A long distance friend saw something I posted referring to Jess as my wife or maybe I said something about being married. She messaged me, asking if we’d had a ceremony, concerned that she had missed the wedding. It took some to explain why I refer to Jess as my wife, even though we’ve never had a ceremony, or even jumped the river since marriage became legal for everyone in the state of Washington, right next door.
Here’s the thing about marriage. The people trying to keep it to themselves, talk about it as if it’s some sort of sacred, untouchable thing that has been the same through time immemorial and now gay people are trying to ruin it. But that’s bullshit. Marriage is whatever the current ruling class wants it to be. We’ve managed to move away from that meaning a man completely owning a woman, which is nice. Now it’s a way for the government to recognize what a ‘family’ is on paper and give (or deny) monetary and legal benefits as they see fit.
Before you start thinking of me as some sort of callous anti-romance marriage grinch, let me say that marriage CAN be all the other things that people ascribe to it–loving, enriching, fulfilling, long-lasting etc. But the government doesn’t really care about that, or even have the ability to recognize it. So the fact is, you can have an amazing relationship that fulfills all the warm fuzzy definitions of ‘marriage.’ But to get the rights associated with legal marriage–which is frankly the only interest I might ever have in going through that particular procedure–you need to fit in a government box. Otherwise, you’re just subject to the whimsy of whatever corporate structure you happen to fall under.
Which is why, although I can get healthcare through my wife’s insurance plan (at significantly greater cost than a legally married couple), she can’t take family leave to take care of me if I needed it, or take bereavement leave to come to my mother’s funeral. Because those things are about love and connection, but they don’t fit into the government checkbox.*
It’s very dear to me, the issue of gay marriage. Or as I like to call it: “Marriage.” You know, because I had lunch this afternoon, not gay lunch. I parked my car; I didn’t gay park it.
~ Liz Feldman, Comedian
But here’s the thing.
Five months after we met, my mom was diagnosed with terminal (even if no one wanted to admit it), colon cancer. Five. Months. If you’re lucky, that’s smack dab in the middle of the honeymoon period. Talk about a downer. She could’ve ditched at that point and I would’ve been bummed, but I wouldn’t have blamed her.
Instead she stuck. It was me, mom and Jess when we sat in the doctors office and heard the words ‘cancer’ and ‘stage 4’ for the first time. She came to lots of follow up appointments, diagnostic appointments, chemo treatments, always offering a steady presence, translating medical speak into English and generally keeping me sane when almost everyone else insisted on living in a bubble in which we had all the time in the world, when I knew time was running out.
In the middle of all this, we moved in together, had a housewarming (because we couldn’t get married, but we wanted gifts), managed to steal a few honeymoon moments when we could and celebrated one year together three months before my mom died.
Of course it hasn’t been all (or even mostly) doom and gloom. I have seen more of my home state since being with Jess than my whole life before her. She got me off the I5 corridor and we’ve biked around Crater Lake, gone backpacking on Mt Jefferson, gone on Cycle Oregon and seeing the eastern edges of the state, and discovered the mountain biking wonders of Bend.
We not only survived both our first trip to Europe without killing each other, despite a lot of travel stress–we managed to have an awesome time and didn’t get into one fight.
Jess has inspired me to be more responsible and in turn, I have inspired her to be less serious and laugh more. We have too many matching clothes. I’ve taken care of her after she gets broken or injured (each time threatening to order a her a suit of bubble wrap) and she’s nursed me through food poisoning, surgeries, and weird infections.
All this has been going on for seven years now. If that’s not a marriage, I don’t know what is.
So that’s why today, I’ll be celebrating my seven year anniversary…with my wife.
*Since marriage is now legal for everyone in Washington, I suppose we could jump the border and check off our boxes.