I don’t have time to write this stupid column this week. I’m off to get married. And thanks to the Supreme Court, I don’t even have to scour the country for another human being willing to put a ring on my crusty, wart-riddled finger. I can marry the oak tree behind my hovel, or the stop sign that always catches my eye on my way to McCarthy’s. In a pinch, I suppose I could marry my phone. Most Americans have a more committed relationship with their phone than they do with their human spouse anyway.
This is all according to the guy who occupies the hovel next to mine—the one whose truck is rigged out with those giant balls that sway to and fro as he speeds through the Walmart parking lot. He has it on pretty good authority that when the Supreme Court upheld the District Court’s overruling of Proposition 8, it essentially opened the floodgates for a whole host of unholy unions. Like me and my stop sign, Stoppy. And, according to the Leviticus tattoo on his forearm, the institution of gay marriage is an abomination against God. Well, gay marriage and black people. And women who vote, keep their own name after marriage, and leave the house for any purpose besides purchasing diapers for the little ones and beer for the king of the castle. He spends a lot of time polishing his guns. Now that I think about it, I should probably call someone about that.
As for me, when life hands me gay marriage, I make lemonade. I mean, I look for some kind of meaning that can be applied to my own life. In this case, I’ve narrowed the potential themes to love conquering bigotry and hate, progress defeating bigotry and hate, and the incredible resilience of the human spirit, clinging to an emotion and truth through centuries of institutionalized oppression and inequality. That’s one hell of a glass of lemonade. Especially when you consider the fact that most of the straight couples I know can’t survive a trip to Ikea.
I’ve witnessed dozens of break-ups and divorces, and yes, I’ve participated in my fair share. And the odds are, if you’re old enough to read this column, you have too. I’ve seen the sad, threadbare divorcee apartments occupied by sad, lonely divorcee dads. I’ve seen shotgun weddings; runaway brides; cheating grooms; divorce court; bridezillas; reality shows in which the purpose is for two strangers to get engaged, possibly with money on the line; custody battles that make the Civil War actually look civil; middle-aged women with more ex-husbands to their name than I have dead rats in my hovel. And I have to applaud straight folk for turning something that started out as so beautiful and well-intentioned into such a crummy shit show. I’m truly baffled that anyone thought marriage was an institution worth defending. It’s like defecating all over a corner of the yard, and then defending that patch of dead brown grass against intruders on the grounds that they might ruin it.
Here’s the truly crazy part. As much as the institution has been damaged, diminished, and wielded as a weapon of exclusion, there are still couples so in love with one another, so committed to the notion of lifelong, well, commitment, that they’re willing to fight to take part. While the rest of us are sitting at wedding receptions snickering at jokes about the groom trying to make a break for it, or the bride brow-beating him into marriage, they’re fighting for a place at the table. And there’s something so incredibly optimistic about this group’s struggle to participate in an admittedly flawed institution. A lot of people have come to regard marriage as the cheap, made-in-China toy that just happens to accompany the Happy Meal of life. And they treat it the way they treat anything that comes easily, that they didn’t have to really think about, with casual disregard—if not outright contempt.
Think about how momentous it must have been when women finally achieved the right to vote in 1920, how proud and important they must have felt on that first historic trip to the ballot box. Now compare that to the 90 million Americans who didn’t vote in the 2012 presidential election. Instead, they just sat at home and ate cheese doodles, and they’re probably still complaining about the outcome of the election. So who’s going to treat marriage more seriously: the people for whom marriage has always been a given and divorce has always been an easy out, or the couples who have fought for decades for the incredible privilege of expressing their commitment to one another? I just hope that when times get tough, and maybe we let ourselves go a little bit, Stoppy and I remember that there are still people out there fighting for something we take for granted. And maybe that won’t erase the challenges we, like all couples, will face, but it sure as hell affords some perspective, and maybe reminds us of what marriage is really meant to be about—when you strip away the term “institution” and the tens of thousands of dollars spent on tulle and flour, and the insipid worship of flashy diamonds and expensive gowns. There’s got to be some actual meaning there, and maybe thousands of marginalized couples fighting for their place at the table are just what we need to find it.
Shredder is registered at McCarthy’s, Sephora, and various toy stores. Send blenders to email@example.com.