Married… to My Memories


The thought of a whole bunch of people, every few years, all getting together and voting on my life is odd. Really odd. And, yet, that’s what happens. For some people, defining marriage means they will have a “lock” on what it means to be married; that, if only people are like them, then they, too, will be able to make the union with the one they love a legal thing, with all of the benefits and, hopefully, responsibilities that go with it. This always strikes me as a little absurd and, even more absurd is the idea that a gay marriage is somehow threatening to a heterosexual one. How does that work, exactly? My partner and I like to ask our straight friends outright, “Do you feel threatened by our relationship?” They usually recoil at such a question, shocked that we’d even think to ask it. But we ask it for a reason, which is to point out the absurdity of such an argument. I have always said to people who feel threatened by the fact that we love each other: IF MY RELATIONSHIP IS MAKING A MESS OF YOUR MARRIAGE, MAYBE I DON’T HAVE A LOT TO DO WITH IT. IF MY RELATIONSHIP IS, SOMEHOW, MAKING A MESS OF YOUR MARRIAGE, I’D GUESS THAT YOU’VE GOT BIGGER PROBLEMS TO DEAL WITH THAN THE TWO OF US. YOU NEED A COUNSELOR, NOT A BALLOT MEASURE. And, so, now lawyers on both sides of the gay marriage issue, along with their supporters, are heading to the Supreme Court, the 9 Justices who are set to determine whether or not excluding an entire group of Americans from WE THE PEOPLE is Constitutional. I know what my vote would be. I watched, for the second time, THE HELP last night on TV. It rocks my mind to think of where we were as a nation,in terms of civil rights, just 50 years ago. It made me remember, with great fondness and tears, a wonderful, gentle, patient young black woman named Emma who took care of my brother and me when we were just babies so our mother could go to work. We were not wealthy people and Emma was not our maid. She was hired to look after two very active and stubborn little kids, to keep us fed and clean and to teach us right from wrong. She did all of that and we loved her with pure little hearts, both of us standing on the couch, peering through the venetian blinds, squealing with delight when we saw Emma come walking up from the street car lines just down the hill. We had no idea about Emma’s life or what she had to endure as a black woman considered as “domestic help” in Dallas, Texas in the 1950’s. We only knew that she loved us, and we were as devoted to her as was Mae Mobley to Aibileen in THE HELP. Would it ever occur to me to vote for Emma to have less rights than my own? No. Would it ever occur to Emma to vote against my life now? I can’t say for sure, because the last time I saw her was 1961 but, knowing Emma, my guess would be No. She knew the sting of that, the exclusion, the back-breaking power and humiliation of being voted against, the unspoken message, the aura that says YOU’RE NOT AS GOOD AS WE ARE. CHANGE TO BE LIKE WE ARE AND MAYBE WE’LL LET YOU INTO THE CLUB. For Emma, a black woman, there was no choice in changing her race or color. For me, I can no more change who I am than I could my eye color. I suppose I could wrestle some bright blue contact lenses onto my eyeballs, but that would be no more true than my trying and pretending to be heterosexual. I’ve done that, which was about as comfortable as wearing a long-line bra. Ugh. There are lots of things for our Supremes to consider in making their decision, I suppose, but the most important one, I think, is this: EQUAL HAS NEVER MEANT ANYTHING OTHER THAN EQUAL. Let’s hope they remember that on this call.


4 thoughts on “Married… to My Memories

  1. Jan Corwin

    I know – even the vote itself feels somewhat humiliating and oppressive. But i try to get over myself, and be glad this will soon ( fingers crossed) be a part of our shameful past.

  2. daynaH

    The first time I heard about institutional racism I was trying to adopt a baby and was forced to take a class on what it would be like if I was a non-white child adopted by two white parents. In my ignorance, I thought this was a bulldoinkie class because any kid of any race adopted by parents who loved them would turn out “colorblind”. That was what I thought before the class – the great class, the mind-blowing class, the class that turned my ideas up-on-end and set them on a more realistic orientation. What I thought before the class was so innocent it was almost hateful. Weird, huh?

    Well, that’s the kind of unthinking and hurtful innocence that are spawned from institutionalized hate. Once it becomes institutionalized, the hate becomes the norm; it is no longer questioned. Ideas and products and cliches and “normal” interactions are defined by this underlying foundation of hate. Our babies learn the hate with language and socialization but everyone thinks they are still innocent and sweet.

    Question: Why are band aids light, pinkish brown. Answer (before the class): because that is the color of skin and you want band-aids to blend in as they cover your boo-boo.
    Answer (after the class): because the people who make band-aids must think that light, pinkish brown is the “right” color of people’s skin and any skin other than that color is wrong. This idea that there is a right color of skin and a wrong color of skin has become institutionalized. Companies that make stickie boo-boo coverings can make Dora the Explora and Scooby Do band-aids but they can’t make brown ones or very dark blueish brown ones or yellowish red brown ones or… Would it really be too expensive to serve all the customers equally?

    Question: Should you get married before you start a family? Answer (before a wake-up on the topic of institutionalized hate): Yes, it’s better for a kid to have a momma and a poppa for good role models. Marriage is about defining family and teaching the next generations about what is the right way to live.
    Answer (after the wake-up call about hate woven into the fabric or our society): If a child can look out of her eyeballs and see people who love her and love each other and find each other and learn to love each other and build relationships and make commitments and build a life and live worthy, that is the kind of marriages we want to promote. Without the hate lending color the idea of marriage, we see marriage for what it is = two PEOPLE committing to love, honor, take care of and grow together until they die. Without the hate putting limits on love, how could any thinking (and awake) person have anything against gay marriage? Of course people should be able to get married! WAKE UP and look at what is under the covers of your society. Don’t let prejudice be the underlying foundation of our culture. WAKE UP!

  3. Jill Cowan

    I wish it weren’t so. It hurts me to know how cruel people can be. We’ve come a long way and as Jan said,
    it will soon be part of our past.


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