Sunday Driver: Thoughts on Getting Married
September 6th, 2009
As I write this, my partner Michael and I are on vacation in Winter Park, Colorado. One of my closest friends from New York City is getting married and we’ve flown in a few days before the wedding. It’s been a year since either of us has had any real time off, and despite the fact that I haven’t been able to stop myself from checking my work e-mail, it’s been a nice break.
The wedding on Sunday will be the first I’ve attended since Mike and I got engaged a few months ago, which has made me look at all the events with an eye toward our own ceremony. I take note of what I think would fit and what wouldn’t. Many of the rituals don’t — my dad, for instance, is not giving me away. So we’ve had to make up a lot as we’ve gone along; I think that suits us.
We planned the proposal together, chose matching Tiffany wedding bands and bought them, decided to go to Mario Batali’s Del Posto for dinner. As we walked over to the West Side for dinner, we stopped at Madison Square Park. We sat on a bench, and as people walked by with their dogs and children, we exchanged the rings in a place we had been many times before.
For a number of reasons, I never thought I’d get married. My experiences in reorientation therapy with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi had convinced me at a young age that being gay would mean being alone — gay relationships didn’t last. I believed that long after I gave up on therapy. But even after I disabused myself of that toxic notion, I had never met anyone I thought I could be with indefinitely.
I met Mike at a party and was dating someone else at the time. After we friended each other on Facebook, I asked him to dinner, which I knew was playing with fire. I told myself that it was just a friendly meeting, but none of my friends failed to point out that I was not telling my partner at the time. I said I did not want to upset him unnecessarily, but even I didn’t fully buy my own story. Shortly after we had dinner, my ex and I broke up, for a number of reasons, and Mike and I were dating within a few weeks.
We’ve been together for nearly two years and decided to get engaged before I left New York to work at the Prospect in Washington, DC. The thought of getting married still scares me. Walking down Fifth Avenue after having bought the ring, I remember thinking, “This isn’t just talk anymore.” It was a serious, adult thing to do, and it made me a bit nostalgic for single life, which was lonely but always infused with a sense of possibility. When I first moved to New York, I knew no one and spent much of my free time wandering the city alone, walking home from work in the World Financial Center, or back and forth across the island, or in the park. Sometimes I miss that solitude, but I forget why I miss it when Mike is off in Boston from Monday to Thursday for work.
Marriage also scares me less when I think of the fact that I can still be myself in it; I don’t have to do any last-minute repairs to make myself “ready.” And it doesn’t mean everything will be perfect. In a way, it won’t change anything. Mike and I will still love each other, still share our thoughts and feelings. We’ll fight, too. The fact that it won’t change much in our day-to-day begs the question, Why get married? We would still be together even if Connecticut and Massachusetts were not a train ride away, and even if both DC and New York did not recognized gay marriage. But our relationship doesn’t exist in a vacuum; we share it with our friends, co-workers and, in my case, I share it with readers. It is as much a public partnership as a private relationship, which is why having it acknowledged from the outside is important.
This morning, Mike and I drove into downtown Winter Park (if you can call it that) and had brunch outside. I rarely remember the things we talk about, but I do hold on to the profound feeling of well-being, and remember how the midday light shone off the glass table. It’s then when I think marriage won’t change a thing. But when I’m at a social event and someone asks me about the ring, or when I have to take a flight on my own and worry about who will take care of him if the plane goes down, I realize: maybe marriage does change everything.