Friday, May 11, 2012

Diapers and bathtubs

Ask me about same-sex marriage, and I will go on and on about my husband of 13 blissful years (3 of them legally). As Obama evolves, Romney revolves, and debate devolves on gays getting married, I have the real thing every day. I could brag endlessly about Marty and not do him justice. Everyone likes him. He is the paragon of spouse.

But company loves misery, and misery has loved gays for so long, so I will share another side, a darker side, of same-sex marriage, one that all parents will relate to.

Before my current wedded bliss, I was with another man 5 brief months and then 8 long years. I'll call him Eric (because, of course, his name was Eric, and he deserves not to be anonymized). Eric died a slow miserable death, but not before losing 80 pounds, his mind, and his continence to lymphoma. Diapers and bathtubs are the promising start of childhood and the despair of old age. Eric was 28 years old when he died, and never saw the millennium.

Eric and I fought almost from the first. He was uneducated, broke, manipulative, and came from a broken home. He was also young, ambitious, handsome, and dauntless. He decided we should learn to ski, and we went skiing. He started his own business, starred on the big screen (as an extra), turned a hand-typed hiking club newsletter into a glossy splendor through aggressive selling of ads and then extorted free color from the printer with false promises of future business. He was everything I was not, and I was smitten.

I might have left Eric soon enough and joined the divorced 50% disillusioned with marriage. Instead, Eric got sick, then sicker, and then I was trapped. Trapped by a sense of duty, of commitment that my Catholic parents taught me too well. We lived in a condo on the second floor, so lowering Eric down the exterior cement stairs in a wheelchair to go to his radiation treatments was always an adventure, especially when he tried to help. He slowly became paraphasic and incoherent, so twenty questions with a nodding head soon became a mere guessing game with a petulant and frustrated child.

And then there were the endless diapers that never seemed to fit, and so no sooner dressed than undressed and back to the bathtub. Eric was fragile at this point but still a 130-pound 6-foot man (though in this as usual he had rounded up, being only 5'11"), so maneuvering him into and out of a wet bathtub was a battle between hurting my back or dropping him, so the only thing between me and insanity was ibuprofen and overeating.

The above is mere preamble to the real confession: Eric lingered too long, and there was nothing left to like. When he mumbled with his last spoken words, "I wanna go home, I wanna go home", I didn't care whether he was talking about heaven or Kansas, I was ready to buy the one-way ticket. For myself.

But I didn't, and that is also what same-sex marriage is to me: not bailing out when like is gone and love must do. When can't-take-it-anymore yields to one-more-time-into-the-tub, because it must and there is no one left but me. This side of marriage gets lost when the willfully stubborn insist that gays can't realize true love outside of "one man and one woman" relationships. It also fails to make it into the chanting and placards of marriage equality rallies.

To quote the President of the United States (not Obama, I mean Michael Douglas in The American President): "I've loved two men in my life. I lost one to cancer." Marty is no Annette Bening (then again, who is?), but I plan never to lose him through my own action or inaction. I know how precious marriage is, and nothing and no one will take it from me, not even me.

Same-sex marriage is nothing new: I have been in one half my life. If it is new to you, I invite you to see both Marty and Eric in your understanding of it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Human cutlery

There are three basic types of people: forks, spoons, and knives. Each can behave like the other two when pressed, but rather badly, and after a while it becomes quite fatiguing.

Forks take charge. Insubstantial in themselves, they want to skewer others' accomplishments. At rest, they set themselves apart from the others, but (in America at least) they keep crossing over to be on the winning side of any task. Those in charge swear that the fork is the most useful, though it is a tool best suited to stealing the credit only after the hard work of cutting is already done.

Spoons support. They are affable enough, though of limited craft, and easy to use. They stack up best when facing the same direction as every other spoon and do not respond well to being put to uses beyond their ken. Teaspoons look to tablespoons for career advice. True, they are indispensable when eating soup, but when reaching into a drawer, it is the forks who command (and the knives who deserve) respect: the spoons go unnoticed and unrewarded.

Knives engineer. Spoons serve up and forks take away, but knives transform. The knife does not envy the spoon nor fear the fork, for the spoon aspires not, and even as the fork is stealing the previous bite, the knife is already dreaming of the next slice. Those who are wise use only the sharpest knives they can afford and do not dull their keenness on menial labor, yet they will never give the knife a free hand nor let it near their mouth once the job is done. That is a privilege granted to the fork.

I neither envy the fork nor pity the spoon, and in truth would be miserable doing either's job. For I am, and have only ever wanted to be, a knife.