“When is the ceremony? How much time do we have if we need to order the rings?” The jeweler had stated his questions so matter-of-factly. We had said nothing about any sort of “ceremony”. Even though he gave off a distinctly gay vibe himself he had assumed automatically that purchasing rings meant a
marriage ceremony of some kind.
Leigh and I both shifted a bit awkwardly and looked at each other for a second as he waited for an answer to his questions. I spoke up, “We are not having a ceremony. Time won’t be a problem.” I did not elaborate and he seemed a bit confused, but went on talking about order times.
Marriage… The whole world seems to be focused on it. The religious and the political right want to define it. LGBT people want to win it. Young people are waiting longer to make vows if they make them at all… Half of those that are married want out of it and according to the Huffington Post today the half that remain married aren’t necessarily happy… Hmmm… Then there is my Mormon background. Mormons are big on marriage. In fact marriage is pretty much the culminating, all important point of existence and life as we know it.
My friend Chris worded it well this week in his blog post when he said the following:
In Mormonism the nuclear family, with a heterosexual union of husband and wife at its head, is the theological and social center of the religious experience. This is the ideal family organization designed for all people… Either here or in the next life, everyone is supposed to be married to the opposite sex or they have failed the principal reason for their existence.
I grew up knowing, and being told pretty much every single Sunday that my purpose in life was to find that man, marry him, and have kids. Instead Saturday I was standing in a fine jewelry shopping looking at NOT wedding ring with my girlfriend for us to exchange NOT at a wedding… ARGH… I can almost hear President Monson in his tower in Salt Lake, “There is a disturbance in the force… I feel a happy lesbian couple…I sense they are buying rings... NO!!!!” He pulls out his magic ray gun, “Shoot them! Shoot them with the Family Proclamation.”
Even as a Mormon I found myself sort of shying away from marriage in general. I never LOVED the idea of marriage. I saw it as a necessary means to an end. I wanted the ultimate Mormon salvation. I wanted to do what God wanted me to do. God wanted me to get married and I sort of approached dating men and marriage with a sort of petulant attitude that I would do it but only because I had to… Even when the chance came I could not, would not follow through…I've talked about all of this before...
Leigh in some ways marvels that I don’t come out of Mormonism with different views on marriage, and problems with things like sex. In some ways certain things fell away fairly easily when Mormonism fell away. It became easy to reject marriage and accept sex when the church was not true because I already did not see marriage as something I ultimately wanted, but I saw sex and intimacy as being a wonderful and connecting thing.
The exchange at the jewelers spurred a conversation between Leigh and me. We discussed or rather clarified to each other what the rings meant for us. We discussed that this exchanging of rings is NOT an exchange after the manner of the marriage tradition. This is our own thing. The rings are a symbol of making the other one a choice. The rings are a sign of our love and desire to move forward on an adventure together and not in some sort of rigid, well defined and mapped out manner, but as companions.
The last line in the second paragraph of the Huffington Post article that I mentioned above sounded like us today. It sounded like what we had discussed. It was another wording on of our own words when we say to each other, “I am making you a choice.” The article said that the couples that had been married for 25 years or longer who were still happy were ones that approached it as a choice. It said, “They are together purposefully rather than practically.”
More and more I just simply reject the definitions, ideas, roles and semantics attached to the word “marriage”. I support the fight for gay marriage, but mostly for the other rights that go along with marriage such as seeing your loved one in the hospital, children staying with a gay parent when the other dies, insurance for partners, and property laws and such…
Marriage does need to be redefined, but we shouldn’t stop with simply redefining who can enter into the union as much as what the union should mean in the first place… (Before everyone gets their panties in a rumble those of you with good marriages… Of course I’m not talking to you… You are probably still doing nice things for your partner, communicating with them well, loving them the way they need to be loved, and choosing them…)