Tag Archives: marriage

The boys next door

The knock at the door came at a bad time.

I’d driven for two days straight with a car full of things from my dead mom’s house–on the anniversary of her death, no less. One kid was in the bath, the other was clamoring for dinner. The neighbors were having a Sunday evening backyard party despite the drizzle and we had to shut the kitchen window because it was so noisy. The Kavanaugh debacle was still fresh in my mind and I was still angry. All I wanted was a glass of wine and to shake the knots out of my shoulders.

“It might be someone we know,” my wife said, and so I stomped to the door, ready to snip at whoever was there, and yanked it open.

“Hi,” said the rather good-looking young man on our porch. He was barefoot and held a can of beer in his hand. “We really need someone to take a group picture.”

I wasn’t exactly dressed for a party in my yoga pants and over-sized elementary school sweatshirt. I wasn’t even wearing a bra. Still. “Let me get my shoes,” I said.

The boys next door had strung up lights. Food was laid out on a red tablecloth, and music was playing. Fifteen or so early 30-somethings crowded the small backyard, trying not to step on each others’ toes in the damp grass. Jake and Patrick wore matching Hawaiian shirts; Patrick had their dog, Girlfriend, in his arms. A cheer went up when I came through the gate.

A blonde girl in a red dress handed me her iPhone and scampered off to join the group.

“Dude, did you knock on the neighbor’s door?” somebody muttered.

“I mighta,” said the barefoot beer-drinker.

“Hold on, I’m gonna take a bunch,” I said. “Hopefully one of these will turn out.”

I snapped five or six shots, hoping that everyone’s eyes were open in at least one of them. Girlfriend barked the whole time. The blonde girl came for her phone and squealed at the photos, so I guess I did okay.

“Is there an occasion?” I asked, mostly out of politeness. “Somebody’s birthday?”

“They got married!” someone called out.

In the midst of social chaos, when white supremacists and Nazis speak freely and without repercussion, where passports are being revoked and protections reversed, halfway through the reign of Donald Trump, Jake and Patrick got married. In their backyard on a Sunday night, surrounded by their closest friends, their chosen family. It was a surprise wedding, somebody told me. Everyone thought it was just a barbecue.

“You guys,” I said. “I’m gonna cry.”

“It’s okay,” said the blonde girl. “We all did.”

Third time’s the charm

I’m getting married again.

The first time I got married, we started planning a year in advance. We had hand-made invitations and complicated seating charts for almost a hundred friends and family members. We tasted cakes and wines and hors d’ouevres. We agonized over the guest list. We booked a ballroom because we didn’t want to stress for a year that it might rain. (It didn’t.) My dad missed the rehearsal because of flight delays, but my friend Bill stood in for him. The officiant was my college roommate, who played matchmaker and confidante back when M and I were still unsure about ourselves and each other and who knows us better than anyone on earth. We managed every detail except for how to get to the hotel after the party was over. (The caterer called us a cab.) It was a beautiful, wonderful, magical evening, full of love and joy and dancing and tears and more love.

The second time I got married, it was a much more prosaic affair. We met a dear friend at the County offices, where she notarized our forms. We shoved them through the little window in the plexiglass along with a check for $60. The clerk was all business, but friendly enough. She said “Congratulations” as she slipped the Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership back through the window. I sent a message out via Facebook, inviting all and sundry to a local bar for drinks once we had our paper in hand. To my surprise, we packed the place for hours. I didn’t even know we knew that many people in town.

Today I am getting married for the third time because it’s finally legal in Oregon and, well, for tax purposes. I’m taking a half-day at work – unscheduled – and we’re picking the kids up from daycare a little early so we can meet the judge at 5:00 at the Courthouse. We thought about standing outside in the park or in front of the Christmas tree in the square, but the very real possibility of our three-year-old running off into traffic while we are speaking our vows overshadows our desire for a romantic setting.

We drafted two of our closest local friends to witness. Eric is our children’s honorary uncle. We’ve known him for ten years and he’s one of the kindest, most loyal friends a person could wish for. Rowan is one of those people whose path you cross a dozen times before it finally hits you that you are kindred spirits. It’s an unlooked-for, irrepressible friendship that still makes me shake my head in wonder. We’re counting on Rowan’s husband to wrangle the kids and maybe snap a picture or two.

As much as I resent that we have had to go through these motions three different times, I can’t help but marvel at the people who have stood by us, witnessing either in person or by proxy the promises that M and I have made to each other. A thread of love winds in and out and around the almost 20 years we’ve been together. But it doesn’t just bind us to each other; it weaves us into all of those other lives. Each time we do this, it’s another chance to step back and look at the beautiful tapestry we’re creating. There’s love, and there’s love, you know? And it’s all beautiful and wonderful and magical. So don’t tell M, but maybe I’m already looking forward to the next wedding.

Rights and Privileges

When the federal judge struck down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage, I didn’t expect to cry. After all, it was more or less a foregone conclusion. The state flat-out refused to defend its own law in court. Requests from out-of-state conservative activist groups to defend the ban, and later, to stay the ruling, were denied. According to a recent public opinion poll, 58% of Oregonians support gay marriage. The judge himself is gay, has a partner and a son. So I wasn’t exactly worried.

Almost ten years ago, Oregon voted on the infamous Measure 36. I was in Washington, DC for work. I watched the results of the referendum roll across my hotel room TV screen in utter shock. Measure 36, which would amend the Oregon constitution to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman, passed. It wasn’t even close. 57% of Oregonians voted for it.

I cried then. I sobbed, sitting alone in my room in our nation’s capital, still in my suit and heels. I truly was convinced that there was no way Oregon — beautiful, amazing, welcoming Oregon — would pass such a hateful law. But they did, and it felt like 1,028,546 people had slapped me in the face.

All the right things were said. Celebrities and activists condemned the decision. Local organizations vowed to continue the fight. Friends expressed their condolences, and my partner and I swallowed our bitterness, trying to stay hopeful. Eventually that bitterness faded, but it was always there: a hint of quinine on the back of the tongue. We decided to throw a wedding anyway. Our friends and families were there. Our closest friend officiated at the ceremony. We changed our names and made plans for a family of our own.

In 2007 Oregon passed a law creating the “separate but equal” status of Registered Domestic Partners, granting us all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of marriage. Filing that paperwork was about as romantic as paying your water bill, but a friend served as our notary and we gathered at the local watering hole to drink chocolate martinis all night long.

Other states passed marriage laws, but mostly we stopped paying attention. We had two boys who occupied most of our time and energy. We had jobs to think about, and daycare, an ailing cat, vacations, house projects. (You know, the famous gay agenda.) Instead of the big picture, we were focused on our own tiny piece of the tapestry as attitudes changed around us.

Until today. At noon on Monday, May 19, 2014, Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage was deemed unconstitutional. I got a text alert somewhere in the Housewares section of Ikea. I showed it to my partner. We smiled at each other and went on looking for the drawer organizer we needed.

It was the top story on the news later, of course. The camera showed dozens of people cheering, celebrating, waving their new marriage certificates, hugging their new spouses and their children. And I cried. I did. I cried for all those people who got married today after 5, 15, 33 years together — or more. I cried for their kids. I cried out of sheer gratefulness that I could glance at a world-changing text message and continue on with my shopping.

We briefly talked about running down to the county office to grab our marriage license this afternoon. But there was grocery shopping to be done, kids to pick up at daycare, blog posts to write. We’ll get around to it soon enough. It’s our right and our privilege, now.

[Update: We did eventually tie the knot, legally and officially. Because taxes.]