The Queer Issue
It took my dad until he was in his mid 50s to decide he didn't want to be married.
Given what he was up against, it's understandable that it took him so long to arrive at this epiphany. He was born in 1950 into a loving but fairly traditional Christian household—his father was a B-52 bomber pilot; his mother was an Avon lady. When Dad went away to college and started shacking up premaritally, his parents cut him off financially.
So, yeah, he was under some serious pressure to get married.
Dad did wind up getting married—three times—and he got divorced three times, too. He hardly bothered to take a breath between the end of one marriage and the beginning of the next. Indeed, there was, at least once, some unfortunate overlap.
My mom and dad were married until I was 4 years old, when they got divorced because Dad had been having an affair with my mom's then best friend, who he went on to marry. When his second marriage dissolved, Dad spent a little while alone, but then quickly married again. That marriage ended when it became clear to my dad that he had a bisexual side that he wasn't able to explore within the confines of the marriage. It took him some 30 years to arrive at that realization.
Dad is seeing someone now—they remain happily unmarried and are negotiating the sometimes-choppy waters of an open relationship.
Hindsight being what it is, it seems obvious that not only was Dad not really built to be with just one person his whole life, he wasn't even built to be with one person, or perhaps even one gender, at a time.
But when he was growing up, the whole world was practically screaming at him to get married. And here's where all y'all gays should be happy. Here's where y'all have a leg up on my dad. It seems obvious that widespread acceptance of gay marriage is an inevitability—just wait for another generation of scared old bigots to pass away. But with half the world screaming at you homos NOT to get married, you pesky abominations, you—you might be tempted to run off and get married just to show the shouters how wrong they are.
That might be a mistake.
Yes, of course, everyone should be able to get married. Clearly. But is that really your style? A lot of people are serial monogamists, jumping from one exclusive relationship to the next without a pause for breath in between, but few people want to admit it. So they don't. And instead of recognizing their own... well, I don't want to use the world "inability" here. So let's say that when people refuse to admit to their own lack of desire to be in a lifelong, committed relationship, they can fall into the trap of making a lot of commitments that inevitably fall apart.
For better or worse, the gay community doesn't have a centuries-old tradition of marriage. When—again, inevitably—the legal definition of marriage expands to include you, you will be in the unique position of having the right but not the traditions of marriage. You will have the option of marrying, but not the parental, religious, and social expectations—well, maybe a touch of them, but at nowhere near the same intensity levels.
Which means you can make a freer choice. And many of you will, or should, choose not to marry.
Sure, there are tax benefits, as well as that sexy stuff like hospital visits and the disposal of earthy remains. But beware of the dusty romantic notion that all you will need over your long life is one person to love. How many straight people even believe that? And among the straight people who believe it, how many actually do it successfully?
So while you contemplate that flight to San Francisco this summer, remember what marriage really is: an agreement not to break up until one of you decides to renege. Only with a little paperwork going in—and a lot getting out.
It is, however, a good excuse for a party.