Not that we weren’t both deliriously happy to be doing it, and while we weren’t like some of those couples who had been together for more than 50 years and were finally getting to tie the knot, it wasn’t a date we had picked.
That’s just another thing that is awkward about our society’s history with queer rights. Michael mentioned that he was just recently trying to explain to a co-worker that we have several anniversaries: the anniversary of our first date (Michael and been a friend to Ray and I for more than a couple years when Ray died, so our first date was not the first time we met), the anniversary of when we moved in together, the anniversary of when we registered or domestic partnership (and we had a small party with friends), and then the wedding anniversary.
Due to cultural conditioning, the wedding date was the one that felt most dramatic. And I know that all couples have significant milestones before they officially tie the knot. But it is a very common thing, when one is meeting a new straight couple, to ask how long they’ve been married. And even if you phrase it differently, 90-some percent of the time they will respond with, “we’ve been married X-years.”
Even though marriage equality has only been existent in this state for six years (and nationwide only three), I’ve still found myself being asked by people, “How long have you been married?” And the first few times when I just said the number of years, yes, people were shocked that we had only been together such a short time. So I’ve started automatically answered, “We’ve only legally been married X years, but we were together for nearly 15 before we could get married.” And sometimes people respond to that with confusion, and then incredulity when I tell them that same sex couples couldn’t legally marry before then. Even some people who think of themselves as open-minded and supportive of gay rights don’t understand that marriage equality is a very recent thing.
Which, given all the media attention and the millions of dollars worth of anti-gay political advertising put up in each state when votes about domestic partnerships or marriage were in the works, seems a little weird. How could they miss all that Sturm und Drang?
And so, while today is our sixth anniversary, and just thinking about it and looking at all the pictures our friends took that day makes me cry, we’ve actually been together for 20 years and 10 months, or 250 months, which may explain why we finish each other’s sentences and so forth.
He’s the most wonderful man I know. I really, seriously can’t quite understand why he puts up with me, let alone loves me. But I’m eternally grateful that he does.
Happy Anniversary, Michael!
There is a particularly pivotal scene that I have been having trouble with, and so far I have written it from three different viewpoints. In each one, I’ve also started the scene from a slightly different place. Between the second and third attempt at the scene, I flashed back, as it were, and wrote some possible set up scenes from various viewpoints of various characters getting ready for the event in question to try to figure out what wasn’t working in the scene itself.
Now, there was already part of my plan to write some different events in the book from multiple viewpoints. I show the villain coming into a situation that is already in motion and trying to deal with it. Then later I show the beginning of the sequence from the viewpoint of one of the protagonists, explaining some things that seem mysterious. There is similar thing where one of the protagonists comes in after some awful things have happened and is trying to pick up the pieces, then later I show what the villain actually did that led to the situation as this protagonist found it. That’s a specific dramatic ploy that isn’t the same thing as revisiting a scene multiple times from different viewpoints.
Anyway, it’s all valid first draft stuff. We always know that some of what we write is going to get cut later.
Completely unrelated to all of that, I wanted to note that last week we passed the 21st anniversary of my first husband’s death. This was one of the milder years, for me. Most years beginning a bit before my birthday (because I can’t think of my birthday without thinking of his, as our birthdays were only two days apart) through October and up until about the anniversary I tend to be more moody than usual and more susceptible to bouts of sadness and such. Three years ago it was a whole lot worse than average, last year it was a bit less bad than usual. I can never predict how it will go.
I really can’t say that it has steadily gotten better over the years. There have been years more than a decade ago where it was about as mild as this year. And then there are the really bad years.
I still think that part of why last year was better than usual was living in the new place. Every anniversary of Ray’s death before that, I was still living in the home we had shared when he died. So every day when I stepped out the front door I saw the climbing rose Ray had planted, for instance. There are still plenty of events and moments, and yes some things around the house, that remind me of him, but there are some things that used to recollect him that just are no longer here.
Thinking about this made me realize something that I haven’t been making a note of, however.
This week will be the twentieth anniversary of the first Thanksgiving that Michael and I celebrated together. I started to type that the coming Christmas will be the 21st, but that one is tricky. Michael was our friend before Ray died. And Michael dropped in several time in that December to check on me. So while the actual Christmas day I spent down in Oregon with my mom and relatives there, just before I went, Michael and I had a gift exchange. And though we weren’t yet officially dating at that point, at least one of my friends later told me that thought they had noticed we were already falling for each other.
I think I’m going to be a bit pedantic and say, since the first time we hung stocking together on Christmas Eve, slept under the same roof, and woke up together to find out what Santa had left in those stockings on Christmas morning was 20 years ago, that this year will be the twentieth anniversary.
Of course, a few weeks after Thanksgiving and more than a couple before Christmas, it will be our sixth wedding anniversary. Can’t forget that!
We’d only been together for 14 years and 10 months. We weren’t one of the couples of silver-haired people who finally got to legally tie the knot after 50 or more years together. But it still deserved a non-ironic finally. And even though we had been together those years, and I had never doubted his love for me, and couldn’t fathom my life without him, there was something magical and wonderful and powerful about being able to finally call him husband legally.
I had been introducing him as my husband for years. It was a linguistic and political decision I had made before meeting him. Years before Ray died, we had had a commitment ceremony, signed some legal papers (medical power of attorney, wills, that sort of thing). And after that, I called him “my husband.” And now more than 20 years after his death, I still call him “my late husband.”I had tried some of the other words, such as boyfriend or partner. But boyfriend sounded far less serious and fleeting than what our relationship had become. And partner—well, let’s just say that one of the times I used it, an acquaintance literally asked about the business that they thought we were joint owners. So, I started saying husband. And while that sometimes evoked nervous stuttering replies, double-takes, and even the occasional angry comment, it was the word that most accurately described our relationship. And, as I had decided a couple years earlier with the word “queer,” there is power it seizing a word and wielding it like a weapon back in the face of both the actively homophobic and the more thoughtless forms of heterosexism.
I wasn’t surprised that I cried at the wedding (and cried while we were on our way downtown three days earlier, and when strangers handed us rosebuds as we exited the license office, and when a random stranger ran up to us as we were walking away from the courthouse still carrying our roses and gushed “Congratulations!” with tears in her eyes, and when two friends surprised us with a string duet at the ceremony, and… and… and…). There’s an old idiom “he cries at card tricks” to describe those of us who are easily overcome with emotion which most definitely applies to me. But what did surprise me was how, after the ceremony, I would have a little hitch in my voice and feel the surge of my eyes getting watery—not quite tears, but definitely tearing up—whenever I said “husband” for the next several months.
I’d been calling him that (and thinking of him as that) for years, but now it was different. Because for most of my life I had thought I would never be able to legally marry the man I loved. The thought was completely unimaginable! I still have vivid memories of a film they showed us in health class, back in the mid-seventies, during the week we studied “sexual deviancy,” and the film included a scene of two men in pastel tuxedoes walking hand-in-hand down an aisle in what seemed to be a church with the narrator talking about how sexual deviation was so normalized in places like California that people pretended to get married. And it was edited to make it look like they were skipping (you could see the jumps in the flow of the image) with some ridiculous music playing. Meanwhile an entire classroom of my peers were laughing and making gagging sounds all around me.
I had lived through a small number of the most liberal cities in the country setting up domestic partnership registries that carried no actual legal rights, but gave some way to register the relationship so that an employer that decided they wanted to be magnanimous and hand out some benefits to their gay employees, there was a legal-looking paper to point to. And I’d lived through the grudging middle stages, fighting every step as the way, as we got some civil partnership or other half-assed quarter-measure acknowledgement in some states and so forth. I’d watched the bigots spend millions of dollars campaigning against civil unions, angrily insisting that it would destroy the fabric of society and so forth. I had watched, as we slowly won the hearts and minds of a growing percentage of the population, those same bigots suddenly switch to insisted the domestic/civil unions/partnerships were more than adequate and why can’t we live with that so that marriage can be reserved for something special?So intellectually I understand why those same two syllables felt so very different after marriage equality became the law of our home state. As I said after the election, a solid majority of my fellow citizens — a whole bunch of straight people — voted to include us. They staffed phone lines to urge people to vote in favor of equality. They donated money. They showed up and voted. And then hundreds (or more) of those straight people turned up at the courthouses and county offices and so forth on those first days we could get licenses to cheer for people they didn’t know. On the first day the ceremonies could happen, a huge crowd gathered outside city hall to cheer and clap and being the receiving line for a bunch of queer couples — strangers! — who had just been joined legally in matrimony. Knowing that made me cry then. And it makes me tear up long long after any time I’m reminded of it.
Which happens to be every time I refer to my husband…
So! Today is the five-year anniversary of the day we stood in front of many of our loved ones and exchanged vows. We were pronounced husband and husband and I cried. He’s the most wonderful man I know. I really, seriously can’t quite understand why he puts up with me, let alone loves me. But I’m eternally grateful that he does.
Happy Anniversary, Michael!
A note about the title of this post: I’ve been reading the Savage Love advice column for decades, through the years before Dan Savage met his husband, Terry, when they started dating, when they adopting a kid together, when they finally legally married (in Canada), and so forth. After the Canadian wedding, Dan started referring to Terry as his husband in a very exaggerated pronunciation: “mah huzzzzben!” And I always took it as his way of being proud and a bit shocked that marriage equality had arrived in at least some places within his life time. I always thought it was cute. In a recent blog post he answered a question from a reader who felt that the weird pronunciation was an insult to Terry, or something, and Dan explained:
I started calling Terry mah huzzzzben when we got married—more than a dozen years ago—because in all honesty it felt so weird to call him that. To be able to call him that. I never expected that marriage, legal marriage, would happen in our lifetimes. And while I didn’t have a problem calling him my boyfriend, calling him my husband took some getting used to. So I played up my… well, not quite my discomfort with the word. I played up my unfamiliarity with it. It felt strange to say it—the word “husband,” unlike my husband, felt awkward in my mouth—so I said the word in an awkward way. I did what I advise my readers/listeners to do: you gotta embrace awkwardness to get past it. And I am past it now. It no longer feels strange to call Terry my husband, and I’m capable of saying the word these days without hesitation. But you know what? I like calling him mah huzzzzben. It’s less “this is weird and new and feels awkward to say!” and more “this is my own affectionate pet name for him!” And I’m gonna keep saying it.
I still think it’s cute.
For some reason, I thought Saturday was the 9th. And I had Friday off as a vacation day, whereas he was going to be working. And I knew I had to finish the Christmas shopping on Friday, so it would be the perfect time to pick up the fixin’s for the breakfast, right?
Well, Friday we got snow, so at about 5:30am when my hubby usually goes to work he woke me up to tell me he’d decided to take a personal day rather than ride his bike on the ice- and snow- covered roads while Seattle drivers were losing their minds because of snow. Fine, no problem, I could still do this. When I woke up later I was working on some writing and trying to decide when I should go shopping when I finally noticed that my calendar app on the computer had a big ol’ 9 on the icon.
Funny side note: on Thursday, that same calendar app gave me a reminder that a former co-worker’s birthday was Friday. But it didn’t remind me that my anniversary was the same day because genius that I am, I have never entered our anniversary into the calendar. D’oh!
Midmorning I realized that our anniversary wasn’t Saturday, but it was that day. So I went upstairs, wished him a happy anniversary, and apologized for getting the days mixed up. He pointed out that he hadn’t said anything about it, either, so I didn’t really have anything to apologize for.
So, we went out to brunch, then we did the Christmas shopping together, I didn’t pick up the breakfast fixin’s. It was okay.
This morning, I woke up and decided that I would proceed with the plan. So I walked to Ballard Market, picked up flowers, picked up fixin’s for biscuits, gravy, scrambled eggs, and bacon breakfast, and came home and got to work.
I was about midway through cooking when he got out of bed earlier than usual and came downstairs. He expressed surprised I was cooking a big breakfast. I told him that I was in the middle of making a surprise breakfast for him, and shoo-ed him out of the kitchen saying, “Go look at your late Anniversary Flowers!”
And he said, “They aren’t late. They’re Anniversary-plus-one Flowers.”
I don’t deserve him.
Part of the reason I kept tearing up was because it was a historic moment. A nice majority of voters in our state has agreed that gay and lesbian couples should be able to legally marry just weeks before, and so we were officially tying the knot on the very first day that it was allowed in our home state. This was over a year before the U.S. Supreme Court extended that same legal right all across the country. So we’d been fighting for the right to marry for a long time, including a previous attempt by the religious right to repeal the state law granting domestic partnerships all the legal rights the state could. So part of the celebration was for the thousands of other couples around the state who were finally able to access such legal rights as hospital visitation and community property and renting, leasing, or buying property jointly (without having to pay extra taxes if one of you predeceased the other), and so on. Much of which doesn’t sound very romantic until you read heart-wrenching stories of people who are kicked out of their own homes or barred from the deathbed of a dying lifelong partner because of homophobic relatives.
Another part of the reason my eyes kept brimming over with tears was because he had already been together for 15 years at that point, and while we had called each other husband and many of our friends saw us that way, we weren’t husbands before the law.
Another part was that so many of our friends had gone to great lengths to make the ceremony I kept referring to as “the elopement” into something a lot more fabulous than I had expected. From the surprise string duo to the incredible number of flowers, to the custom chocolates, and so much more, it was a magical day.
And then there are the friends themselves. Contrary to what some people say (including a lot of the anti-gay folks who try to pretend they aren’t anti-gay), a marriage is not just a private agreement between two people. Legally a marriage isn’t just a piece of paper, nor is it only a contract between two adults, nor even merely the list of over 1000 federal legal rights that were often talked about in the court cases dealing with marriage equality. Legally it is a binding agreement between those two people and the state. The state (and by extension local and federal governments) promise to provide certain rights to the people being wed, and to hold them to certain responsibilities. That’s where all that assurance of property rights and survivor benefits and hospital visitation rights come from, the fact that the government is agreeing to recognize your mutual decision to name each other next of kin.
Likewise, a wedding isn’t just a formality or a ceremony you do for attention. It’s an affirmation and a covenant—not just between the brides and/or grooms, but between the loved ones who attend and those who can’t but offer their support and love. When we attend a wedding, we’re making a promise to support the resulting union.
So our loved ones who attended the wedding, and those who were unable to, but had sent their love and well wishes, were also on my mind that day. And their love and their belief in our love had my heart so full, it nearly burst.
But of course, the biggest reason I kept crying and could barely make my voice work to say the important “I do” when needed, was because Michael is the sweetest, smartest, kindest man I’ve ever known, and for reasons I still can’t quite fathom, he loves me.It may only be officially our third anniversary, but I’ve been privileged to love and live with this man for over seventeen years. Every year with him thus far has been better than the one before. Which means I must be the luckiest guy in the world.
Happy Anniversary, Michael!
…the sweetest man on the planet said, “I do” when asked if he would take me as his husband.I really don’t quite understand how I got lucky enough to have him in my life. The fact that he’s stuck with me for more than 15 years now is a daily wonder.
Making a big fuss about a six month “anniversary” is a bit silly. For one thing, one of the Latin roots of anniversary means “year”—the literal definition is “returning yearly,” so the phrase “six month anniversary” is nonsensical. If you were to insist on a Latinate word for it you could call it the semi-anniversary, but then someone is going to say, “Don’t you mean semi-annular” at which point you have to explain that semi-annular refers to the shape or form of a half-ring rather than a unit of time and once you’re down that pedantic rabbit hole you might as well give up.
Marking the lesser milestones seems premature when you’re talking about a brand-new relationship, because you’re presumed to still be in the giddy state of having not really gotten to know each other, and where hormones and the novelty of newness makes one more prone to overlook any signs of incompatibility. There is also a fear of jinxing things.
Neither of those would seem to apply to us, having been together for more than 15 years. But that immediately raises the question, shouldn’t we observe the anniversary of the day we met, or our first date, or the day we moved in together, et cetera, rather than the date of this more recent formalization of the existing relationship?
I have several responses to that one.
The less obvious response is that neither of us had the foresight to make a note of the precise date of those other events. We don’t even agree on when we first met. Michael remembers meeting me at an early morning panel on a Friday at NorWesCon (NorthWest Science Fiction Convention). I don’t recall that meeting, but rather remember meeting him at a Saturday room party at the same NorWesCon. Which is why for years Michael said we should just think of NorWesCon as our anniversary. Our first go-out-for-dinner date was in February ’98, a few months after Ray died. I think it was the 7th, but I’m not completely sure. We made plans to move in together, but we were going to wait until after the anniversary of Ray’s death, because it seemed unseemly to do so before that. But a series of bizarre incidents with two of Michael’s roommates made me feel he wasn’t safe there, so we accelerated plans and what with the flurry of events that ensued, we don’t quite agree on which month the actual moving in happened, let alone which day. Our various registrations of domestic partnerships (in different jurisdictions, et al) were dictated by external legal and insurance-requirement reasons, without much planning or fanfare.
My next argument is that the vast majority of married couples have all of those significant dates, too, but the one everyone focuses is on is the date you stand up in front of witnesses and an officiant to say “I do,” even though the emotional commitment happened before that point.
And my biggest argument is that the date for which the even vaster majority of friends, family, and acquaintances of all those married couples consider “real” is the date that one became legally married. That’s when you made things official. That’s when society gave the stamp of approval (or at least recognition). If you’re required to produce proof, that’s the date which will be on the certification you can request from an appropriate agency.
For us, that date didn’t become possible until we had already been together for many years. We did it on the first day it was legal in the state we reside in for several reasons. Yes, one was because we’d been waiting for a long time, goddammit! Another was that it was a date where it was easy to get several of the people we wanted to be there, there (though given how many of them volunteered to stand in line with us at midnight when licenses were first available, if that’s when we wanted to get ours, I realize that easy wasn’t one of their requirements).
But it was also because that day, December 9, 2012, was the first day in America that same-sex couples were allowed to marry as a result of a vote of the people. Yes, three states passed marriage equality on Election Day, 2012, but by pure chance, Michael and I lived in the state of those three whose constitution gave the earliest date such a law became effective. We beat out Maine by 20 days, and Maryland by 22.
If I’d really wanted to be historical, we should have tried to be one of the couples married after midnight by the county judge who came in to do those. Admittedly, it would have been very cool to have our official marriage certificate signed by Judge Mary Yu—isn’t that the coolest name for a judge? Regardless, I’m proud that a majority of our state citizens were willing to recognize the basic humanity and fairness issues involved. Do I think it should have happened years ago? Of course we wish the culture had been less intolerant long ago. But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the fact that a lot of people have reached that conclusion—so having our anniversary on the historic day lets us commemorate that event, too.
And I can’t help being a product of my culture. I grew up with everything from fairy tales, television, family, and the community at large saying that the milestone worth marking is the wedding day. Not the day you signed civil union papers. Not the day you realized that his smile was something you would go out of your way to make reappear. Not the day you first signed a lease together. Not the day you caught yourself changing a favorite recipe because he doesn’t like tomatoes. Not the night you bought a major kitchen appliance together. Not the day that you first realized that you never wanted a morning to dawn without him at your side. Not even the day you picked up your marriage license.
No, the date you’re supposed to remember, the date that matters, is the day you got married.
So, yeah, even though I’m a bit of an old man, and we’ve been together for as long as we have, I’m going to keep being a bit of a silly, giddy newlywed. I’m probably going to keep saying “Happy Anniversary” on the 9th of every month for the rest of the year. I’m going to keep getting a silly grin on my face and a tear in my eye when I realize it’s been another month since I stood there, holding flowers and trying not to cry too hard to repeat my vows.
Because six months ago today, the sweetest man in the world married me. And don’t you forget it!