History, Part 5 of 8
I’ve decided to get on to the point of my history and be done with it, but can’t skip this step:
After over a year of being together, we began “shacking up”. At the time, I’d never really heard of gay men having any sort of public commitment ceremony, but I still wish we had waited until after getting hitched. Regardless, we already had eloped, in our own way. We made those promises, already were committed to each other and no one else, and we couldn’t wait for something we didn’t expect (practicing my excuses for when I explain to my boys why they should wait :-)).
I believe it was one of my friends who brought it up first, asking us when we’d get married; then soon after most everyone was asking (something in the news?). At first I wondered why it’d even get mentioned, if it wasn’t legally binding? Now, that seems dense. It’s easy to think a marriage is mainly about two people, but the families have a big stake in keeping unions intact, and making these promises in public, even without law, goes a long way to comfort them, and solidify the bonds.
I certainly wasn’t against it, but I wasn’t sure it was needed either. One of the blessings (and curses) of being gay in Utah then was that you were a bit of an outsider to your culture. We weren’t pressured by our society into following many norms once we broke the no-gay norm (family, is a different story…), and we could regard the reasons for them through eyes regular folks could not, and more flexibly decide if they were for us. I think this helped make values like monogamy, mutual sacrifice, and so on more our cherished values, what we chose, because we found the value in them; it wasn't simply assumed into us. So we got to (had to) work out the reasons for public ceremony.
Could it be too offensive to some of our family? We know where we stand, and so why a ceremony? Do we really want to spend all that money? (No bride, so who pays? We do :-).)
Around this time I had the most vivid and life-clarifying dream I’ve ever had. It was a simple dream. I found myself years in the future, and R and I had split up (just one of those facts in a dream you know without knowing why). I'd found another partner, and we were entering a restaurant. There, seated and eating, was R with another guy.
I said hi, we exchanged small talk, laughed, I shook his date’s hand, and my partner and I sat down to eat. That was it, and there was nothing. No emotion between R and I. I felt nothing for him; I “loved” my new partner. R was just some guy I once dated, and we both were in love with and happy with someone else. Funny how dreams can make you feel what you’d never feel, and yet teach you a lesson about yourself.
There was no emotion in that dream, save for the knowledge that we were both happy and in love with another, but that’s exactly what made it a nightmare. I woke my self up sobbing; a hysterical mess over loosing him, loosing his family, my family’s lose of him, and so on. That’s been the only time a dream has ever affected me like that, and seemed so real. Once I got my bearings, I was immensely thankful to find R next to me, and I grabbed him and held him tight, probably too tight. He just had to put up with being horribly confused until I composed myself.
We’d been passively planning our ceremony, but that’s when I really knew it was the right thing, for us. I’d rather be tied to him, happy or miserable or indifferent, than happy with someone else, and private promises just would not do, too easily annulled. Furthermore, it was clear that, while our relationship was great, its foundation was not as broad and robust as possible, not enough for family (his, mine, or, eventually, ours).
So we decided to tie the knot.
The invitations went out. We sent them only to those we thought would come, and those we felt obligated to at least inform, hoping not to offend anyone needlessly (After the wedding I got a stern talking to from some of the more conservative relatives we’d left out, assuming they’d be offended at the invitation alone; “too pessimistic” is the story of my being gay :-)).
The morning of the ceremony we had a breakfast at the local club where I grew up swimming and playing golf (certainly a first for them). It was with all our close family and fiends. I think I cried through most of it, as I went around the tables thanking everyone for being there for us that day and all the many days past.
That evening we had the ceremony at my parent’s home (still wanted to save some money ;-)). To our surprise, we only had a couple no-shows. The house and yard were packed, and it meant so very much. So many great people: my amazing parents; my buddies from my youth; my grandfather, the man who baptized me; my soon-to-be in-laws; too many wonderful people to list. I knew I’d been greatly blessed, and seeing them there emphasized the weight of what we were about to do.
It then came time and we stood up in front of our minister, with everyone gathered around. The minister spoke just long enough to quell the nerves, as we stood anxious across from each other; it almost felt like I was seeing him again for the first time. We began by making all those many critical promises, our voices hardly clear under the emotion. I gave him my ring, and he gave me his, so in whatever choices we make, the other is right there, always considered. We were then finally given the okay to pull each other close, and we were joined in a way in which we’d never been before. I couldn’t have anticipated how important that act turned out to be, as our relationship was new again, larger and stronger in just one day.
Secondarily but important also, our family and friends were there, and heard every word of what we promised. They saw our faces; that we meant it, for better or worse, and they could now hold us to it. They could and can count on us.