In the last year I have gotten what one could call a crash course in love. What it means to find it, or lose it, or not see it when it’s actually in plain sight. And the way it endures or falls apart, sometimes both at the same time.
Like many twenty-somethings who have tasted or observed their fill of love-gone-awry, I could identify quite accurately as jaded. (Anyone else hearing bars of “Bulletproof” ringing through their ears? Oh, that’s just me?) To be honest, the expectations of culturally normative relationships—heterosexual, possessive, expensive, co-dependent, Jerry-Maguire-I-complete-you-esque—scare the shit out of me. So, it goes without saying that I am not so sure about marriage. As I’ve written in the past, I do think the institution can be re-envisioned in its individual relationships, though I remain cautious.
This past month I was reminded of not why I have faith in marriage per se but why I believe in love and commitment over contracts and obligations.
In an Episcopal church on a hill in Sand Diego, with sea-stained-glass and a green harpsichord, we sang “Be Thou My Vision,” listened to the homily, said many prayers, partook of the Eucharist, sat down, stood up, sat down, stood up, lathered, rinsed, repeated. The choir sang in Latin, the pastors stood at the alter, the attendants exchanged snarky comments and “that’s what somebody said” jokes in their Sunday best, and the brides wore white.
On a drizzly January Saturday I was honored to serve as a bridesmaid in my friend Megan’s wedding to the love of her life, Christina.
Megan and Christina had what I would call a pretty conventional ceremony, minus one obvious difference: rather than having a legally binding ceremony, Megan and Christina embarked on a covenant relationship in which they committed to choose daily to be faithful to each other and their relationship rather than being obligated by signatures on a piece of paper to do so. Of course, in most states same sex relationships aren’t allowed to have or sign such papers in the first place.
As I share this, I am aware of my context (in fact I write this partly because of my context): an evangelical kid who grew up and even went to college and worked within a belief system that often suggests, sometimes quite strongly and hurtfully, that love and sexual intimacy or attraction between people of the same sex is immoral and debauched. It took me several years to fully overcome that way of thinking, so I can be patient with others, but this also means that I have long passed the feeling that I have to argue or defend the simple truth that love shared is love shared. I know all about the two bible verses that specifically mention homosexuality and the handful of others that people fudge to bring down the hammer of God. Needless to say mine was a childhood without queer friends, so gay people were more of a mythology to me than a reality.
Mythologies are powerful. They can shape cultures and traditions, influence social interactions, and limit or expand our concepts of reality, people, and love. Mythologies are written to be rewritten, however; that’s how literary traditions grow: by people having experiences, speaking back into the mythologies that are in place, and commenting on and critiquing them in light of their experience and knowledge.
I’ve debated the morality of queerness until I was blue in the face, and I’m totally over it. Even Lacan, an intentionally complicated psychoanalytic theorist, admitted there were times when reliable narratives and theories can crumble. For Lacan, the make it or break it moment that forces him to stand speechless is when he observes a couple together who, through years of both disappointment and nurturing, still love each other. I’m stopped short by the same thing: people loving each other despite the odds.
When Megan came out to her parents about two years ago, they were conflicted about having a lesbian daughter, especially since Megan’s dad is a minister. Fast-forward to the end of this January and I have never seen Megan’s parents behaving so giddily. They were, to put it mildly, incandescently happy for Megan and about Megan. After an afternoon at the theatre, I drank jalapeño martinis with Megan’s parents and their best friends (Megan and Christina not present). Not only did I get to know an adorably buzzed version of Meg’s mom but I got to hear them talk about how much they love Christina and the people Christina and Megan are together. After spending the weekend getting to know Christina and seeing her and Megan interact with one another, I can’t think of a person more suitable to partner with my dear friend through life’s trials and successes. Not a single man comes to mind, and there are a lot of men in the world.
So here’s my conclusion, folks. We all need more gay friends. We need to experience life with others, and find out that maybe they completely rewrite our mythology, and that’s not only okay but good. And if no mythology can stand against the people we love, then fuck it.