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Sunday Driver: Thoughts on Getting Married

Gabriel Arana

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.

Me (left) and Mike at Niagara Falls

Me (left) and Mike at Niagara Falls

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.

Visiting my parents in Arizona

Visiting my parents in Arizona

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.

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Piper
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

That is absolutely beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing. You two make a handsome couple!

Richard W. Fitch
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

*^^DITTO^^*

neil h.
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Congratulations to the pair of you and my very best wishes for the years to come!

RebLaw
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Congratulations! My sweetie and I just got married about a month ago. We pretty much knew from pretty early in the relationship that it was only a matter of time.
:-) I wish you all the happiness in the world!

Lucrece
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Ay, mira que lindos! ;D

Congrats~

GreenEyedLilo
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

This is so beautiful. I actually teared up a little. I am so glad you could prove the lie in Dr. Nicolosi’s “advice”.

One thing I loved about marrying my wife is that we could make up our own script with absolutely no advice. (As a 50/50 bi woman and feminist, I disliked some aspects of the “traditional” mixed-gender wedding, and knew I’d end up having to defend some choices I’d have made in that situation.) But I also feel like this generation of same-sex couples is setting precedent for the next. It’s an amazing thing.

Timothy (TRiG)
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Beautiful.

TRiG.

Regan DuCasse
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

To Gabriel and Michael,

I remember how long it was before I got married. Before that, I hadn’t really ever been in a long term relationship and mostly I didn’t think I’d marry either.

Sometimes you put yourself in the mind that you don’t want what you can’t have.
Not hoping, nor taking it for granted you can, changes the outlook on finding someone who is right for us.
How we see our worth in doing so.

I’m in that sort of minority that has been relegated to the margins of solitary survival. Even in motherhood, black women are a kind of abandoned group who struggle more professionally, therefore economically, therefore who have been burdened with the stereotype of overbearing and too strong.

We don’t want to be, but we are left with circumstances that require a vigilance and determination few understand.
I know what it’s like to struggle to want to have that person with you who cares to know and understand you and be steadfast.
In the best of times for many people, it takes many tries, hits and misses to have that.
It’s hard to stay together, harder to know what life will throw your way and the older you get, the prospects diminish it seems.

And if you’re in a minority, constantly bombarded with things that keep you diasporic and struggling for basic dignity, the idea that there is someone out there for you is even more daunting.

This is why, when someone like you Gabriel, is fortunate enough to have done just that. To feel loved, and give love, THAT is the gift beyond the price of pearls.
Yes, marriage changes everything because of what society charges you to appreciate. When you hear those vows, the sheer grandness of their intention, the beauty of their purpose is everything.
It’s everything that is the best of your possibility with Michael.
The more you repeat them to yourselves and each other throughout your years together, it will bring you back to why you are there in the first place.

Love is ALWAYS worth celebrating because it’s so rare, so is happiness. So is learning about what you’re capable of when it matters the most.
Life and everything that’s good is so fragile and precious.
Go on, go ON and show them your caring, married and joyful life. Show us something to hope and live for.
Make it beautiful and real, make it change you into the deeply committed married person you are now becoming.

Yes, marriage changes everything because it SHOULD.

Much love and hopes for the best you can have together, Gabriel and Michael.
XOXO

Burr
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Shucks you guys are cute together. :)

Just speaking for myself, I’ve generally considered marriage in mostly a pragmatic way of securing our rights to care for each other. And if the government allowed a way to do it without that, and without spending hundreds of dollars on legalese that could still get ignored and shredded up, I would go for that, though I still think everyone should have the right to get married and have it recognized. I’m already “married” in my heart to my partner, and don’t necessarily need a public showing to prove it.

This post has me reconsidering that a little, though..

Priya Lynn
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

That was beautiful Regan.

Matt
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Congrats!

Jim Burroway
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Gabriel,

Congratulations. That was a wonderful meditation. Marriage really is more than just an acquisition of rights. I think you’ve illustrated it well without coming out and saying it, but social conservatives are right. Marriage is transformative; it actually changes people in how they see themselves as being part of something larger and yet still all their own.

Congratulations to the you and Mike. You make an adorable couple.

Alan
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Jim that was a great post, and I’m truly glad that you’ve found someone you’re happy with. Thanks for sharing that with us, and I wish you the best on your wedding day.

But a word of warning: Be careful about agreeing with social conservatives. They don’t just see marriage as transformative, they see it as a requirement for everyone. Another example of their intolerance that I hope you don’t share.

Alan
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Sorry, I should have been congratulating Gabriel and Michael. I got confused because I was responding to Jim’s post as well and my brain has a limited capacity to multitask. ;)

Matt
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Congratulations!

Rev. Ray Neal
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Your honesty in telling about the end of one relationship and the beginning of a new one is very refreshing. Seldom does the new begin without saying good bye to what has been. Went to the Gender Odyssey conference in Seattle Washington this weekend. Comment was made which is probably a quote from someone, but don’t ask me who: We don’t know the difference between transformation and destruction. God wants to transform us and we think we’re being destroyed.

You’ve been through a lot of transformations in your life…which you have shared openly and honestly with us, giving others hope that they too may be transformed.
Rev Ray in Seattle
Metropolitan Community Church Seattle
http://www.mccseattle.org

Dan
September 7th, 2009 | LINK

My partner and I met when we were 21 and 23 respectively. That was almost 16 years ago.

Gay relationships can last, but the challenges are often different than heterosexual relationships.

Two years is a milestone no doubt, but it is still a very new relationship. The real challenges and growth come later, but it can be a beautiful thing!

You guys are young so it gives you the wonderful opportunity to grow together. There is NOTHING better than that!

The marriage and all the symbolism are really unimportant, only the love matters!

Louie
September 7th, 2009 | LINK

Congrats Gabe and Michael!

My husband and I have been married in our hearts for 13 years and legally married in California 1 year!

I don’t know how or why, but it feels like we just met yesterday!

I look at pictures of us from 13 years ago and I just stare in amazement that we look so young!

Now, I see the gray hairs on his head and he sees the gray hairs in mine.

We smile and just continue loving each other as we both grow old, together.

My biggest fear when I acknowledged to myself that I was gay, was that I would never find someone (one) to spend the rest of my life with, I was wrong. Happily wrong!

I’m not saying that EVERYONE HAS to settle down with one single person, I’m just saying that it was right for me and my husband. It’s what we both wanted.

If being single and unattached floats your boat, then go for it. To each his or her own.

But, for those that do choose the “marriage” route, then we should get the same CIVIL rights as heterosexuals. No more, no less.

And of course as singles, we should all have the same civil rights, regardless of our gender or orientation.

Gabriel Arana
September 7th, 2009 | LINK

Thanks so much to everyone for all the encouragement, advice, and thoughts. Your messages have been very heart-warming to read. I think some of you should post your own experiences/thoughts as part of the Sunday Driver series!

Alex H
September 7th, 2009 | LINK

Congrats, Gabriel. It sounds like both of you have found the right fit with each other.

Although making a date with Mike while you were still with someone else was bad form, I guess when your heart tells you to do something you should follow it (not that it’s an excusable act).

But if Mike is OK with it, then we should all be happy for you.

HuntTheWumpus
September 7th, 2009 | LINK

While I offer my congratulations, I must say that I kinda agree with Alex H on his point of bad form….That fact that a relationship started while in the midst of another is one problem that gay community need not gloss over…Again, if Mike is cool with it, more power to the both of you….and I wish you well!!

Timothy Kincaid
September 8th, 2009 | LINK

Gabe,

Beautiful thoughts and words.

Bob
September 8th, 2009 | LINK

The best to both of you and all the happieness. You both look marvelous together.

Also, I know this is off topic but I wanted to tell Turtle Box Bulletin how much your efforts of reporting about gay issues
around the world is GREATLY appreciated. Those of us with extremely busy
schedules are kept up to date on events that effect all of us.

Thank you so much, keep up the great reporting!

Best regards,

Bob
San Diego CA

kadrian Whisenhunt
September 8th, 2009 | LINK

Great piece Gabe! I love you and Mike and am so happy you both were apart of our special day! Can’t wait to be apart of yours!

Glenn I
September 10th, 2009 | LINK

Congratulations. I’ve been wearing my wedding ring since Kent put it on my finger last November (the California Supreme Court says we still get to call ourselves legally married – nifty!) and it gives me a feeling of reassurance and warmth when K & I are apart.

As we’d been together 14 years neither K nor I thought a ceremony would make any difference, really; we just wanted more legal security in case of, you know, bad stuff. But the good stuff has been more significant so far – the support of family & friends, the connection between us explicitly affirmed by them – and by us! It does seem weird, sometimes, but so do a lot of things when you think about them – from religion to cats.

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