A few months ago I was sitting across from a medium, she on a couch, me in an easy chair. We’d established a rapport when all of a sudden she paused. Then she met my gaze and said, “Are you willing to get married?”
I thought it a strange question, but I met her eyes and said, “Yes, if the right person came along.”
She proceeded to tell me there was a guy in my future who was going to want to marry me, that it would be up to me if I wanted to go that route. I laughed. Even if you think mediums are hogwash (I don’t), what a fascinating prediction. I answered without hesitation. I tend to like moments that allow me to gauge my own sense of where I am and what I want and how that shifts from time to time.
I am pleased that at age 53 I have reached a point where I don’t see marriage as a goal, a status symbol, a sign of emotional health, or something I need to feel complete. I could die very happy having never been married. This isn’t an indictment of the institution at all. I am very much open to that commitment if someone comes along that excites me intellectually, emotionally and physically.
I bring this up now because of the Supreme Court decision last week that made it legal for gay people to marry in all 50 states. It was an historic moment, a turning point for our nation, and the beginning of a new reality. A no brainer, really, in the realm of civil rights.
Through that lens, I was reminded that as a heterosexual I had the luxury of answering that medium’s question. There is choice in freedom, freedom in choice.
For those of my gay brothers and sisters who have been in long-term relationships or who have desired to tie the knot, I am joyous for you. The option is now before you, such a long time in coming.
But I’d like to address a whole different group. The gay people who like their own company a lot and aren’t quick to couple. Or the ones who know they’re not cut out for parenting. Or the ones who don’t want to get married because ‘it’s time’ or because everyone else is.
Welcome to the club.
Membership includes being asked on a fairly constant basis when you’re going to get married. Don’t worry, it wanes when you get into your upper 30s and early 40s. By 50 they’ve given up on your hopeless single ass.
In 2012, the brilliant Key and Peele did a skit where Jordan Peele plays an over-the-top enthused partner who cannot wait to get married and Keegan-Michael Key is his reluctant other half. Peele is like a planet careening off its axis. Key is like a caged animal, eyes darting, trying to find his out. The two are talking to a reporter at a state event where gay marriage was just legalized.
“We’re gonna get mar-ried,” Peele shrieks.
“We said it would be a conversation,” says Key, sporting a button-down Oxford. “We didn’t know this was going to pass so darned fast.”
The reporter asks where they’ll be getting married.
“You know there’s a lot of hidden costs …” Key says.
“We’re gonna rent the moon and fill it with roses,” Peele shrieks some more.
“We really just didn’t think it was gonna pass,” Key says.
It’s a prescient bit. It came to mind when I saw some of the exuberant posts on my Facebook and Twitter feeds in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. I was touched by parents who saw an opportunity for their gay children to seal their love, but I also saw that wee bit of projection that always makes me cringe. Yay, my kid can now give me what I want for him/her – love, marriage and a baby carriage. Sing it with me.
Maybe it’s too early for this conversation. I get the validation this ruling brings. I know there’s still a long road ahead even though we’re going in the right direction. All of that.
But I am a little sad that our club’s membership is going to swell. While some are running to city hall for marriage licenses, others will be nervously wondering if they’re going to be pressured into making that trip – by a partner, by a parent, by society. Being coupled remains the only truly acceptable lifestyle in America.
In his poignant concluding paragraph of the landmark decision that was giddily posted and re-posted all over social media, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy writes: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, devotion, sacrifice, and family.”
I believe that’s true. In some cases. Probably not the majority. But ideally, yes.
Later in the paragraph, Kennedy writes this:
“Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.”
An interesting choice of words given that thousands of gay couples have been in committed, long-term relationships. They were seeking legitimacy in the eyes of the law, not a rescue from loneliness. Plus, some of the loneliest heterosexual people I know are married. That Kennedy chose the word “condemned” is like a tiny shiv to my heart. Our choices – gay or straight – are loneliness or marriage?
That simply isn’t the case, but how disconcerting so many see it that way. Must we perpetuate that thinking with this ruling?
Let’s revel in rainbows and progress. But let’s also give people room to breathe and let them choose how they’re going to pursue the happiness that is their inalienable right.
That’s real freedom.