June 16, 2008 tickled us with the approval of same sex marriages in California. We smiled as we read the article in the L.A. Times.
"Would you ever consider getting married?” I asked Neal.
“We don’t even live together. How can we get married?”
I didn’t want to answer him. The glow of our April ten year anniversary party with sixty friends and relatives shimmered my mood.
An infectious evil proposition was brewing, wanting to define marriage that could only exist between a man and woman. Prop 8 consumed Neal’s attorney mind.
“It’s out of state Mormons trying to influence the voters. We need to fight this.”
I asked, “Marriage Neal?” and received no answer.
In August as Prop 8 gained steamed and looked headed for passage, Neal told me, “I think we should wed.” Not very romantic but wow a real legal wedding! My organization skills sprouted into action. Easy and simple. Maggiano’s at the Grove would fit the bill. We met with the manager.
“Can we have the outside patio that overlooks the trees? Is there a place to put a Chuppah? That’s a bridal canopy held up by four poles. The top is a material quilted, woven or embroidered. God hovers over the Chuppah during the ceremony. Can we have the ceremony followed by brunch at ten thirty in the morning?
All we heard was yes. But the only available date was Sunday November second. Two days before the election.
“Oh God. What if Prop 8 goes through?”
“We need to get the marriage license validated before that Tuesday. I still can’t believe it will succeed.” He said.
My accountant brain said, “I don’t want gifts. We should ask people to donate to Prop 8’s defeat.”
The wonders of E-vite on the internet enabled this “shotgun” wedding to work.
We met with the rabbi for counseling, a standard religious convention.
“I know you aren’t living together but I predict a change. Please promise me if things fall apart and you need to divorce, you’ll both be kind to each other.” I spoke to Neal’s eyes and saw 100% trust.
She continued,” You know I have two other weddings on that Sunday. We’ll need to remember to pack up the Chuppah for the other ceremonies. Everyone is getting on the marital train ride.”
The day of the humid misty morning wedding swelled us. I wore my tuxedo and Neal his Carol & Company suit. The suit was for a California Supreme Court case. His lucky bow-tie was affixed. Is this happening? A legal wedding. Thirty-four years ago, I “married” my first lover Scott. It was a pretend 1974 ceremony. Today was scary real.
My sister and mom escorted me into the sea of tables. My man came towards me armed by his sisters Jill and Leslie. The song In Whatever Time We Have played. A Stephen Swartz obscure Broadway classic. I smirked thinking about Neal’s comments, “Will people think one of us is sick because of the lyrics?”
The poem I Carry Your Heart with Me by E.E. Cummings kicked off the ceremony.
Bible selections by treasured friends linked us.
Unlike my first marriage to Scott, we didn’t need words to back up our trust. Thirty-five years ago, Scott’s masterful words set the stage to botch our relationship. With Neal we could be playful with these highlights.
Gordon: When I met you ten years ago it was impossible for you to say I Love You. Now in front of 120 people you can legally profess love. You make me giddy like a child. I knew nothing about sports before I met you and now, I can tolerate watching The Olympics.
Neal: You have changed me. When I casually mentioned a trip to Vietnam last year, you went ahead and made plane reservations while I was swimming. I consider that was our honeymoon that led to this wedding. I pledge my faithfulness to you.
After we read our vows, we sang “My Funny Valentine”. The sweetness of the line “Don’t change your hair for me, not if you care for me” moved me. We noticed a collapse. The chuppah that covered us began to descend. Our breath was stilled as we saw our friend fall to the ground. The humidity made him faint after holding the chuppah for forty minutes. Three of our wedding guests were doctors and they dashed to help. He recovered, and we continued. This will make for a memorable day!
The sound of breaking glass sealed the marriage. Our lips moistened smiles.
Sy’s toast included:
Gordon and Neal are an odd couple. Gordon is organized and ridiculously neat. You could find a pin in his condo while in Neal’s office you can’t find Neal. Neal loves swimming while Gordon’s idea of working out is wandering between cinemas at the Sunset Five before management catches him. Gordon is always on time while Neal is complicated.
We danced to “I’m Your Man” by Richard Marx to finish the day. Receiving this barrage of adoration from friends and family humbled us.
My niece and nephew entertained the masses with their “Stomp” drum playing on garbage cans. They created raucous tones that raised the spirituality of the wedding to the rafters.
Election day gave us a bittersweet Obama win. It came with the cost of the Prop 8 destruction of future same sex marriages. We were part of the historic 18,000 marriages that remained maybe “legal-safe” between June sixteenth and November fourth. The poignancy of federal acceptance of same sex marriage in 2015 would have wait. And yes, we made the deadline to get our marriage license. I wrote this poem to document the day.
How could we sleep
The dewy morning awaked to an Italian grove
Rabbi blessing what our souls knew for ten years
Soaking in Neal’s presence
Warmth sweat nerves blasting through hands
Sun sneaking through trees
Singing praise that keeps sanity
A dream fantasy that I hardly knew existed
Dancing to a man
Quiet time to explore eyes and the freedom
The last time God was in this place
I open the blaring crest of my desire and greet
People that I’ll never belong to again
Laugh and choke
Cry the anger that is only days away
Hold the crescent moon to rock my universe
Less than seven hours
From a stiff neck
My burnt pointer and middle
Cramp the writing style
As digits try hitting
The acer keyboard
Faulty oven mitts
From the 99-cent store
Let the target non-stick pan
Filled with parchment paper
And split olive oiled yams
Fired through my fingers
Singed second degree burns
Cold water froze the pain
Blisters rose to the occasion
Husbandry drove me
To the empty
Urgent Care in Culver City
Calmed me down
Virus excluded Neal
Ointment and bandage
Watch out for infection
Silver cream twice a day
Waiting for the white raised
Blister to explode
Or just dissolve
On the way to being