Getting to "let's do this".
When I was seven or eight years old, my mom brought home a puffy collection of wedding attire from her carpool friend Malia. She told me they were bridesmaid gowns and a wedding gown from Malia's wedding and I could use them for playing dress up. There's one picture of me in this very-1980s white dress, my hair a tangled mess, with my best friends on either side (they are twins) of me in the rose-colored bridesmaid dresses. My brother and my best friends' brother were in the photo too, in their regular kid clothes, and I can only assume that we gave them the dubious jobs of being footmen, or caterers, or florists or limo drivers. I looked incredibly happy in that photo but I have no idea why...I never have been the type of girl who gets excited about getting married.
I've yet to, in so many words, announce this here so here goes nothing: Em and I are engaged and we have been for almost two years. *cue boisterous music and applause* Yes, we're engaged. Two years ago this August, on my birthday to be precise, Em presented me with THE SWEETEST proposal. Carefully integrated into a homemade, all-about-us crossword puzzle were the words "will you marry me?" And I said yes, of course. Em is My Person and despite the multitude of hurdles we have jumped over, individually and together, this fact has never changed. What do two engaged people do? They plan a wedding, of course.
Ha. Despite my love of parties, this is something I've struggled with long before I ever met Em. An ex of mine was incredibly focused on heteronormative milestones and when she suggested that we one day get married, I froze. I froze the first time Em asked me if we should get married, which was at a gay marriage rally (of all places) and within weeks of when we started dating. I freeze when people ask me about it, when people bounce up and down and squeal with delight. There is something about the act of getting married that stuns and overwhelms me. Over the past two years, I've tried to work through it, and it wasn't until Em's brother and sister-in-law got married in March that I truly understood the big deal. Marriage isn't just about making a legal and spiritual commitment in front of your family and friends, it's REALLY about making a legal and spiritual commitment in front of your family and friends! Wait a minute.
I know I just repeated myself, and that I'm probably not making any sense, but please bear with me. It's my opinion that there are two major things that stop a lot of gay people from getting married: it doesn't mean anything pretty much everywhere you go in the US and it's a heteronormative institution to which we don't belong (and to which we generally don't conform). Those two things, in and of themselves, can strip a person's motivation no matter how much they love throwing a party. Couple those things with the significant amount of family strain inherent in the planning of a wedding...any wedding, not just the gay ones (but the gay ones run the risk of being far worse)...and the oft-presumed but rarely talked about fact that a lot of money to pay for weddings comes from both of the engaged couple's families, their parents in particular, and you're left with little that's delightful. With gay people, the presumption of financial support or the process by which we ask for it is infinitely more complicated. I hate to generalize here, but I am quite certain that no straight couples have had to justify to their parents that they are indeed straight and plan on being straight forever to justify the financial investment. These are all things that can seem and are daunting (and homophobic in many cases), and for me these things inspire a lot of face-fanning anxiety.
One of the most fundamentally frustrating parts of this process for me, which relates strongly to the anxiety I mentioned above, is the suggestion that I (or anyone for that matter) deserve this...to be married, a wedding, etc. I cannot for the life of me figure out how that works, aside from the part of me that embraces frippery and fanciful things like manicures and apple turnovers fresh from the bakery. To view this as a rite of passage, especially a spiritual one, is kind of absurd. My faith is complex and personal, and while I am certain I want an officiant to guide the event (a specific one, too) if/when it actually comes to fruition, I am left to constantly wonder why I can't just do it myself in my pajamas on a random Sunday morning holding Em's hands. Legally speaking, there aren't any enticing options for us either. We can get married in DC, but it doesn't mean anything when we cross any of the bridges that link DC and Virginia. Somehow, though, I'm supposed to do all of this with music and champagne and a big cake and thousands of dollars and a lot of people we know (who are expected to pay to get to our venue, hotel rooms, gifts and other incidentals). A rite of passage, you say? You're asking me and everyone I love to do all of this? We deserve this? For our wedding? There's a cognitive (not to mention moral and political) wall.
It's not possible to encapsulate all of my feelings into one post here, so expect a few of them over the next long while. What I've found on the internet is generally accessible but not expressly my own, and if I can add my voice to the crowd, I will. What I've written here feels like only the tip of the iceberg. If you are married, how did you get there? If you are engaged, how is it going? If you are neither, do you want to be? Have you thought about these things? Please share in the comments. I truly appreciate it.