I don’t think marriage is the default best configuration for raising children. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to say that out loud, but I’m going to say it.
I don’t think marriage, as we sell it to people, is even a very good way for grown-ups to live.
That colors my discussion with Martin Kennedy and it’s not fair of me to not put all my cards on the table when he’s trying to put his (even though we’ve been giving him grief for doing it).
Families should be safe and nurturing places for everyone in them. People should feel protected, supported, and free. They should be safe.
I could start a list right now of every woman who I’ve heard dispare over how little her husband does compared to her in terms of keeping house and taking care of the children and just doing the emotional work of being present at home when he’s home and we’d still be here tomorrow.
At the same time, I could start a list of every woman I know who is married to a guy who doesn’t really have a job that could support him, let alone them, and who doesn’t seem the least bit concerned that he’s doing the equivalent of having moved back home with his parents, except he gets laid regularly.
And I could tell you stories about the men I know who are, in their hearts, done being married, but are afraid of leaving their kids unsupervised with their wives or the men who work full time and come home to find the wife and kids still in their pajamas in front of the TV, where they were when he left that morning.
My point is that, when I look around, I see a shit-ton of marriages in which one person feels (and I know you never know what goes on inside a marriage), and it looks that way from the outside, that they’re kind of in it by themselves.
Who wants that?
This is not to mention the bigger issues–the outragiously high number of kids who are molested by family members, the physical and emotional abuse, etc.–that far too many of us went through or witnessed.
It’s nice to believe that marriage is some cure-all for social ills–that it makes kids safer, that it makes men manlier, and that it fulfills women’s every need–and that if we just encourge people to get married, everything will be hunky-dory*. But I don’t see it.
I literally look at all the married folks I know and I just don’t see that their lives are better or easier than mine. I don’t think that I’m biased against marriage. I have a hard time imagining being married–I’m old and I’m stuck in my ways and it’s not like folks are lining up–but I like the idea. I like to imagine what it would be like to have someone who chose to be on my side at my side when I got home from work and what it would be like to watch that person grow old next to me.
That seems like a deep honor, for someone to share that with you.
But I don’t think you can blame folks for looking around and saying, “I don’t see how being married puts me in any better position than not being married.” If marriage is such a great cure-all for the world’s ills, you’d not see only half of adults choosing to be in one and you’d not see half of marriages fail.
I want people to form loving families, where folks feel safe and taken care of and able to take care of the people they love. If a man and a woman can do that through marriage, more power to you. I will gladly dance at your wedding. If a woman and a woman can do that through moving in with one woman’s brother and his son, Merry Christmas! If two men, a father to one of those men, a baby they adoped, and a friendly neighbor can do it, great.
Will gay marriage change marriage?
I think that, in some ways, it will.
But here’s what I remember and keep in my heart. I remember being a suicidal fifteen year old in a town small enough to walk across who hated her life at every minute and who felt unsafe at school and less safe at home. And I remember hearing about AIDS for the first time and reading about these families who were turning their backs on their sons, because having AIDS pretty much meant that you could not pretend you weren’t gay. And I remember reading over and over again about these folks who had lost their families talking about moving to more gay-friendly confines and searching out and finding folks to be their families.
They made their own families.
You can go out in the world and find good people who love you and who want good things for you and you can make real, deep emotional connections to them, and they can be your family, if the one you have doesn’t work for you.
Forget everything else gay culture has given us; we’re blessed just by that notion.
And gay marriage?
If everyone had the idea that you marry the person you love, regardless of his or her ability to give you children, regardless of his or her ability to conform to gender norms, if you just go out and find someone you love and want to be with and want to take care of and can’t wait to fuck, and marry that person, that would be revolutionary.
It would change what marriage means to most people.
Obviously it would.
I believe it would change it for the better, though.
I can’t wait to dance at those weddings either.
*Hmm, that’s a phrase one wonders about its origins. I already had to give up honyak. Am I going to have to give up hunky-dory, too? One doesn’t normally think of the Hungarians as being folks widely disparaged against, but I’m starting to suspect that all the nonsense words I learned as a child used to be words that made fun of Hungarians. Explain that to me, people.