Single in the Age of Marriage Equality
What good is being gay when you have no one to love? What good is gay marriage when you’re single?
During the periods I was single, I watched a lot of films, at home, alone. The selection process had to be very cautious. Romance was out. Drama too, as my emotions were too raw after breakups. Suspense and mystery were iffy; I’m more easily spooked when I don’t have someone to protect. Sci fi creeped me out. Comedy was about the only choice left.
Silly me: I confused animated films with comedies. Despite Eddie Murphy’s excellent donkey portrayal, “Shrek” was not a good choice. Even a big green ogre with funny ears had someone to love! The poor-me’s took over that night and afterwards I went back to the likes of Jackie Chan and “Men in Black.”
Goddess willing and the creek don’t rise, I won’t ever be single again. I’m not sure I could survive all the great news about winning our rights to marry.
Some of us enjoy the freedom of bachelorhood, others decidedly don’t. Some of us are better off single than attached to the wrong person; others would rather be imperfectly hitched than be Netflix’s best customer. I thank my very lucky stars for the perfection of and perfect match with, my sweetheart.
Way back when, Robin Tyler titled her comedy album, “Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Groom.” It was just a joke thirty-five years ago, but now it would bother me to be in that situation. Then I think about Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, and veteran gay marriage groundbreaker as far back as the landmark Hawaii marriage case, Baehr v. Miike (1990 to 1999). The entire time he was pioneering our way to marriage equality, he was single. It was only in 2002 that Wolfson found his mate and 2011 when they legally wed in New York. All those years he worked for a goal that might never have benefitted him.
I’m sure he’s not the only one. The funds required to reach our victories could not possibly come only from gay couples. Butch bachelors and maiden femmes and free-spirited gays have contributed to the miracles of the 21st century. They have not been sitting at home
crying over Shrek’s good fortune. They’ve attended the marriages, stood up for the betrothed, even performed the ceremonies.
So why do I feel guilty? Why do I want to tone down the hoopla just a bit, so those who need to can escape? Why do I feel protective of these masters of their own fates?
I fear my answer lies deep in the cultural imperative to marry. Throughout history the spinsters and old maids, the old bachelors and mama’s boys have been pitied and looked down on for their lack of mates. Young women’s lives were focused on snagging husbands and young men’s careers depended on having wives.
Even deeper are the reproductive mandates. The “poor” couple who can’t have kids. The barren wife and the sterile husband who are somehow less than the robustly fertile breeders who can’t afford to feed their broods. We’re taught early to tiptoe around childless het couples and to be sensitive about their inability to overpopulate the planet.
What arrogance that culture promotes! It may have been important in the beginning of time to mate and populate; there may be biological urges we feel compelled to fulfill. The planet is running out of food and water. We should honor those strong enough to go their own sweet ways, just as we do those who want to live in tandem. We need to cultivate respect for humans who are simply happy to keep their own company.
The fortunate implementation of gay marriage will, I hope, carry over the benefits of the tradition and leave behind the old patriarchal baggage of non-gay marriage. The rules that dictated prohibition of same sex partners on insurance plans, in intensive care units, as foster parents and on and on, were devised out of prejudice and greed. When civilization as we know it was being organized through trial and error, one of the biggest errors was creating a structure based on male inheritance. It forced men to claim as their own women, children, stock, property, currency. Any deviation from that schema was eventually criminalized.
Thus, unmarried people, straight or gay, who for the most part did not reproduce and therefore did not pass on ownership of lands or water rights or coins to their own flesh and blood, became criminal deviants. The ability to marry saved non-gays from that fate. But for us, it all went downhill from there.
Let’s not make marriage the law of our gay land. Now that some of us have the legal right to marry, we are not suddenly superior to those who choose not to. Maybe there are gays among us who envy Shrek’s connubial delight and maybe those are few and far between. Love takes many forms in this world; happiness comes in a million shapes. Every one of them is good. Just being gay, for many of us, is enough cause for celebration.