We were driving down a country road in the Lake District of England, when one of my British friends spotted a sign that pointed the way to the remains of an Ancient Roman bath.
“Oooh, let’s stop!” Jayne trilled. “I adore ruins.”
“That’s why you married one!” I called out from the backseat, delighted as always when I make a clever remark in the moment. Usually, these come hours later, well after the statue of limitations has expired for a witty retort.
Jude, Jayne’s “wife,” grumbled from the driver’s seat, “We’re not married.”
The British gays have civil unions, not marriage.
“Well, it’s not as funny to say, ‘That’s why, you civil-unionized one,’” I responded, quite sensibly.
That, my friends, is the main reason I think gays should be able to marry—because it’s funnier than getting civil-unionized.
“Take my wife, please!”
“I take my wife everywhere, but she always finds her way back.”
These classic jokes would lose so much punch if we were forced to replace “wife” with “civil-union partner.”
For years, I’ve been ambivalent about gay marriage.
In the plus column for marriage:
• It would cause many Republicans to explode. I mean that literally. Gay marriage would pass, and Republicans would spontaneously-combust. It would be messy but fun.
• I’m intrigued by the idea of alimony—but only if it works in my favor.
• I always have found ball-and-chain imagery rather titillating.
In the minus column:
• Most married people don’t have a lot of sex…or I should say that most married people don’t have a lot of sex with each other. And I like sex. It’s messy and fun, just like exploding Republicans.
• When you’re married, you have to go to your wife’s relatives on holidays. That would make my mother mad! When you’re not married, you are not considered a fully realized grown-up, and thus, your middle-aged carcass is expected at your traditional place at the children’s table at your parents’ home for every holiday.
• The mere mention of the word “marriage” makes me clammy and claustrophobic. When it comes up in conversation, I immediately begin looking for an exit sign. Maybe it’s because marriage is an institution based on ownership, and I don’t want to be anyone’s chattel—unless, of course, I’m cast in that position as part of some type of role-playing sex romp. Then, I merrily will cede control of my personage, but only for a half-hour or so.
So, when news got to England on the teletype that Illinois, the state where I was born and raised, passed civil unions for gays, I was both happy and sad. Hurray for the liberal-minded, no-nonsense, completely-corrupt-but-totally-loveable Illinois State Legislature for allowing gays to enter into a dreary bureaucratic contractual agreement! It was fantastic news, but not all that romantic.
I’ve been to-civil union ceremonies in England. While it always is touching to watch friends in long, loving, committed relationships formally agree to stick it out together until one of them dies, the civil ceremony lacks the panache of a wedding. Basically, in such a service, you vow to be best pals, and you seal the deal with a firm handshake. Marriage is both more terrifying and, thus, more romantic.
So, while I really kind of hate marriage, I really kind of love it, too. Without it, we’d put a lot of old Jewish comedians out of business. With it, we’d get to watch Sarah Palin, the entire Bush family, and the new Speaker of the House (whose last name sounds suspiciously like an erect penis) explode in front of our eyes.