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Excerpt, Essay 11, The Outlaw Bride

(An essay about love and marriage. The following scene takes place after our marriage was invalidated.)

My eccentric one-woman campaign to prevaricate about my marital status might seem a sort of unraveling. After all, no one noticed or cared; it took me a surprisingly long time to realize that anyone reviewing the forms I so defiantly lied on would assume I was married to a man. For that matter, our other de facto married friends had not been led to civil disobedience. Gail and Dinah were annoyed, but did not simmer or steep over the invalidation of their marriage; they pressed on, getting ready for the fall church concert, buying a new car, planning trips. Other friends seemed equally sanguine. “Oh yes,” said one, “We were married, too. Wasn’t that nice? So good of Gavin” (every gay person in North America now being on a first-name basis with the mayor of San Francisco).

It was Sandy’s response that stirred the most doubt in me about my outlaw behavior. After her initial anger, she too returned to life as usual, a life of work and preaching and laundry and crochet and thick biographies from the library and persimmons from the neighbor’s tree and trying to decide if it was cold enough yet for the first fire of the season, a life where an entire Saturday can dissolve in a series of tiny errands as we progress down sleepy suburban streets from CostCo to the farmer’s market to Albertson’s to the hardware store and then back to CostCo for the thing we forgot, our car windows rolled down so we can hear the brown leaves of autumn crunching under the wheels of our car, hours luxuriously drifting by as we talk and talk, talking about nothing, talking about everything, occasionally patting one another on the knee as if to say, Mrs. Oatmeal, I am glad you exist.

The simple observation, the very obvious lesson-learned, is that of course we are married. Marriage is not a simple square of fabric, a one-time event to hang on the wall, but a process slowly knitting lives together, a gradual weaving, row by row, that begins when we are able to set aside enough of ourselves to create a third entity from the union of two: I becomes the warp, and we becomes the woof. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay; and under the comfort of one garment, we will be redeemed. By that standard, Sandy pointed out on a winter evening, deconstructing a dark green afghan while a fire crackled, we have been married for well over a decade. We do not know the exact date, but there are many moments that could serve us well: the afternoon I took the PATH train from Manhattan to New Jersey, a cat hidden in my gym bag, to move into Sandy’s home; the time I chose not to live in Michigan; the time we each had a stiff shot of vodka in the garage before Thanksgiving dinner to fortify ourselves in advance of my mother’s political diatribes; the many times we have forgiven one another for the sulks and storms and minor transgressions of any relationship. I could continue to be angry that our legal marriage had been invalidated, and I could enjoy the brisk salt air of the realization that we were worthy of this social contract; yet I could not deny we were married.

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