On the summer day in 2015 that the U.S. Supreme Court finally legalized gay marriage, it was a day that 28 years earlier, I could never have imagined coming. That year, at the tender, naïve age of 16, I was deeply in love with a man, whom I chastely dated for 5 months. The chasteness didn’t bother me. In my mind, if I were him, I wouldn’t have wanted to kiss me either. So I could hardly blame him for all of those dates we spent laughing, talking and bonding — all the while remaining stoutly vertical in orientation.
Sometime as the six-month anniversary neared, he invited me to breakfast at a good home cookin’-type of place called Perkins, where he invited me to the prom and told me he was gay in the same sentence. After I choked on my – whatever it was I was eating – I blurted out “Sure!” Then, after a more reflective pause, I said: “I can’t see any reason why not.”
Later … years later … I could think of quite a few good reasons “why not.” Such as the fact I would get all decked up and looking the best I had probably ever looked in my life, and proceed to spend h-o-u-r upon h-o-u-r slow dancing with the most beautiful man I had ever laid eyes on, and we would not even kiss. Not even once. Getting weak in the knees would not be an option, as fainting couches had gone out of style about a century earlier. Passing out was not an option either.
Or there was the simple fact I was desperado in love with a person who, for a simple fact of biology, (and me having the wrong version,) was incapable of ever returning my feelings. Yes, a great early lesson in the principles of equality, (and one might point to this experience as a crucial formative experience that helped me become a passionate advocate for equality issues however they might appear.) But an experience that would nurture and build confidence in a young girl with Zero confidence and maybe even Negative Zero confidence — it was not.
Then, there was the logistical question of what to do AFTER the prom, since, well, we obviously wouldn’t be doing THAT. Instead, we became that couple that all the teachers who planned and staffed the After the Prom Party drooled over because we didn’t just go to the After the Prom Party. We stayed at the After the Prom Party. And by stayed, I mean we STAYED. The entire night. Until sunrise, at 6 a.m.
There were so few people left at the After the Prom Party by the time we left, my date even won the Top Prize at the raffle! Yup, that’s right! Mr. No- Kisser won an honest-to-goodness, bona fide color TV, and let me tell you, in 1989, that was still a pretty damn cool thing.
Ohhh, was I jealous. But what an unfair injustice this was! Mr. No-Kisser didn’t even like TV, and wasn’t I the one who had just spent my entire junior prom at a sans-kissing junior prom? It seemed like the powers of the universe could have at least given ME the 20-inch TV. You know, as some sort of consolation boobie prize or something.
Fast forward, and it is now 2015, and I officiate weddings. Once word got out that Pennsylvania would allow gay marriages – slightly before the national referendum was issued – I was the first in line to make sure that the world knew loud and clear that I would be not just happy, but honored to officiate such a wedding.
I didn’t so much as pause before forking over thousands of dollars in advertising, adding my name to the “LGBT special sections” that were being added into all the wedding magazines and wedding websites, letting people know who the “LGBT-friendly officiants” were. Had I not, after all, been an “ally” for well over two decades? I figured Wow, a chance to finally live my values. A chance to prove to all the people who weren’t looking and didn’t care one way or the other that Yes, I went to the prom with a gay man, and 25 years later, I’d do it again too!
Thousands. Of dollars. It’s been nearly two years and my phone has not rung even once. (At least not from any LBGT couples. The other uber-liberal, pro-LGBT straight people are still calling me all the time.)
Doesn’t the great entity that balances those scales of justice up in the astral archaepolego remember that I have been advocating for gay rights for 25 years? Shouldn’t that knowledge somehow enter the subconscious of gay and lesbian couples looking for an officiant, that they might somehow, just in their kischkes, intuit that I really am the perfect officiant for them?
Maybe this is why I found so much solace, so much endless, unbridled laughter, when the world’s greatest comedic writer, David Sedaris, recently offered up his take on the long-fought, newly won right to gay marriage. For reasons of copyright, I’m sure it would break all sorts of laws every which way to Sunday to reprint his entire article here, so I won’t do that.
Instead, I urge you to read the whole megilla by going to its source, The New Yorker, at: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/09/28/a-modest-proposal.\ It appears in the Sept 28, 2015, issue under the title ‘A Modest Proposal.’
In the meanwhile, after the intro (to help set the stage), I offer a few excerpts that hone in on ONE of Sedaris’ hilarious observations about his newly found right to marry his boyfriend of 18 years. Here we go:
“A Modest Proposal” by David Sedaris
“London is five hours ahead of Washington, D.C., except when it comes to gay marriage. In that case, it’s two years and five hours ahead, which was news to me. “Really?” I said, on meeting two lesbian wives from Wolverhampton. “You can do that here?”
“Well, of course they can,” Hugh said when I told him about it. “Where have you been?”
Hugh can tell you everything about the current political situation in the U.K. He knows who the Chancellor of the Exchequer is, and was all caught up in the latest election for the whatever-you-call-it, that king-type person who’s like the President but isn’t.
“Prime Minister?” he said. “Jesus. You’ve been here how long?”
It was the same when we lived in Paris. Hugh regularly read the French papers. He listened to political shows on the radio, while I was, like, “Is he the same emperor we had last year?”
When it comes to American politics, our roles are reversed. “What do you mean ‘Who’s Claire McCaskill?’ ” I’ll say, amazed that I—that anyone, for that matter—could have such an ignorant boyfriend.
I knew that the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage was expected at 10 A.M.on June 26th, which is 3 P.M. in Sussex. I’m usually out then, on my litter patrol, so I made it a point to bring my iPad with me. When the time came, I was standing by the side of the road, collecting trash with my grabber. …
My iPad could get no signal at 3 P.M., so I continued walking and picking up trash, thinking that, whichever way the Supreme Court went, I never expected to see this day in my lifetime. When I was young, in the early 70s, being gay felt like the worst thing that could happen to a person, at least in Raleigh, North Carolina. There was a rumor that it could be cured by psychiatrists, so for most of my teens that’s where I placed my hope. I figured that eventually I’d tell my mother and let her take the appropriate steps. What would kill me was seeing the disappointment on her face. With my father I was used to it. That was the expression he naturally assumed when looking at me. Her, though! Once when I was in high school she caught me doing something or other, imitating my Spanish teacher, perhaps with a pair of tights on my head, and said, like someone at the end of her rope, “What are you, a queer?”
I’d been called a sissy before, not by her but by plenty of other people. That was different, though, as the word was less potent, something used by children. When my mother called me a queer, my face turned scarlet and I exploded. “Me? What are you talking about? Why would you even say a thing like that?”
Then I ran down to my room, which was spotless, everything just so, the Gustav Klimt posters on the walls, the cornflower-blue vase I’d bought with the money I earned babysitting. The veil had been lifted, and now I saw this for what it was: the lair of a blatant homosexual.
That would have been as good a time as any to say, “Yes, you’re right. Get me some help!” But I was still hoping that it might be a phase, that I’d wake up the next day and be normal. …
The fantasy remained active until I was 20. Funny how unimportant being gay became once I told somebody. All I had to do was open up to my best friend, and when she accepted it, I saw that I could as well.
… While I often dreamed of making a life with another man, I never extended the fantasy to marriage, or even to civil partnerships, which became legal in France in 1999, shortly after Hugh and I moved to Paris. We’d been together for eight years by that point, and though I didn’t want to break up or look for anyone else, I didn’t need the government to validate my relationship.
I felt the same way when a handful of American states legalized same-sex marriage, only more so: I didn’t need a government or a church giving me its blessing. The whole thing felt like a step down to me. From the dawn of time, the one irrefutably good thing about gay men and lesbians was that we didn’t force people to sit through our weddings. Even the most ardent of homophobes had to hand us that.
We were the ones who toiled behind the scenes while straight people got married: the photographers and bakers and florists, working like Negro porters settling spoiled passengers into the whites-only section of the train.
“Oh, Christopher,” a bride might sigh as her dressmaker zipped her up. “What would I have ever done without you?”
What saved this from being tragic is that they were doing something we wouldn’t dream of: guilt-tripping friends and relatives into giving up their weekends so they could sit on hard church pews or folding chairs in August, listening as the couple mewled vows at each other, watching as they’re force-fed cake, standing on the sidelines, bored and sweating, as they danced, misty-eyed, to a Foreigner song.
The battle for gay marriage was, in essence, the fight to be as square as straight people, to say things like “My husband tells me that the new Spicy Chipotle Burger they’ve got at Bennigan’s is awesome,” and “Here it is, Valentine’s Day less than a week behind us, and already my wife is flying our Easter flag!”
That said, I was all for the struggle, mainly because it so irritated the fundamentalists. I wanted gay people to get the right to marry, and then I wanted none of us to act on it. I wanted it to be ours to spit on. Instead, much to my disappointment, we seem to be all over it.
I finally got a signal at the post office in the neighboring village. I’d gone to mail a set of keys to a friend and, afterward, I went out front and pulled out my iPad. The touch of a finger and there it was, the headline story on the Times site: “SUPREME COURT RULING MAKES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE A RIGHT NATIONWIDE.”
I read it, and, probably like every American gay person, I was overcome with emotion. Standing on the sidewalk, dressed in rags with a litter picker pinioned between my legs, I felt my eyes tear up, and as my vision blurred I thought of all the people who had fought against this, and thought, Take that, assholes.
The Supreme Court ruling tells every gay 15-year-old living out in the middle of nowhere that he or she is as good as any other dope who wants to get married. To me it was a slightly mixed message, like saying we’re all equally entitled to wear Dockers to the Olive Garden.
Then I spoke to my accountant, who’s as straight as they come, and he couldn’t have been more excited. “For tax purposes, you and Hugh really need to act on this,” he said.
“But I don’t want to,” I said. “I don’t believe in marriage.”
He launched into a little speech, and here’s the thing about legally defined couples: they save boatloads of money, especially when it comes to inheriting property. My accountant told me how much we had to gain, and I was, like, “Is there a waiting period? What documents do I need?”
That night, I proposed for the first of what eventually numbered 18 times. “Listen,” I said to Hugh over dinner, “we really need to do this. Otherwise when one of us dies, the other will be clobbered with taxes.”
“I don’t care,” he told me. “It’s just money.”
This is a sentence that does not register on Greek ears. It’s just a mango-size brain tumor. It’s just the person I hired to smother you in your sleep. But since when is money just money?
“I’m not marrying you,” he repeated.
I swore to him that I was not being romantic about it: “There’ll be no rings, no ceremony, no celebration of any kind. We won’t tell anyone but the accountant. Think of it as a financial contract, nothing more.”
“God damn it,” I said. “You are going to marry me whether you like it or not.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Oh, yes you are.”
After two weeks of this, he slammed his fork on the table, saying, “I’ll do anything just to shut you up.” This is, I’m pretty sure, the closest I’m likely to get to a yes.
I took another ear of corn. “Fine, then. It’s settled.”
So like I said in the beginning folks, if you are gay, or lesbian, and you are looking for a wedding officiant, you’re welcome to give me a call! No, I’ve never done a GLBT wedding before. But yes, I did waste thousands of dollars in advertising, which you apparently never saw, in an effort to find you and let you know that I happily extend my secular humanist, Jewish, interfaith and Irish handfasting ceremonies to couples of all gender combinations.
And, I don’t know what this has to do with anything, but don’t forget: I did go to my junior prom with a gay man! And 28 years later, I still remember him as the first person I ever fell in love with. He lives in San Francisco now, and me being in Philadelphia, we couldn’t possibly live farther apart and still be on the same continent.
But we are still friends on Facebook.