Saving Face: What to do when your girlfriend could care less about California

I clicked on the BBC news. Hordes of couples were celebrating on the steps of San Francisco City Hall. I whooped.

“Look, Saads!” I pointed to the T.V. “California ruled lesbian and gay people can get married. Everyone’s lining up!”

“So,” she said, “I don’t really care.”

That pretty much took the wind out of my sails. Am I the only one in my family who cares?

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“Couples shouldn’t get special privileges just because they are in serial monogamous relationships!” Claudia said to me from the top of her high-horse the first time the topic of marriage came up. She’s one of those people who will tell you with a straight face that there’s no such thing as forever, and the best that can be hoped for is a civilized break-up.

I wonder if I’m doomed to a life lived without a whole lot of romance. Don’t get me wrong – there are some serious advantages to living with a butch with a practical bent. After a couple of spring deluges last week, the kind that make you wonder about global warming and whether you should do something productive like get started on that ark before the rising ocean claims your hometown, my tomato plant was drowning in its pot and presto! out came my butch with her drill to save the day. When the cat drags a half-eaten chipmunk onto the front stoop or maggots are growing in the garbage cans after a heat wave, she marches out into the jungle of our suburban yard with a shovel, a high-powered hose, and a bottle of bleach. Hell, this is the woman who put soundproofing in our bedroom walls.

Honestly, practical has some fantastic benefits.

But there will be no wedding bells for me.

It’s true that I was forewarned. But, as Saadia says, back in the day we couldn’t imagine marriage would ever be an option for us. Within weeks of meeting we talked about how someday we might seal our commitment to each other – whether she believes in forever or not, we both knew we had found the real deal.

“You don’t imagine having any ceremonies, do you?” I think as she asked me this her nose might have been angled slightly upwards. Even then, when she was still blinded by my charming self, she made it perfectly clear that ceremonies involving family and friends and some religious dude were not up her alley. In fact she considered such things morally repugnant.

And so when we did finally exchange rings it was in a diner over eggs and bacon on our way to Niagara Falls to gamble the night away.

Point being, that I’ve known all along that Claudia would never marry me. After each small victory in the gay marriage struggle, she would ask me, “Why can’t the gay rights movement focus on something a little less… reactionary? You know, like world peace or sustainable energy or dying polar bears?”

God I hate it when she starts on global warming. I figure if she marries me I can finally admit that I really want an SUV. A gas-guzzling vehicle is probably not grounds for divorce.

“Hey, little femmes everywhere dream of wearing pretty dresses and being the center of attention for a day,” I tell her. She rolls her eyes at me. The fact that I wiled away endless summer days looking through the Sears catalogue planning my wedding gown and the gowns of my bridesmaids as a child doesn’t impress her much, either.

This has been an ongoing disagreement (usually ending in me secretly crying in the one bathroom with a lock on the door). But it hasn’t really mattered before now. Sure, we might have been able to convince a Massachusetts judge to marry us. We could even take another trip to Niagara Falls (the Canadian side) to get hitched. But once we crossed the border into our homeland the piece of paper would be null and void. Who wants to get married under those circumstances?

But then came what the New York Times called “a decision at once both commonsensical and profound.” In February the Supreme Court of New York decided that same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries must be legally recognized here, just like any other marriage. Funny no one took much notice, not even me. Then our governor actually responded to the court decision and directed all state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Sure, the conservatives got up-in-arms (next thing you know they’ll be teaching a how-to course on homosexuality in the schools, they reason), but as far as I was concerned it was hardly a blip. Where was “elsewhere” anyway? I’m not moving to Massachusetts. And who wants to travel to another country to wed?

But then came California.

Here was a state that was allowing us all to get married. AND our own state would recognize it when we flew home. Now anything was possible.

Well, if I had a different girlfriend, anyway.

So back to my kid. This is a parenting column after all. “I don’t really care,” she told me in her totally hormonal, I-can-be-blasé voice.

I took a deep breath. I was not going to let her go the Claudia route. Some one in my family was going to care about this, no matter how much I had to wear them down first.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I clasped my hands together in my lap. They threatened to act on their own and inflict shaken-adolescent-syndrome on my kid.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

“What do you mean it doesn’t have anything to do with you? Don’t you care if your mother is allowed to marry to person she loves? Doesn’t my happiness matter to you? It has more to do with you than almost anyone! What are you talking about?”

“Geez, Mom. Do you even want to marry Claudia?”

Well, now I was in a pickle. I couldn’t very well admit to an eleven-year-old that yes, dammit, I want to marry Claudia but she doesn’t return the sentiment. I could explain all of Claudia’s philosophical arguments over and over. All Saadia would hear would be that Claudia didn’t want to marry her momma. My pride can only take so much.

“Well, no sweetie. Marriage isn’t necessary. We’re committed to stay together because we love each other. We don’t need a piece of paper from the government to prove that it’s true.”

Saadia looked at me blankly and turned back to her fashion magazine, muttering something about her crazy mother bugging her under her breath.

I clicked off the news. Maybe now that gay marriage was finally achieved we could all focus on something else. It was as good a time as any to start building that ark.

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