DS lives in New York.
Why did you decide to get married?
We decided to get married initially for legal reasons – because my partner has a complicated relationship with her living blood relatives in New York, and since she was moving back to New York to be with me she wanted them to not be her only next of kin should g-d forbid someone need to make a decision about her health, etc. Although there are proxies and other ways of doing paperwork to assign me that role, marriage is an automatic way to show up in someone’s hospital record, etc., and it felt like a solid protection in that way. We also are trying to become parents and as dykes, it is not automatic that both names go on the birth certificate. Even though we will also do second parent adoption because that is the only legally binding course to custody, there is something nice about automatically being able to put both of our names on the birth certificate because we are married. I never, ever thought I would get married, as my long time ex and many friends can attest (I have been many, many weddings of friends both queer and not – even as a bridesmaid a few times – and although I have enjoyed them I always have felt the need to make a private speech about the ways I think they are weird or counterintuitive, or what’s the point). I maintain that my politics around it have not really changed. Neither of us feels like we needed to get married to be committed, and if we lived in a place where it was not legal we would not have sought it out, but when it passed here it just seemed to make sense and so we chose it, and marched down to Brooklyn Borough Hall with my 89 year-old father as the witness (which was an additional benefit that he got to participate, because it was important for both of us that he see that my partner is committed to me and to him as well). There was no fanfare - we went out to an early dinner with him afterwards, nothing fancy, and then shopping at Trader Joe’s. Whether or not we will have a party eventually is up for debate, and I am surprising myself by kind of wanting to, although I do not feel strongly about it and we haven’t put any energy really into discussing it – I guess I am interested but it is not a priority right now. And it would be super casual, because some of what I find so problematic about marriage is actually how people go about doing their weddings, the idea of this being the most important day of your life and all that just doesn’t resonate for me on a common sense level and seems more like pressure than fun. Whether or not we will do any ritual I also do not know – neither of us cared about having a real ceremony, and my partner is not Jewish, but we have talked a bit about possibly signing a ketubah some day, and while we didn’t really have special vows, we have talked about what explicit commitments we are making to each other in an ongoing way through this process.
What did you think marriage would be like?
I thought about it very little actually - it just seemed like a good idea and so we picked it, I was surprised to be choosing it but had no apprehension or questions or hesitation about making a commitment to my partner, and it’s really not different in any ways I can think of that matter than if we lived together and were committed in a long-term way but not married.
Where do you think you got your ideas/concept/narrative about marriage?
I have thought about this a bunch and I think a lot of them may have come from my parents – they had a loving, sometimes tumultuous marriage, but my father got married later in life for his generation (close to 50) and my mother died young. He was much older than her and they were married for 14 years but he never remarried and was a very independent bachelor before and after. So even though I have been in long partnerships, I think I was not raised to think that marriage was the be all, end all expectation for me at all, which I think it rare. My father even discouraged us at first, saying we were rushing into it.
How do you feel about the word “wife”?
I feel surprisingly playful about it. I used to make fun of queers who called each other wife, and even thought about having a butch “husband” if i ever did marry – but my partner is gender queer but very woman identified and although we usually just say partner or girlfriend we occasionally use wife and I actually find it rather endearing.
Why did you make the decision you made about your name?
Neither of us wanted to change our last names – Hers is her mothers maiden name chosen for personal reasons, and mine is my father’s and is also important to me. Each of our last names also indicates our ethnicity, and as a person of color (chicana) who is often read as white, I think keeping her name is additionally significant to her. Although we haven’t started doing this in too many places yet we have agreed to put each other’s last names into our respective names as additional middle names. So it wouldn’t be hyphenated, but I like it because it’s another way for us to be connected as a family (although it doesn’t feel necessary). We don’t know yet what we will do as a last name for children, that will be interesting to figure out as circumstances emerge…
Do you think your relationship with your partner has changed since you got married?
See above – I think it’s the same as it would have been if we hadn’t gotten married, pretty much. Our relationship has more changed around the fact that she moved cross country from a place where she owned a house and lived for 20 years to be with me, which was a huge show of long-term commitment after being long distance for the first year and a half of our getting to know each other and getting seriously involved. So that, and living together, trying to get pregnant, having a dog together, her getting to know and love my dad, me getting to know and love her godson, all those things have impacted our relationship more than just the act of getting married. It’s not nothing at all though, I guess. It’s true we’d be just as committed either way, and that we don’t need it, but there is a little tiny something to knowing that we made that choice. That piece is not dominant, but not non-existent either, and it’s hard to explain…
What have you learned about yourself since you’ve been married?
I just learned I had a lot more to say about this than I’ve put to paper anywhere else in the last bunch of months since we got married! It’s great getting a chance to think through these reflections in a structured way – I think I am learning a lot about myself in my relationship to my partner all the time, but again mostly in ways that have everything to do with my commitment to the person that she is and what that offers me and very little to do with the fact that we are married. But I guess something else I have learned is that there are things that make sense to me about having made the decision to get married, which I never thought I would do, and which therefore feels confusing sometimes…