Nona Willis Aronowitz (her real name) is a journalist in New York City. She wrote this piece , in addition to others.
Why did you get married?
I got married for one reason, pure and simple: a health insurance mess. My boyfriend and I had been dating for a year and a half and living together for a few months when I got a job with great benefits. He was a bartender and a student, and had lived without insurance for years. So I was really happy when HR told me my “domestic partner” could be on my plan, without even giving an official affidavit!
After he had to go to the emergency room, though, I think the bill raised a red flag to my employer. Suddenly we were being asked to prove our partnership legally. So we put it off and put it off and finally, 2 days before the deadline, we went to the Illinois courthouse–where we discovered that only gay people were allowed to get a domestic partnership! Basically my two choices were get married or have my dude face a $7000 hospital bill. This was right at the time of the Obamacare debates, a few weeks after I had seen Sicko, so the issue especially enraged me. I literally said something along the lines of “Fuck the system! Let’s get married.” So we did.
What did you think marriage would be like?
I didn’t think it would change anything at all. I never had any fantasies of “being married.” It changed how I was perceived though–people take that shit to heart. Some (my lefty freewheeling friends) felt betrayed and still make fun of me about it. Others (married-obsessed friends, coworkers) were superexcited or weirdly jealous. Strangers and bureacrats certainly take me more seriously.
They only got married for some asset-related reason. I grew up believing that marriage was kinda silly, that weddings were complete wastes of money, but that nuclear families (like mine) are still worthwhile.
I don’t love it. I use it in a very tongue-in-cheek way. I cringe when Aaron (my husband) says it to strangers. I get the feeling he kinda likes it, because he comes from a much more conventional family, but I always think it sounds so smug. Like you’re shouting to the world that your life is over or tied up in a neat little bow.
Changing my name didn’t even occur to me, especially because I’m a writer. My mom didn’t do it. I do sort of hate the hyphenated situation–roll call was always annoying, and people get confused or put stuff in the wrong file. If I have kids with my current husband, I’ll probably just give them his name, since it’s both short and pretty.
It’s hard to separate the certificate part from the moving-in-together part. That, I think, is the biggest step. You’re in the middle of a fight, and then you think, “Holy fuck, if we break up, one of us would have to move out, we’d have to divide our stuff, we’d go through hell.” And then you apologize (wow, that sounds really horrible. But it’s true). I do think my husband takes the title more seriously than me.
Even though I think the whole “wedding industrial complex” is horrifying, I’ve learned that there’s a certain comfort in a marriage that feels good. Sometimes I’m happy I have the title in spite of myself. I think it has to do with always being one of the only single ladies amid my friends in college and feeling left out sometimes. There’s a level of social acceptance that comes from marriage, like you’re part of the “in-crowd.” That feeling is still really powerful, no matter what your politics.