Friday, March 10, 2017

Wedding Story

It has been a long time since I have posted here. This is a modified version of what I read at our recent wedding.

My story is relatively simple. It’s about faith. Not faith in a God that is an overseeing patriarchal figure or someone that determines our fate, but faith that there is something good and universal. I think that something is love. After 58 years, that is as far as I’ve gotten.

When I first met Paul and went for a walking date (instead of a coffee date) after our friend Avery introduced us, I told him what I was after in a most unromantic and direct way.  He was a little taken aback. I won’t go through the entire contract, but looking back, I think the most important request was to “share ourselves honestly.” That is the main purpose of a relationship. As it turned out, I didn’t quite know what that actually meant. Many years earlier, I had asked my friend Pamela what the secret of her relationship was with her husband Steve. Without hesitation, she answered, “He’s my best friend.” I never forgot that. Whatever “sharing ourselves” meant, that is what it led to.

After presenting Pauly with a form of a proposal on the first official date, I surprised him three months later. For his birthday, I offered him a ring. He said, “What’s this for?” In turn, I was taken aback. That simple gesture and response was a key lesson for me. Whatever impulse I may be feeling, my boyfriend may not be feeling it simultaneously. After a few awkward moments, I said, “Uh, you are my boyfriend and it’s your birthday?” He nodded his head and put the ring back in its little sack and blue box. But then when he rented out his flat for the summer a few months later, he stayed with me for a month. He brought his ties. He doesn’t wear ties much. And I thought, “He isn’t leaving.”

I had never had a roommate, and neither of us had lived with a partner. But Paul is like President Obama. He plays the long game. You have to be that way to be a composer, to be a good music teacher, or to be my partner. I am impulsive like a child. I have learned the beauty of patience by being with Paul. Once, early on, when I yelled at him, he disappeared, vanished. I couldn’t find him, and that apartment was only 850 square feet. He was hiding in the bathroom in the dark. We had to learn to disagree and be angry without crushing the other. Mostly we leavened the pressures of daily living with humor. It also helps to have separate bathrooms.

When you buy a home together, there is a new level of commitment. But in many ways, that’s financial. And then when you make wills together, that is another sign. And you travel together. But being queer means you are outside the constraints of the dominant culture. I voiced my radical opinion about marriage, and Paul listened. He let it be known in the way only a Brit can—that he wouldn’t mind getting married. And I would go on about the hegemonic order and heteronormative behavior, and he would nod, much as he did when I first gave him that silver ring.

And then by some amazing turn of events, gay folks could marry across the land. I wondered—as I had when gays were allowed to join the military—was this the fight we wanted to win?

Immediately after the recent election, Paul turned to me during a discussion of how we could resist and said, “Why don’t we get married at Sea Ranch?” And instead of offering some convoluted argument about gender roles in society, I just said, “Yes, that sounds like a good idea.” That’s the long game. We were married on January 1, 2017.

Photo credit: David Goldschmidt
Harvey Milk believed that when each person came out of the closet, he or she created a ripple effect. The individual matters. Paul and I say it’s the Jesus model. It’s all about whomever you meet on the road. Each declaration of love matters. I love Paul for staying the course and for everything else.

When we were in France for Paul’s cousin’s wedding during 9/11, I made a toast to the entire wedding party. I thanked them for being so considerate and supportive during this trying time. I said that what was happening in that very room, the love, was what would get us through this moment. Now, as we face an uncertain future once again, I think the same thing. Love is at the center of what we need. Love will get us through. That’s what we are celebrating.

Photo credit: David Goldschmidt