With all the fighting for basic civil liberties that have been happening around the country I thought it high time to sit down and write about marriage. So I wrote an angry piece about gay marriage and then I opted to not publish it. I stashed it in a folder and though I could avoid confronting these issues. Then I got a “surprise I’m in town” call from my sister, Anastasia.
My sister is married with two children, a house in the suburbs, and a very conservative point of view. She lives some 1200 miles away and her unexpected appearance in my apartment was, well, unexpected. I have had a strained relationship with Anastasia since we were children. She is my younger sister but she is so bloody serious that people often assume she is older than I.
My sister has done some things I have not been able to forgive. She has turned her back on me over and over yet I continue to talk to her. I would have given up on a friend that untrustworthy long ago.
I have some idealized version of family. Some idea that the people in my blood line might like me. If they do they don’t show it very well. My sister has hauled me into court, destroyed giant parts of my life, stole things from me, lied, corroborated with my ex to make my life a living hell, shown up unannounced to eat all my food, smoke all my weed, drink all my beer, punch me in the nose and then leave in a fit of rage. It is her typical MO. She always throws a giant fit before she leaves. I really dread seeing her.
Long ago I realized that you can trust people to be who they are, not some idealized version of “a good person.” People are not good; people are animals. We do not behave in ways that are consistent with the proposed moral codes of the times. We preach them but do not practice them. People are animals.
So when my sister rang on Friday night from a number I did not recognize I answered it. “I’m in town” she said, obviously excited to be in this fascist strip mall. “I took the kids to sea world today and we have free tickets to the Wild Animal Park” Oh fuck, I thought, she is gonna ask me to go with her and I’m gonna have to say no. I don’t do theme parks – screaming kids, sunshine, no place to smoke a joint. Oh gawd no!
“Wanna go to the beach tomorrow?” she asks. A much more reasonable request. I love the beach. There will be sunshine and screaming kids but I might find a place to puff. Besides, I love the ocean. “Yea, that sounds great” I say, hoping my phony phone voice is disguising the dread that is my heart trying to escape through my bowls. “I’ll call you in the morning” She says and hangs up.
I take a deep breath and think it might be alright. I haven’t seen Anastasia in at least five years. Maybe she has changed. Maybe this new baby of hers has sufficiently kicked her ass. Could that little brat be pooped? Only one way to find out.
I get up and out to see her. She looks good. She dropped what must be 60 pounds or more. Her hair has grown out of that bleached blonde frizzy stage. We hug. She gives me a great big bear hug. “You hug like mom,” I tell her. We hug again, get in the car and boogie to the beach.
Aside from the expected annoyances we have a great day. Then we meet up with her husband to have “dinner.” I figured we would head to an establishment were I could get a salad but she insisted on taking taco stand fare to the hotel pool. Her bigger child ran around the pool screaming and playing with “the fart button” she purchased for him in a beach tourist shop. I resisted the temptation to suggest that running at a pool is dangerous, and a social faux paux . I opened my chili, cheese, bean and rice thing to discover that I had no knife. I asked her husband (a big burly manly man with a laugh so annoying it can be heard three states away) if he would retrieve a knife from his hotel room for me. “I’m not going anywhere” he said. I could never put up with that sort of man. I sat there poking at my cold and uneatable food and the oaffy husband opened his mouth and asked me “what do you think Obama is doing wrong?”.
I should have known that a conversation about politics would be the catalyst that changed the tolerable and almost fun nature of the day. But I was just so happy to have a conversation that did not involve gossiping about the rest of the family I jumped on it. Mr. oaf is pretty well versed in politics. I’m always surprised by this. Happily surprised.
My sister, who is not politically savvy, made a very poor joke about gay marriage. I suggested that if she had made a racist joke that it would have been unacceptable and asked her to cease her homophobic attempts at being funny. I tried to be really nice about it. I knew I was walking on eggshells. Anastasia actually put her hand in my face and said “were not gonna talk about it.” “Why?” I asked her. “No” she said in an elevated pitch. “I have a lot to say about it, maybe we could have a conversation about the issues” I suggested. “No!” she said in the same tone she used when she was four. I dropped it, dinner wrapped itself pretty quickly and we got in the car to return me to my cave.
That’s when it happed – my sister started screaming, crying, and babbling on about what a horrible sister I am. She made some mention of how I always belittle her and make her feel less than me. “Oh boi” I thought, here it comes. She was swerving and driving 60 miles an hour. “Every time I talk to you I hang up and cry” she tells me of our conversations. “What have I done to offend you?” I ask earnestly. “If I know what is bothering you, I won’t do that anymore.” I explain. I really do wan to get along with her. “Back on Mothers Day you told me that it was just a hallmark holidays and …” Eh?
She babbles on about how my opinions of American culture offend her. My mere existence is enough to make my sister throw a tantrum, cry and brood for months, and basically melt down. I had no idea she was so think skinned, so fragile. What could I do? I told her I was sorry that my opinions of a soulless set of holidays, values, and behavior patterns were making her hysterical. She kept sobbing, swerving and taking with her hands. I double-checked that we both had our seatbelts on and asked her “Why did you call me? If you don’t like me, why did you call me and ask me to spend the day with you?” “I felt obligated” she told me.
“Obligated? I spent my day with you because you felt obligated? I have a lot of reading to so – some 30 books in the next ten weeks. Obligated?” I sat there trying not to scream at her. I took another deep breath and in a calm tone explained to her “you don’t need to feel that way. If you don’t like me, my ideals, my opinions, my sexuality, please stop with the obligation. I want to have a relationship with you but not one where you always end our visits with a fit. Why do you do this?”
She realized I was right about her always ending visits like this. The screaming started to become more of a loud voice, the swerving lessened. I sat there trying not to cry. It did not work. The tears started welling up in my eyes. I tried to push them back (something I am getting pretty good at lately) but it did not work. They came pouring down my cheeks and I commended myself on choosing the waterproof mascara. I guess I knew what was in store for me.
Why am I telling you all of this? I guess cause it is related to my thoughts on marriage, equality, and being queer. My sisters marriage is quite likely very stable. Her husband seems to love her, she likes her kids, and she is happy, very happy. Of this she assured me of several times as we came down that long fast hill. So why the hand in the face after the bad joke about gay marriage?
Could it be true that my opinions, values, beliefs, and sexuality actually threaten her fragile psyche? I think they might. Where as I like to have friends with different opinions, she does not. She seems to have no capacity for dealing with things she does not understand. I feel so sorry for her.
Thinking is key to my life. I doubt I would have any fun at all if I was not able to read, talk and question everything. What joy would life posses for me if I were unable to investigate new perspectives? I like other view points. I love it when I can look back and have changed my mind. I like to be challenged in my thoughts and beliefs. I am coming to understand that this is not something most Americans enjoy.
So onto my perspectives of marriage.
The problem with the current push to legalize gay marriage strikes me as wildly offensive. I am queer and I find marriage to be an abomination to freedom. Why do married people get 1500 additional rights that single people do not get? Why is marriage a prerequisite to real adult citizenship?
Marriage in and of itself is a tool used for social control. Originally marriage was used as a way for men to sell their daughters, often to repay a debt. Today’s marriage is a business partnership disguised in a religious ceremony oozing with the ideology of heteronormativity.
Marriage gives tax breaks to wealthy people and keeps poor people trapped in marriages they don’t want to be in. Poor people are the ones who are completely discriminated against in the eyes of the laws surrounding marriage. Sexuality be dammed, it is what you earn that makes marriage advantageous or a bottomless pit of debt, damnation, and couldashouldawouldas.
The cost of divorce starts in the thousands of dollars. Imagine that you want to get divorced but cannot afford to do so. Marriage is not about love or about family marriage is about government control over our ability to determine what love looks like, what kind of sex we have, and how we and how we spend our lives. Marriage, be is straight or gay, is an insult to my intelligence.
I know what I am saying is going to insult many of you but I find it hard to believe that marriage is advantageous for anyone who is not extremely wealthy. I would like to move to ban all marriage, or make divorce illegal. If it were impossible to get divorced in this country there would be a lot fewer marriages of convenience. Marriage is not something that should be used to lower your tax liability. The theory is that marriage says something about love. If you’re in love you get married. That is what we have all been socialized to believe. The problem with this is that ‘love’ and ‘the state’ do not belong in the same discussion.
Marriage is a tool of social control. We are trained from a young age to want marriage. We are told that it is the only form of acceptable relationship to aim for. I am in love folks and I do not want to get married. Oh sure I did, until I started thinking for myself.
If I were very rich movie star I would likely marriage hop on the advice of my accountant. I am not an ubber wealthy person who has deductions to gather. I am an American who finds the ideal of monogamous, dual-person, relationships to be offensive to my humanity.
What if I want to love more than one person? What if the person I live with is not the person I wish to have power of attorney. What if I want to live alone and be in love with several people who live elsewhere? Why does the law tell us how we can express our love. And more importantly why do we all line up and demand our rights to be told how to have our love sanctioned?
Bhaaa bhaa bhaaa. Marriage is an institution that was originally designed to sell young daughters as a way to pay off fathers debts. Marriage is not and has never been about love. It is a legal contract – no more no less. So why in the hell has the queer movement moved towards this as its central fight towards equality?
If marriage is equality and equality is freedom, this is a model of freedom I can live without. I want to be able to live my life and make relationship choices based on my own ideals, not some dated version of a political ideology that forces us to love and sleep with one other person – or pay for an expensive divorce and do it all over again. Marriage is not about equality. Marriage is about wealthy people having access to more rights, including the right to pay for a divorce.
Conforming to marriage and the ideology of this mode of relationship seems antithetical to the ways in which love works. It seems antithetical to freedom and the very diaphanous ideals that members of this nation seem to be toting as freedom and glue that hold us together as a nation (think constitutional rights). Marriage is a silly form of prison. Let the straight people keep it. I want a queer culture that represents something greater.
I want a queer culture that is polyamorous, I want queer culture – not some watered down version of a man and a wife. I never wanted to have a happy white picket fence reality – that shit looks as boring as poking myself in the eye with a sharp stick while living in OC and popping antidepressants all day while driving a minivan. I am not interested in this ideology that promises happiness but ultimately ends in over 50 percent divorce rates.
A relationship model that fails more than half the time should be reexamined. Not toted as something desirable. But we are all to concerned with the right to do it. Why are we not arguing for the right to commit suicide? Something that should be our natural right – -the right to end your own life is not promised by the constitution, it is outlawed even for the very ill. The right to conform into a heteronormative model of love is something that so many queer people are fighting for right now it almost makes me ashamed to be queer. What fun is sexuality if all I have to look forward to is a miserable gay marriage, a divorce I can’t afford that leads me down a long brutal road towards an illegal suicide.