Tag Archive: marriage


A Marriage of Equals

My dad really offended me the other day by circulating an article he had found online called, “How the Left has sabotaged marriage.” His fairly progressive Lutheran church has been holding a lecture series on their evolving position on gay marriage and Christianity. I don’t know if the article my father found was part of that series, I know that I felt alienated regardless.

Having a safe place for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people to worship might be a game changer, yet most traditional churches tolerate alternative sexual orientations, but don’t really go to the extra effort to welcome us into their fold. There’s something especially empowering about a group of people coming together to worship a God of their understanding, whatever religion that is. Unfortunately, traditional churches still have not made a place at the table for those in the minority.

I can’t really go to my local parish and feel welcome, and that’s a shame. I find myself casting about, looking at other religions to see what might fit, but not finding any religion particularly open-minded. Having a place to belong, and knowing you belong there, is life enhancing, yet it’s not something I truly experience.

And now, of course, it’s the political season. I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter, but even Saturday Night Live made fun of the Left for its glacially slowly evolving position on gay marriage. Kate McKinnon, playing Hillary, went for a drink at a bar where the real Hillary Clinton was working as a bartender named Val. Val tried to bring up, “Oh, you’ve really helped out gay rights,” and Kate’s character kept insisting, almost to the point of absurdity, “But I could have done more.”

The democratic position is practically the only tenable position for a gay man to hold unless he’s so wholly self loathing that he likes being relegated to second-class citizenship status. Aside from transgendered icon Caitlyn Jenner, the Republican party rarely embraces the LGBT community.

I look forward to the day when I can get married in a traditional, not entirely alternative, wedding service, but I’m not sure that will happen in my lifetime. Still, we’ve come miles and miles since Stonewall, and the fight has changed from the basic right of being seen at a bar in public to the right to marry and spend your life with one person.

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Short and Sweet

Dating during these treacherous times, the electronic age of byte, can prove problematic, and make one give up all together, yet I for one remain an optimist at heart. Surely these must be that one special person for each of us, that lifelong companion we are meant to be with. Then again, I have a library friend Judy in her early 60’s who’s deliciously attractive, emminently desirable, and still certainly marriage material–no Sadie, sadie, married old lady for her. She’s never given up on the premise that she can find true love again. And I applaud the effort. I wish I shared one iota of her optimism. I ask that you pray for her to find her way.

We all have to have passions. Hers is horses, mine is tennis and word play. I’m a regular bard, if I do say so myself. Electronics, as most of us learn, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, is a double edged sword–you have to be careful not to impale yourself on it. It can serve you, but it can also suck you in, you need to know how to get it to work for you, also a tricky proposition.

Nevertheless. I remain an optimist. Just because I am like a loon, doesn’t mean you need to be too. Loons, just an FYI, mate for life, and never form another partnership on the same intimate level.

That’s enough profundity for this morning.

Free at Last, Free at Last

At XSport, the hyper-masculine gym I go to, I was amazed at the gumption of one of its members.  A white-haired man in his sixties or seventies was talking about his life to a virtual stranger, a man who appeared to be about fifty.  The fit, trim, white-haired man mentioned how his partner died at age 62. 

Whenever someone mentions a partner, not a husband or wife, my ears perk up. 

Then the man elucidated, saying when He died, the older gentleman had to reconstruct his whole life.  His message seemed to be:  indeed life goes on, and we are richer for the experience of knowing someone extra special to us, someone who has made an indelible mark, but there will always be a sense of loss and a certain type of mourning.

Despite the sadness that this man had lost his husband, I for some reason thought of that Virginia Slims cigarette commercial, some of you may be too young to remember, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”  Gay men have come from a place of shame to forthrightness, an “honest-ness” about our loves and our lives.  There was a time in Chicago and many other places where one man was not allowed to buy another man a drink.  Busts of gay bars were a regular occurrence where patrons were rounded up and arrested; then, their names were unceremoniously published in the paper. 

Then the Stonewall riots lit up New York. 

Even many young gay men and women who take their civil rights for granted don’t know about Stonewall.  It was a bar in the Big Apple frequented by gay men, lesbians, and drag queens.  On June 27, 1969, in New York’s Greenwich Village, after the Stonewall bar was busted, as had happened so many other times, in so many places, the patrons this time resisted and fought back.  It was fairly common in that era for the mafia to control gay bars, and these mafia members quickly removed the cigar boxes that served as money tills, but then something highly unusual happened.  It’s unclear whether a lesbian dressed as a man was the first one to resist arrest, or whether a defiant male in drag posed in the doorway, rallying the other people in the bar.  Whatever actually happened, the crowd decided they were not going to go quietly.  What is clearer is that the patrons began throwing coins at the officers, mocking them for the system of payoffs, commonly referred to as “gayola.”

That moment in 1969 marked the start of the gay movement.

We still have much left to do, “miles to go before we sleep,” but Stonewall changed the way gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals let people know what they will and will not tolerate. 

Now the marriage issue, along with its attendant rights, is squarely front and center in our minds, and we still fight for our civil rights, but I think it is a victory that we have come so far.  Now a sixty year old man at a gym in a conservative suburb can tell his story and let people around him know that he is gay and has had a life that matters.

 

  

Hope Springs

I would watch Meryl Streep read the phone book. She is that compelling onscreen. She is, in fact, the most gifted actress of our generation, the same way Katherine Hepburn was the most celebrated actress of her time. Streep has been nominated for an Academy Award seventeen times, winning three, for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Sophie’s Choice (1982), and the latest, Iron Lady, in 2011, whereas Hepburn was nominated twelve times, winning four.

The movie Hope Springs features Streep in an unusual, highly effective pairing with Tommy Lee Jones. The story shows two married people growing apart, mired in routine. In some ways it examines what I would call the uncomfortable nature of familiarity. When you are deadened to real feelings, having substitute conversations rather than saying what is actually on your mind, your marriage is stagnant.

Kay and Arnold seek outside help from a highly touted marriage therapist, played by Steve Carell. He first suggests an exercise where they hold each other. Watching Streep’s character reach out to touch her husband, the audience sees her hand shaking, nervous to disturb the status quo. As the most talented actress working today, Streep doesn’t waste a single gesture, be it a hand shaking, a nod of the head, repressed tears welling up, the magic as a smile as it colors her face. She shows love, fear, trepidation as well as, eventually, hope, simply by knowing the exact gesture to fit the moment.

Jones’ character Arnold learns that the adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” can indeed be turned on its head. The movie celebrates the change from meaningless, mundane activity to the point where a couple might find a way to reconnect. The therapist tells the couple, “Sometimes when a connection is lost, we forget about how to want one another.” That is the journey the couple must take.

At one point, midway through the movie, Streep’s character declares, “You know how you always think you’re headed toward something. There’s always something to look forward to.” She despairs that now she’s grown too old to be surprised, to experience a feeling of wonder and hope. She fears she’s sliding on a downhill slope toward the end of life, and she can’t even rely on her husband to be her stalwart pillar of strength and, perhaps more challenging, to be present to her as they live out their life together.

His reaction to her attempts to resuscitate the marriage is to say, as a stoic figure, “There are some things in this life that you don’t say for a reason.” As a tax analyst, he values routine and predictability, and he is challenged by his wife to move forward rather than stultify in fear. As Carell’s character notes, “Even great marriages have terrible years.”

The trick, in my mind, is to love in spite of the obstacles. Who wants to get to the end of life, only to wonder, “Have I done all I could to make my life mean something?”

The title says it all: Hope Springs.