Okay, before you start with the hate mail and death threats, hear me out.
Like anything else on The Dapper Butch, I can only tell you what I know– this is what I know:
I was married at 25, and divorced by 26. The girl I married was someone I’d only known for two years, and had only been steadily dating for one. And, to add to the whirlwind, my ex wife and I were only together for about seven months before I proposed.
My best friend was with her ex partner for just about a year before they got married on Valentine’s Day. They were divorced a few months later.
Two women my ex wife and I used to spend time with had been together for five years. They were in their early to mid thirties, and had both had significant past relationships. They even had six kids between the two of them. For five years, they lived together, happily, until they were married. A year after they were married, they were divorced.
I could go on, but the point of this editorial isn’t to send all of you to a Xanex and a pint of Half Baked. I’m bringing these harsh examples to light, because I want to ask a very important question that someone asked me; are we getting married too quickly, because we can?
I know, it’s a big one. And I can’t possibly answer it with a few first hand, heart breaking experiences. But I would like to attempt to reflect on it a little, because I think it’s important. How can we expect the haters to take our marriages seriously if we ourselves aren’t?
The day of my wedding, one of my life-long friends approached me and said “well, it’s not like you’re really going to be married.” Yes, actually. It is a real, live marriage. At least in the state of Massachusetts (and many others) it was as legally legitimate as any other, complete with real, live divorce. But I couldn’t help but ask myself– was there a part of that also didn’t think of my marriage as “real”? Or on the plane of my other hetero friends who were tying the knot that year? Or was it just my young age and poor choice in life partner that caused me to laugh it off? I think there is still a huge misunderstanding out there when it comes to marriage equality, even among my VERY open minded, liberal friends here in Boston. With so many shades of gray between “totally illegal” and “rainbow themed weddings,” there’s a lot of confusion. And, because the idea of marriage equality is still so new, I have to wonder, do we ourselves even take it as seriously as its traditional counterpart?
Again, I realize I’m inviting backlash here. And I would like to state, for the record, that I am not one of those self-hating gays who thinks marriage is not meant for two queers. Not even close. I married a woman, after all, at a very young age, at a time when it was still illegal in many other parts of the country. But, like most young divorcees, I am gun shy. And not just for the usual reasons. I’m gun shy because I think we, as lesbian identified women, have to ask ourselves some additional questions that our straight friends may not have to (again, this is not a universal concept. Just something to consider). If I’d really thought about it, back in 2009 when I got engaged after only a short time, I would have realized that yes, part of me was rushing into it because, well, I could. Because why wouldn’t I want to exercise this new right that has been so long coming to all of those who struggled before me? (I’m looking at you, Edie Windsor). Don’t I want to be “normal” like my straight friends and family? If I’d asked myself these (hard) questions, I would probably have realized that they were contributors. Big ones too. And I think the ladies mentioned above would agree, to an extent, with that.
There is another issue, too. One that I know many of you will lose your panties at me for (and not in the fun, Teagen and Sarah concert way, either). The concept of U-hauling is not a myth. Call it a stereotype based in lies, or a mysoginistic representation of women, but it comes from some serious truth. When my girlfriend and I first started dating, I was frustrated with the “slow” pace things were moving (aka we hadn’t professed our undying love and moved in together in the first month). *Jess, being the smart, logical woman she is, said to me “every relationship has someone who’s the brakes and someone who’s the gas… You’re the gas.” Truth. Harsh, harsh truth. I have always been the typical “gas” in all of my relationships, as many (many) women are. I just so happened to find one of the rare “brakes” out there to keep me from proposing to her on our third date. But what happens when two “gasses” get together (as if often the case when two women unite)? It’s no secret that things can move at warp speed, finally exploding into tiny little relationship fragments. And I believe that, at times, maybe too many times, this warp speed is bringing us right to the alter.
This is not a criticism, my fellow Exxon-ers out there. It’s just the way some of us our programmed. I am wired to ask for a key when you buy me a coffee. My girlfriend is wired to make a long pro and con list for at least six months before taking a vacation with you (okay, so I exaggerate, but you get the idea). I would also like to add that this is not an exclusively lesbian problem. Of course two men, or a man and a woman, or whatever you identify as, can all be fast-movers. I’m just saying it seems to be more common within our community. That being said, I encourage you all to slow it down.
I love Jess. I would even go so far as to call her the love of my life. And there are times I have to fight every inch of my being to marry her right this second. But I don’t. Partly because she’s way too smart for that, but also, because it isn’t safe. Just because we CAN (and SHOULD be able to) now, doesn’t mean we have to rush it. We expect to change the way the world sees the concept of marriage. We want to dispel that notion that same sex marriage will mean higher divorce rates, poor parenting, etc. And I think we need to start by making sure we’re making sound choices in our own relationships. Sure, our heterosexual neighbors’ divorce rates will probably still sky rocket. And that’s tragic. But if we want to be taken seriously, we have to treat marriage seriously. So please, all you “gasses” out there, put on the brakes… or, at least find someone who will. Ask those important questions. Let’s change the way others see us by starting with how we see ourselves.
Let’s be those couples who manage to stay together for a lifetime, as often as we possibly can.