Saturday, February 12, 2011
A Rose is a Rose is a Rose…but What about a Marriage?
When I first proposed, Teri could not bring herself to call our planned ceremony a wedding. No matter how many years have passed since her upbringing in a strict Catholic household, it was tough for her to feel as though we were entitled to use that word. What would her family and others who we assumed believe in the one man + one woman model say? I, on the other hand, was stubborn: “I’m calling it a wedding and a marriage because that is exactly what it is.” BUT, in my sensitivity to the turmoil she was feeling, I wanted to acknowledge and respect the word choice she needed to use.
It wasn’t long until one of our kids asked us what we were going to call each other after we had the ceremony—would we be spouses? Partners? Sheesh! While living on the edge of progressive social transition can be exhilarating, it can also be frustrating. We don’t want to simply appropriate old hetero words, but we don’t want to downplay what this all means to us either! Yesterday, a status post on Facebook by Equally Wed asked that very question: “When you tie the knot, how do/did you want the officiate to pronounce you? Husband and husband? Wife and wife? Devoted partners?”
Having previously been “wives” in the traditionally-accepted sense of the word, neither one of us ever wants to wear that moniker again. A few of the posters on the FB page called out for the need for a new term; one that wasn’t drenched in heterosexism. Marriage, wedding, union, ceremony, husband, wife—these words have meaning; some of which is socially assumed and some of which can be attributed to personal baggage.
For Teri and me, we slip in and out of using different words and we have been trying to have a sense of humor as we explore what they mean for us. Neither one of us takes what we are doing lightly, and yet we are still trying to have some fun with the process. We are partners, yes, but that does sound a bit dry and business-like—Spouse? Spice? Mouse? Mice? Is it a wedding or a ceremony where we will share our union? See? The lack of legal definition and accepted normalizing makes it difficult to find the language to communicate (I imagine that is a big part of why the rights of marriage equality are being withheld.) I am totally on board with whomever said that “domestic partners” makes it sound like we do housework together (which we do, but only when the dust, dog hair, and cat fur necessitate.)
Teri now calls it a wedding and I sometimes refer to it as our ceremony. Neither one of us really uses the word marriage, instead we tend to refer to ourselves as a team—which seems sort-of perfect for two girly-tom-boyish and femme-sporty lesbians. Labels, labels, labels—the language is in flux and we are very much a part of the transition of modern marriage. I do want more ease and comfort with it; I would love it if our kids and my grandmother all new exactly what to refer to us as without looking quizzically and waiting for us to give them the “proper” terminology. When Teri and I get frustrated at the inadequate language, she usually launches into a rousing version of a song from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers—belting out: “You’re the gal for me!”