on marriage equality and equal marriages

I just read a really excellent piece on marriage by Melissa Harris-Lacewell over at The Nation.  The entire blog entry is wonderful and if you’re interested in marriage, marriage equality, civil rights, and/or feminism, you should read the whole thing.  What particularly stood out for me was this section:

Typically advocates of marriage equality try to reassure the voting public the same-sex marriage will not change the institution itself. “Don’t worry,” we say, “allowing gay men and lesbians to marry will not threaten the established norms; it will simply assimilate new groups into old practices.”

This is a pragmatic, political strategy, but I hope it is not true. I hope same-sex marriage changes marriage itself. I hope it changes marriage the way that no-fault divorce changed it. I hope it changes marriage the way that allowing women to own their own property and seek their own credit changed marriage. I hope it changes marriage the way laws against spousal abuse and child neglect changed marriage. I hope marriage equality results more equal marriages. I also hope it offers more opportunities for building meaningful adult lives outside of marriage.I know from personal experience that a bad marriage is enough to rid you of the fear of death. But this experience allows me suspect that a good marriage must be among the most powerful, life-affirming, emotionally fulfilling experiences available to human beings. I support marriage equality not only because it is unfair, in a legal sense, to deny people the privileges of marriage based on their identity; but also because it also seems immoral to forbid some human beings from opting into this emotional experience.

We must do more than simply integrate new groups into an old system. Let’s use this moment to re-imagine marriage and marriage-free options for building families, rearing children, crafting communities, and distributing public goods.

Here I must first confess that I have been one of those people who has said that gay marriage doesn’t change my straight one. That it doesn’t matter to me what my neighbors are doing in their homes, with their families.  That two people in love committing to each other has no bearing on my love or my commitment.

But the truth is, it does. And it should. And I want it to. Continue reading “on marriage equality and equal marriages”

more married

n86100010_30030954_7356Three years ago today, a crazy 21-year-old still in college walked down an aisle and said “I do.”  She was crazy not because she was unsure of herself but because she was so. darn. sure.  She took a leap without an ounce of fear or hesitation, which is perhaps the craziest thing of all.

That 21-year-old is obviously me, but the third person sounds so much more writerly, doesn’t it?  I had every reason in the world to be scared out of my mind– as the child of divorce, I know all too well the reality of a broken marriage, the odds that things won’t work out, the possibility that something that began in eye-gazing wonder could end in screaming and the crashing of a box of wedding dishes into a driveway.  But after three years of dating, in which we saw each other at our best and our worst, and after a seriously in-depth book I highly recommend called 101 Questions to Ask before you get Engaged, we knew we were ready, that we could face whatever came our way as long as we were facing it together.

In some ways, when we were getting ready for the wedding, I realized that we had already been becoming married.  I know that sounds strange, but if marriage is the merging of two into one, we had slowly been knitted together, heart-string by heart-string, over the three years before.  Married wasn’t something we suddenly became with the incantation of vows in a ceremony on a wedding day, but something we had been and are still becoming, day by day, intimacy upon intimacy.  As someone who grew up in the Presbyterian Church, the wedding itself reminded me of what I had always been told about sacraments.  They are outward signs of inward graces.  They’re our way of acknowledging things that had already been at work within us, just like baptism isn’t a magical act that confers salvation, but a ritual that recognizes salvation which has been freely poured out like water.

About 9 months after we got married, I graduated from college and went on a two-week trip to England with my English class.  It was an absolutely wonderful trip, full of hiking across the Brontes’ moors and up peaks that inspired Wordsworth and around lakes that spoke to Ruskin.  We kept journals throughout the experience, as a way of receiving our grades, and in many ways I used my journal to pour out my heart as I was missing my husband terribly during the longest time we’d spent apart since our wedding.  I remember wondering what my professor would think about these ramblings, because I wrote about this strange feeling of not being able to enjoy the trip to the fullest because the one person I wanted to be sitting next to on double-decker buses, strolling hand in hand through Kensington Gardens, and just talking to about everything was not there with me.  It was on that trip, I wrote, that I started to begin to realize “just how married” I really was.  It was like I was having a wonderful experience while simultaneously feeling like half my heart was across an ocean.  Thankfully, my professor did NOT think me a sad sap, and wrote that she had really enjoyed my journal.

Now, three years after my wedding day, I can see how these passing years have made us even more married, ever more tightly bound together.  These past three years have been some of the hardest of our lives, living far away from all of our family and friends, suffering the stresses and indignities of residency, and the emotions and frustrations that come with sleep deprivation and schedules that don’t always line up and the difficulties of loneliness.  And yet, more than anything, these three difficult years have shown us that we can face anything that comes our way so long as we face it hand in hand.  In a few months we’ll get an email or an envelope informing us where we’ll be spending the next three years of our lives as Jon does a fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine, and it may be here, it may be one of our homes (Little Rock or Denver), it may be a completely new city altogether where we have to start fresh all over again (Nashville, Birmingham, Salt Lake City).  But instead of being afraid of that challenge, as I was at the beginning of residency, I’m excited for it.  I even welcome it.  It’s completely out of our control, but I know that we will thrive and be closer and better for whatever the next chapter holds.  Because we’re doing that now, and we’re going to keep on keepin’ on.  I’m excited to see how much more married I feel after the next 3 years, and the next 30…

mawwiage, mad-dog, and fairness

Mr. Rogers taught me that no one knows what youre thinking and feeling unless you tell them.
Mr. Rogers taught me that "no one knows what you're thinking and feeling unless you tell them."

I write a lot about marriage equality and believe very strongly in marriage equality largely because I’m so happily married.  Though it seems some straight people see their marriages as somehow under attack from a threat of gay marriage, experiencing marriage has only more firmly convinced me how wrong it is to deny anyone a chance at this kind of happiness– spending every day with their best friend.

And today I am especially thankful for my husband and “dearest friend” (as Abigail Adams often referred to her husband John).  Yesterday I got home and was just feeling sort of mad-doggish (shout out to my English prof Dr. Robbins, who taught me this term from J.M. Barrie: “to be mad-dog is to kick out at everything, and there is some satisfaction in that” from “Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens”).  It didn’t help that I had thought Jon would be home around 7:30 and didn’t arrive until about 20 minutes later than that, meaning the dinner I had made was overcooked and soggy by the time he got in the door.

So he arrived to be greeted by a wife who was seemingly annoyed at everything he said.  WHY ARE YOU TALKING SO WEIRD? WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHAT KIND OF VEGGIE IS THIS, IT’S AN ENDIVE, GAH!  YEAH, DINNER WOULD BE TASTIER IF YOU HAD BEEN HERE 20 MINUTES AGO!  The poor guy would have been very justified to get snippy back at me, but instead, in his typically patient manner, he just asked me why I was so annoyed with him.  But the truth was, I really had no idea.  I was just irritated at the world and I had no idea why.  And if that was frustrating for HIM, it’s also super frustrating to me.  It’s totally unfair when my feelings are a mystery even to me.  Continue reading “mawwiage, mad-dog, and fairness”

summer lovin’

Image by okapisafari via Flickr.
Image by okapisafari via Flickr.

Today campers are arriving at the summer camp where I was a camper and where I spent one very memorable summer as a camp counselor.  It has me reminiscing.

6 summers ago, I had just graduated from high school, and I got a job I didn’t even apply for.  On the day before I was supposed to leave with my family for a Disney World vacation, I got a phone call from the camp, asking me if I had plans for the summer and could I please consider working as a counselor?  Yes, I was a year too young according to the rules, but they were short on staff, and I was an experienced camper.  Not looking forward to spending the summer at home with my parents, I said, of course, but I can’t be there until I get back from Florida, which would cause me to miss the first week of staff training.

On the day I arrived, one other counselor was also arriving a week late, because his sister had just gotten married and he couldn’t make it to camp until after the wedding.  We were introduced in the dining room and I immediately thought he was the cutest boy I’d ever seen.  I schemed to sit next to him for CPR training, during which time we got into trouble with the instructor for talking too much.  That evening the staff had a cook-out in the Outback Adventure Area, where we would be spending the night in cabins and learning how to do cook-outs as we would with our own campers each week of the summer.  I remember that we tossed a frisbee.  I remember that I loved his laugh.  We started chatting around a campfire with several other counselors, but before too long, we were the only two still up.  I saw three shooting stars, which he claimed were really just fireflies, but they couldn’t have been.  Because I made three wishes.  And they came true.  (I KNOW! Totally cheesy and ridiculous but absolutely true!)  Continue reading “summer lovin’”