In June, I got married.
I walked down the aisle holding a ukelele instead of a bouquet, serenading my betrothed with a shaky rendition of "Marry Me." We stood under a trellis of ranunculus and gerbera daisies while friends and family waved bubble wands and wiped away tears. We danced and ate and hugged and kissed and celebrated the first day of the rest of our life. As we closed in on our fifth year together, we told the world that we finally got it all right.
No one cared that they were celebrating the marriage of two women. All our guests could see was a love they would wish for anyone.
No gifts, we said -- we already have too much stuff. But two weeks after our ceremony, on the Friday before SF Pride weekend, the Supreme Court gave us an unexpected wedding present. In a 5-4 decision, they held that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. Our marriage, so far in our minds from being a political statement, was unwittingly happening at an historic time.
Around the country and across social media, proponents of LGBT equality burst into celebration. The Pride parades were never so joyous or emotional. Corporate America had a gay old time with clever creatives affirming support. Coca Cola tweeted a rainbow of Coke bottles. Even Maytag tweeted an image of two Maytag Men, captioned "Perfect Together." It seemed that everyone was shouting "love wins" from the rooftops.
I was in London, awake at 3 a.m., scrolling through a post featuring 35 of these celebratory tweets, overwhelmed with emotion (part jetlag, part joy.) The world was with us! Then I clicked through on the Maytag ad.
And that's when the "4" in 5-4 hit me.
Among the enthusiastic retweets and shout-outs of gratitude, there were tendrils of disgust, fear and loathing.
"@TheMaytagMan promoting the destruction of American values."
"Will NEVER buy another Maytag product again after supporting the anti American decision by SCOTUS."
"Keep the Maytag Man away from your children."
One the one hand, it was comical. You people know nothing about marketing, I sneered. These companies weren't being particularly bold. Their analysts already knew that supporting gay marriage would be good for Q3 earnings. The haters were insignificant blips. But I was rattled. Living in my San Jose bubble, in a community that has accepted marriage as the expression of commitment between two people, regardless of gender... well, I wasn't used to this.
If you really knew me, I said silently to the lady boycotting Maytag, would you feel the same way? Because here's the thing: I bet we have a lot in common, starting with the fact that we both believe in getting married.
Forty of Americans don't. You and I agree that the word wife communicates a dedication and responsibility that transcends girlfriend, lover or partner. We share an affinity for this ceremonious arrival. We believe it's still meaningful.
And I'm guessing, if you've been in a relationship for a while too, we both understand what it means to be there for better or for worse. If what you picture when you hear about two women getting married is a nonstop lesbian porn reel, here are a few screen grabs from the past five years for you:
- In the emergency room with an infected kidney stone.
- At a funeral for my stepdaughter's dad, age 50.
- In a Percocet-induced daze on the couch, reeling from a herniated disk, unable to tie my own shoes.
- In the recovery room after an ovarian cystectomy.
- The two of us trying to calm my mother-in-law, lost in the fog of Alzheimer's.
And many, many times for better as well:
- Helping my daughter get ready for her first semi-formal.
- Watching the sun set over the Pacific.
- Harvesting tomatoes from the garden.
- Making a tailgate blanket fort at the drive-ins.
Is this the "homosexual lifestyle" you condemn?
My wife shores up the parts of me that are weak. She reminds me that beauty is all around us, just waiting to be noticed. She calms my hamster-wheel of a brain. We complete each other.
We did not decide to get married lightly. I've been married before; I wasn't sure I wanted to make that commitment again. But in our fifth year together, when I could not look into the future and see any version of it that did not include her by my side, when I came to a place of full appreciation for the compassion and joy that she brings to my life, I agreed: I was already playing her wife on TV. Why not make it official, for the same reasons most other couples do: companionship, support, someone to share the joy and the pain?
Isn't that why you got married?
Look, I get it. It takes some getting used to. I mean, I'm married to a woman, and still, when I hear another woman talking about her wife, I do a mental double-take: did she just say wife? It's still a curiosity, an oddity. But it's a beautiful one.
Our marriage benefits the world in the same ways a straight marriage does: Together, we are more resilient, we are stronger, we have more to give. And I promise you, if you knew us, you'd understand how solid our love is, how worthy of honor and recognition.
You seem like someone who will fight for what you believe in; that's another thing we have in common. So perhaps you could take that fierce spirit and use it for something we can all get behind: boycott the corporations polluting our waterways, or rally to improve the plight of the working poor, or the homeless, or the mentally ill.
It is, I firmly believe, what Jesus would do.