I sat down in front of my computer a while back to make some adjustments to my pop-up calendar for this past weekend. The 21st century is full of surprises for marginally computer literate people of my generation. I highlighted a selection to move to a different day blissfully unaware that I’d accidentally dragged and dropped more than one event into the wrong slot for that coming calendar weekend. Considering my confusion, I was very lucky to make it to the opera later that Friday evening with my friend Connie to see a wonderful production of ‘Carmen’ at the Pennsylvania Academy of Music. It was lovely. Basically speaking, the libretto appears to be about a Spanish gypsy girl who starts a knife fight in a cigar factory. There are several love triangles, and story ends with a pile-up of dead opera singers in a heap in the middle of a bullfighting ring. At least that’s what I think happened…
Not understanding French interpreted from Spanish, and too blind to read the English subtitles captioned on the screen at the top of the stage, this to the best of my recollection is what I believe to have witnessed. The music was beautiful, full of familiar old chestnuts, but the love story and characters therein were bipolar at best if not blatantly insane. It was a glorious production, but Carmen’s plot has nothing whatsoever to do with love – lust and neurotic passion perhaps, but love? – Never!
So what does this all have to do with my computer calendar confusion? Friday afternoon my computer pop-up calendar alerted me with a mere 2 hours warning that I needed to jump into the shower and hightail it to New York for a wedding reception for two of my most faithful life-long friends. I immediately showered so as to putout the fire caught in my hair, and ran screaming for a taxi to get me to 30th Street Station. While trying to hail a cab I was caught in a sudden downpour of rain, soaking my suit through while hailing countless cabs indifferent to my desperation. I got to the station in the nick of time only to discover the train was running a half hour late. I texted my friends to tell them I’d be late only to receive a return text telling me the wedding reception wasn’t until the following day. It was then I realized what I’d done while trying to rearrange my computer calendar. Technology can undermine me like nothing else in this world.
Thoroughly soaked to the bone, I walked home, called-off the dog-walker and realized I was actually supposed to be at the opera Friday evening and in attendance at the wedding reception the following day. Like myself, Carmen never married, but no grass grew under her feet – as they say. So far I’ve avoided any involvement in knife fights at cigar factories, but there’s still time…
On the correct day, after my soaking-wet dry run, I took Amtrak’s 3:25pm ‘Pennsylvanian’ to New York City to attend a wedding reception for my two oldest friends. Among the variety of things that made this wedding event exceptional, was the fact that it was preceded by a 39-year engagement. Why, you might ask, would anyone have such a long engagement and wait 39 years to get married? The answer is simple: gay marriage has only recently been recognized in New York State, and the two men marrying were doing-so on their 39th anniversary after years of personal sacrifice and involvement in the fight to obtain their very own right to marry.
The couple being wed were my friends Don and Gary, who I’d met, only months after they’d met each other – 1972 or 1973 – who can remember back that far? Don and Gary are nearly impossible to describe. I know this, because I’ve tried to write about them before and utterly failed to get a satisfactory character description of them that I’m pleased-with. They’re both too unique and special to fit into easy descriptions that would make sense to anyone who doesn’t already know them.
Let the words wonderful, generous, smart and funny suffice.
Don and Gary always have, and continue to pick-me-up and dust-me-off with far greater patience, loyalty and friendship than I have any right to expect. The two of them are very fortunate people who fell in love at first sight when they were very young, and that love has endured through the years. Any two people who can share the commitment of a mutual love for 39 years in the face of public and legal disapproval have a unique right to be legally wedded – as their relationship has already stood the test of time – especially baring in mind the general success rate among conventional marriages.
Cults devoted to archaic religious mythology have committed countless centuries worth of time and resources to insure that anyone even slightly different from the fold should be ostracized, lonely and as miserable as possible. Take the Catholic church for example – they vehemently disapprove of homosexuality – so they enlist the most effeminate men from their community to take a priestly vow of chastity in order to advise other people about how to conduct their marriages – while these very same priests secretly molest their sons singing in the church choir. Priests have very little in common with normal gay men – they’re way kinkier and totally closeted, or so they think.
It was a Justice of the Peace at New York’s City Hall who married my friends with their mutual friend, Claudia as the sole witness. The ceremony-part was personal, but more than a mere legal formality – it was a profoundly symbolic ceremony that didn’t require any participation from the clergy.
The greater sharing of Don and Gary’s celebration was held at a restaurant called Eleven Madison Park in the former Met Life building, now a chic dining spot not all that far from where protestors have been camped-out in Zuccotti Park. There is all manner of unfairness in this world, and dedicated, smart people working together can chip-away at these injustices one struggle at a time. Sadly backward-thinking people do everything in their power to stagnate progress, actively attempting to misguide us all toward an unproductive future of senseless regression. Economic inequity being the message coming from the Occupy Wall Street movement, while blocks away my friends were surrounded by the people they most love so as to share a celebratory meal for the simple right to openly marry. Their personal commitment is an achievement of enduring love in the face of social struggle, all the more poignant because they are among the people who worked behind the scenes to help make gay marriage possible.
How can a genuine religious person of any stripe think obstructing the personal commitment of two people harming no one would be a productive use of their time and collection-plate donations?
I met Don and Gary during the early days of the Gay Liberation Front – several years after the Stonewall riots. A lot has changed sine then, and a lot hasn’t. Progress is slow. In my lifetime a heterosexual couple of two different races couldn’t legally marry in most states, and that wasn’t anyone else’s business either.
I don’t see myself getting married, because I can’t picture myself falling in love this far along in my journey – especially when I look-back on the disastrously poor choices I’ve made in partners in the past. I’m a life-long old maid bachelor. However, I take tremendous joy in seeing good friends accomplish during our lifetimes a milestone unthinkable even a decade ago.
I’ve thought a great deal about what comprises a successful relationship – and there are lots of factors – but the one that most matters seems to be a sense of completion. Those of us standing on the sidelines mistakenly think there’s another person out there who will somehow complete us and make us whole. Nothing could be further from the truth. To find your soul mate, you need to first be complete and whole unto yourself. I congratulate Gary and Don for accomplishing more than a mere political milestone – they were married years ago – the ceremony was a satisfying symbolic gesture of fairness long past due. We were gathered to celebrate how two people can be complete as a couple and complete as individuals. They deserve happiness – as do all brave people who work toward expanding what it means to share love and fairness – clearing the path for all those who follow.
Some of us are bridesmaids and some of us are brides – but all of us can share the joys of a triumphant love story.