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This picture says it all, I guess.  Jenny and I got married yesterday, and so far, married life is pretty good.

We figured we’d do this one day, but Jenny insisted that it only be after we had federal rights (you know, those 1100+ rights granted to people whose marriages are recognized by the federal government, like being able to collect your dead spouse’s Social Security, etc.).  On this point, Jenny was adamant because, like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she thought non-federally recognized marriages were the equivalent of “skim milk marriage” and she worried that her straight friends would think we were equal to them when we were not (surprisingly, after we registered as Domestic Partners in NYC, people thought that was equality when all it got us was the right to visit each other in Bellevue and the ability to keep me in our old rent stabilized apartment if anything ever happened to Jenny!).

But Edie Windsor changed all that, and in doing so, became our personal hero.  On the night I proposed to Jenny with her Hello Kitty engagement ring tucked into the small pocket of my jeans, I stood up in front of 600 people (including Edie Windsor) at the annual Pride Service of our synagogue, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, and stated my case.  Luckily, like Edie, I won!  She said yes, and as the Congregation called out and sang “mazel tov” Edie came over and kissed us both on the cheek.  To this day, I’m not sure if that was the high point of Jenny’s night that eclipsed the actual proposal.  Image

So fast forward to this week and our decision to take advantage of those 1100+ rights and actually get married.  This was, in the words of our friend, Roz, “our marriage not our wedding.”  The wedding (a big, fat Jewish one) is planned for summer 2015 after our synagogue opens its new facility in Manhattan, complete with enough room for the ceremony and the reception that will follow. We’ve had a lot of funny conversations about this wedding, likely because it is far enough away so that we can joke about it and not have to be in event panic mode.  Our biggest worry is that people will be bored (we’ve both been bored at weddings), so we were thinking maybe each table could have an activity theme (crafts, puzzles, etc.).  Jenny has begun referring to the event as “our sheltered workshop wedding.”  I wondered if I should send our families a little manual I would write called “What To Expect At A Gay Wedding?”  Step 1:  Don’t be nervous, we’ll be serving alcohol if you need a way to get through it.  Step 2:  Yes, there will be people you’d identify as women wearing suits.  Chill.  Step 3:  Yes, there will be women dancing together and men dancing together.  If you need to pretend you’re at an Orthodox wedding, do whatever works.

But what I really wanted to write about here was the past two days.

Day 1:  The NYC Marriage Bureau

We arrive around 11am and it is mobbed.  So much for marriage being on the decline.  We wait in line so we can get a number: A167.  There are also Bs and Cs.  Yes, it is just like going to get your driver’s license renewed.  Except, when you look closely, you’re reminded of something else–Gay Pride Day (minus the rainbow flags).  The place is chock full of same-sex couples, all ages, races, gender identities.  The first couple we encounter are two large, buff men dressed in matching tux shirts and matching grey and black shoes.  They have a large entourage of what looks to us like straight family members all taking pictures of them.  From there, it just gets better.  Here are pictures of another cute gay male couple, a bear couple, two femmes with complimentary striped sweaters, and a butch-femme couple dressed to the nines.

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Jenny, who is in prime people watching mode, remarks to me after a while “everyone here is either gay or pregnant.”

ImageAnd as I watch closely, I realize she’s right, until she nudges me and says “Is this a wedding bureau or an audition for a porn movie?  Look at the women in those dresses!”

I look and that is my undoing.  I have trouble turning my head away.  ::::gulp:::: Think of England.  Watch the numbers on the screen.  And finally, with great relief, think of Jenny in that dress.  That does the trick and warms me up as well.

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As we wait, Jenny sits next to a nondescript lesbian couple and when one member of that couple goes off in search of food, I temporarily take her seat until I see her return, get up and nicely guide her back, telling her she can have her seat back.  Five minutes later the woman stands and says to me, “this wasn’t my seat” and pointing to the other woman “I’m not her partner.”  Oh shit, I chose the wrong nondescript lesbian, and in my utter embarrassment, I remark to the partner, “Wow, I almost had you married to the wrong woman!”

We are finally called up, promised that we’d never been married before, decline to change our names, pay the fee and do everything we are told to do.  Jenny wants to celebrate in nearby Chinatown (Dim Sum A Go Go is calling).  And while I do too, I feel the urge to get to the West Village and drop off a present I got for a homeless gay kid as part of the New Alternatives annual Gay Santa Program.  I’m already two days’ late with this and the party for the kids is that day.  We get a cab, go off to Christopher Street and I give the gift to a guy who tells us that the party isn’t until that night (“See,” Jenny says, “there was plenty of time for dim sum.”). We’re not even married yet and I’m already being told that I screwed up.  Oh wait, that’s everyday.  But the fates were watching over us because we end up having lunch at a place called Manatus, a diner like restaurant around the corner from New Alternatives.  Manatus was the first restaurant where Jenny and I ever ate together.  It was brunch with friends the day after we met and were smitten with one another.  We held hands under the table and gave each other meaningful looks.  We hadn’t been back there since.  It was time.

Day 2:  The small, skinny ceremony

Rabbi Rachel Weiss is one of the most charming and sweet people you will ever meet.  She graciously agreed to sign our license and perform a short civil ceremony.  Because we couldn’t get our own witnesses, we were lucky to commandeer two members of the synagogue’s staff, Ariel and Ann, to do the honors.

The Rabbi gave a little talk about how this is a shift in status and states of being for us.  She referenced the story of Hagar in the wilderness (Hagar was Sarah’s handmaiden who, along with her son Ishmael, is banished.  Ishmael then becomes the progenitor of the Arab peoples) who evokes G-d with the name “the one who sees me.”  Even in its brevity, it was meaningful and profound to us.  And we answered “yes” and “I do” and were married.

We continued the celebration at Sacred Chow, a vegan restaurant near NYU, which was almost empty and had really great food.  A new place for us!  Then we went home, watched the Facebook messages of congratulations pour in and listened to an eclectic selection of Christmas music chosen by yours truly before retiring to the (now) marital bed.

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Patriarchy 1 – 1970s Lesbian Feminism 0?

At the risk of turning this blog post into the length of my next novel, I want to say that to a 1970s era lesbian feminist, this whole marriage thing still feels a bit strange.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s no one else I’d rather marry than Jenny, and I am so glad we have the rights and protections of that status.  But this is a big nod to conformity, the patriarchy, assimilation, call it what you will.  And while Jenny is comfortable with the moniker “wife” I’m not there.  She is instead referring to me as her “husbutch,” which feels a bit better.  I guess in the end I have to quote (with some irony) Alix Dobkin, a 1970s lesbian feminist separatist, whose song “Living With Contradictions” always rang true to me.  And as Jenny always reminds me when I wrongfully accuse her of being hypocritical, “you can hold more than one idea in your head.  Why do you have to be so concrete.?”

And that’s why I love her and why I married her.