WARNING: Spoiler alerts ahead!
My partner and I have been watching Modern Family since its debut in 2009, because a) it's pretty darn funny, and b) Mitch and Cam.
We've been compared to TV's quintessential gay dads quite a few times over the years. (My trainer at the gym once told me, "You're like the big guy, because you're so, um, funny!") And their milestones have mirrored ours on many occasions -- like when Lily dropped the "F" bomb, and when they thought she'd dropped the "M" bomb, and when the adoption fell through.
The show's fifth season premiere ("Suddenly, Last Summer") begins with a date stamp of "June 26, 2013," then it proceeds to weave the Supreme Court's eventful decision of that day into a plot about Mitch and Cam each planning a surprise proposal to the other. Hilarity and calamity ensue, of course, with both sets of romantic scenarios being botched. They end up with a tire blowout in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking the light-filled city below, stars overhead. While replacing the tire, the couple reminisces about the various mishaps and adventures they've shared in their decade-long relationship. As they both kneel down (on one knee, natch) to attend to the tire, it dawns on each of them what the other has been plotting. They look into each other's eyes and simultaneously say, "Yes."
And simultaneously, my partner and I both sniffled and said, "Awww."
Although the characters of Cam and Mitch are not without fault (they could certainly stand to be more affectionate), and although stereotypes abound, I do appreciate the significance of this storyline on an Emmy-winning, Nielson chart-topping, major network show.
Yet what really made an impact was not just seeing a gay couple propose to one another but the genuine portrayal of how this moment might play out between a couple that has been together for so long, a couple that would have gotten married much sooner, had it been legal, yet remained together and built their family their way. There's not a lot of precedent for that on TV, or in popular culture in general.
Like Mitch and Cam, we and many other same-sex couples have committed to one another for the long haul, forming our relationships and our families as best as we know how, often without any support from government, church, family or society as a whole. These hindrances are swiftly falling away, and I couldn't be more thrilled. And I'm thrilled for the new(er) couples that are meeting and falling in love and are able to get married just as God and Hollywood intended: while they're still young and hot for each other.
So why is it significant that this TV couple has been together for so long? To the straight, married readers: Can you imagine, having been with your partner for 10, 15, or 20 years, planning, hosting, and paying for a wedding at this point in your life? Between work, paying bills, caring for a house, and raising kids, just setting a date would be an achievement. Am I right?
So I really appreciate how Modern Family's writers and producers show this long-together couple -- in the midst of a busy, chaotic, and deeply entrenched life -- struggle and scheme to make this moment as historic and romantic as possible. And as it would be in the real world, they have to take the time that life gives them and make it their own, in their own way.
My partner and I will have been together for 17 years this month. (Cue the common gay joke, "That's 34 in straight years!") In the fall of 2003, we had a commitment ceremony in a lovely Unitarian church nestled in some woods, surrounded by over 100 friends and family. It was the closest thing to a wedding that was available to same-sex couples at the time, and it was truly wonderful.
However, we are going to have a legal wedding (albeit much smaller this time around) come hell, high water, work, school schedules or extended family shenanigans. And why are we being wedding hoarders and having another ceremony? Because we can. And because we deserve to. And because we have family members who chose not to come the first time around but are clamoring to be here this time. And of course because of our son. But mostly because we love each other. (And because we can.)