Love, Laughter, and Legally Ever After
By: Shannon Ralph
On Saturday, June 21st, I married the love of my life. My wedding was a beautiful outdoor ceremony attended by my closest family and friends. The ceremony was followed by a delectable plated Greek dinner at a lovely local restaurant. The wine flowed. We cheered and made eloquent toasts to love and laughter and legally ever after. We smiled until our jaws hurt. It was an amazing summer evening…
…that changed absolutely nothing.
The next day, I folded four loads of laundry and hosted a rather lame and rainy birthday party for my eight-year-old twins. My new wife and I argued about money. I yelled at my kids to get off the iPad and clean their rooms. Back to the mundane ins and outs of life in the fast lane.
Where were the bells? Where were the whistles? Where were the fireworks and show tunes and jazz hands I had come to expect? What happened to my months of giggly, newly wedded bliss? I read the bridal magazines. I perused the websites. I succumbed to the perverse pull of the corporate bridal scene. I know how this is supposed to work. I was a blushing bride, for God’s sake!
So why do I not feel blissful?
This may sound like the beginning of an argument against gay marriage. As a card-carrying lesbian, let me assure you that is not the case. We fought long and hard for our right to marry. We deserved our day in the sun, so to speak, as does every person who does the hard work of falling in love. It is a day I will surely never forget.
But again, nothing changed.
Since that day, I have thought long and hard about why I do not feel any different today than I did two weeks ago. About why nothing has changed when everything changed.
My wife and I have been together for sixteen and a half years. In that time, we have merged our two lives into one. We bought a tiny house. My wife finished graduate school. We had a beautiful baby boy. We bought a bigger house. We had twins whose toddlerhood nearly killed us all. We bought a minivan. We picked out a dog. We fought. We made up. We fought again. We binge-watched some great television. We took the kids to the ocean. To the zoo. To grandma’s house. We suffered through fifth grade math homework. We drank copious amounts of wine as a result of that fifth grade math homework. We cried a little and laughed a lot.
We developed a singular cadence that has become the rhythm of our family. It’s a chorus we sing every day. In our home. With our extended family. With our friends. In our jobs. In our community. We are a family—plain and simple.
We created a marriage years before we celebrated a wedding.
Perhaps the lack of bells and whistles I am experiencing is the greatest argument to be made for gay marriage. All over the world—in Minneapolis where I live and in states and nations far more conservative—gay people are married. We may lack the piece of paper sanctioning our union, but we are no less married. We do the harrowing work every day to create connection. To create family. To create marriages.
And if gay marriage already exists—a fact I am a fireworks-less testament to—then how can gay marriage threaten the status quo? How can assigning a simple piece of paper to an already thriving family create anger and hatred and resentment?
I don’t get it. I don’t have the answers.
I do, however, have a large load of laundry to fold. Life in the fast lane, you know.