Wednesday, May 26, 2010

HEA Bells

Whether it's a Happy For Now or a Happily Ever After, writers make a promise to readers when we label our books romance. But for those of us who write (or live) a gay romance, the traditional HEA progression and labels aren't available: fall in love, yes; get married, no. There are a few exceptions to this, but for the most part, in real life and in fiction, we have to form our HEA without external definitions or support.

Personally, I like that freedom, and I think most of my characters do, too. (What? They're real. We've had this conversation before.) But there's another side to it, one that I had the opportunity to experience myself six years ago this Friday, May 28: My Big Gay Wedding Anniversary.

We'd had disappointments before, thinking we'd be able to get married. We decided not to let ourselves get too excited or to make plans until we were sure we would be really able to do it. We even told ourselves we didn't need it, with a mortgage and eighteen years already binding us together, but we watched for the Massachusetts court decision, the last minute maneuvering, and, when it seemed clear it couldn't be stopped, we got our paperwork and blood tests in order (although we still reside in a marital gray area forty minutes from the Mass border in neighboring New York). It was really happening.

Then we found out that the state planned to enforce an archaic law--created to prevent interracial couples from traveling to Massachusetts to marry--to keep gay couples from doing the same.

A ray of hope came in the persons of several brave county clerks who were steadfastly ignoring the prohibition. Still hopeful, we traveled to the nearest of those counties to apply for our license. The marriage was on, just as soon as the waiting period was up. It was time to make plans. Plans I'd abandoned, even in my imagination, since sixth grade.

We called the families. With the date looming, all I knew was that I wanted flowers. I completely forgot about people taking pictures or that I might want something special to wear. After only three days of constantly changing lists of who would attend and who would stay where, I finally understood why there is such a thing as Bridezilla. But it was happening.

The day before the wedding, the news came that the four remaining county clerks risked arrest if they continued to marry out-of-state couples. With my bags packed and my flowers waiting, I called the Worchester County clerk. He assured me we would be married the next day.

Truth be told, I don't remember a thing about the ceremony, except that it poured like a tropical depression had settled over Massachusetts. There was no place to park. We all looked like we'd been swimming in our clothes. But after eighteen years together, my wife and I were married in Massachusetts. When I kissed my wife, it occurred to me that, in all those years, I'd never kissed her in front of my parents.

That was when the depth of what we were doing it hit me.

I had never let society define me or my relationship. My wife and I, like most gay couples, made our own rules. We set our anniversary based on when we'd started fucking dating. We didn't change just because we had a paper saying we were married. (And thanks to DOMA and other crap, our rights sure haven't changed.) But what we did, that very public and official declaration, changed the way people saw us.

Both of us have very supportive families, but it wasn't until we married that our families had a label for us, a way to introduce us, a date to put on their calendar. (For the first time, we get anniversary cards, from both sets of parents.) Our siblings' fierce support stunned us. (My sister declared that if they made a distinction between marriage and civil unions, she was getting a divorce and getting a "union.") And remembering the determination of the clerk--who, for his bravery, was arrested the following Monday--still brings a lump to my throat.

But despite the joy and pride I take in recognizing my marriage anniversary, the part of me that was able to define my love for eighteen years--without the help of society's labels--waves a flag of rebellion. Even before any official benediction, we accepted the responsibilities of this life-long commitment. We sure as hell deserve the same rights conferred on any other couple who promises to love and honor. And, even as happy as I am to have an easier label for significant other, life partner, or unmarried spouse, that rebellious part of me wants say, "Screw your definitions. We made it the hard way, without your support."

Every time my characters find their own unique way to defining their HEA, they're saying it too.


Tam said...

Happy Anniversary!!! You picked a great day, my daughter's birthday. :-)

Living in Canada I guess I sometimes forget (for small moments) as anyone can get married here, our men and women in the military serve openly (and march in the Pride parade), I work for an employer who makes efforts to accomodate GLBT couples and I keep hoping that maybe someday some people in the US will glance north and see that these things have not led to us living in a seething cesspool of depravity, but that our military is damn fine and doing what it has to do out there and that our families have not been destroyed by a few gay MARRIED couples in our neighborhoods.

But that's my rant for another day. Hope you celebrate this weekend even if it's not your "usual" anniversary date. Cake is always good, any excuse for cake. :-)

K.A. Mitchell said...

Happy Birthday to your daughter! I maintain that it's all about the presents. It's the only thing I can think of that really would affect them. As soon as gay marriage is legal, they'll get invitations to all the weddings of the relatives who've been schlepping to their weddings and have to reciprocate with a gift. Otherwise, how does my marriage affect anyone else's?

But yes, rant later. Anniversary ummm "cake" now.

Amanda Young said...

Goodness. Did you have to make me cry this early in the morning?

Happy Anniversary! Go enjoy your "cake". lol

Zoe Nichols said...

Happy Anniversary, you darling girl! <3

Hailey Edwards said...

Happy Anniversary!

jmc said...

Happy Anniversary! And thank you for sharing your anniversary story.

lbgregg said...


I luff you.

We need to go to GB for lunch--the four of us. Let's pencil that in, shall we?

Happy anniversary.


K.A. Mitchell said...

Thanks for the anniversary wishes, everyone. Mandi, the "cake" was awesome, didn't mean to make you cry.

Oh, when my wife read this, she reminded me I left something out. There was no place to park because the parking garage was on FIRE. Yes, in the torrential rain. But, hey we have the paper to prove we made it.

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