couple had to talk about what they expected of each other, who was able to have sex with whom, and just what the boundaries and expectations were for this union.
That’s what I loved about being gay. We didn’t need the state, the church, our parents, or Emily Post telling us how we should live our wedded lives; we were making it up as we went along and finding new configurations and arrangements that worked for each individual couple rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to marriage that is so stifling it has lead to the skyrocketing divorce rate.
Now that is all gone, or at least on its way out. While being gay and boring is certainly progress, it’s not really the progress that I wanted for my personal life. I was hoping that I would still get that special something with my special someone rather than walking down the aisle in matching tuxes, entering into a monogamous relationship, and opening all the gifts we registered for at Restoration Hardware. That’s the kind of pressure that Christian and I are already getting and “not being the marrying kind,” isn’t as valid as it used to be for two confirmed bachelors like ourselves. (And don’t even get me started on people asking if we’re going to have kids.)
Now we get the question constantly, and we have to tell every well-meaning enquirer that we are both intellectually opposed to marriage for ourselves, though we think it’s great for anyone who would choose to do it. At least it’s starting a dialogue but, like my friend Lux mentioned, having to go through this with family members, coworkers, and friends—gay and straight alike—is exhausting. Whoever thought that equality would be such a drag? When we demanded these rights, no one ever imagined the consequences that would come along with them.
The babies born today who will think of Will & Grace the way I think of I Love Lucy will grow up with this right being just another fact of life and might even attend a few ceremonies that feel real and have the real weight of the government behind them. Gay marriage will be controversial for a while, but eventually it will become normal and even boring. Someone will write an etiquette book on how to have them, and suddenly there will be as many customs to fulfill as there are for straight marriages.
While contemplating a two-brides episode of Say Yes to the Dress, I can’t help thinking about my mother’s Aunt Bunny, whose life-long partner Mary Ellen was an accepted part of the family, though no one ever spoke of their commitment, and they certainly didn’t have a ceremony announcing it to the world.
Aunt Bunny and Mary Ellen worked out the definition of their own relationship and were committed until they each passed away. Christian and I have done the same thing, and I hope that what we have will be as real and long-lasting as what they did. We’re happy to have the right, and we’re also happy to not exercise it. We didn’t need anyone’s seal of approval before, and we don’t need it now. Maybe that will wear off, as gay marriage becomes more of the norm, and the outlaw appeal of opting out loses some of its cache. But right now, just because we’re able to do it doesn’t mean we have to and doesn’t mean that we want anyone pushing their strictures upon us. We’ve worked out just how we want our relationship to work, and, frankly, our covenant is none of your business.