I have an anniversary coming up in a few days. Five years ago on the morning of August 5th, I got married after almost four decades of cohabitating. It seemed like something to do on a hot summer day.
I wrote about it then on my personal blog, ridiculously called “Mr. Wow.” I’ve neglected my blog a bit in recent years, but might restart that outlet, a place to at least give voice to my frustrations over all things political. (David Patrick Columbia wisely feels that in our everyday lives we are over-served heaping bowls of outrage and/or despair.)
It’s the dog days now, and to be honest, I am still wearing a neck brace — remember I told about that last week, in a rather humorous vein? Still in a lot of discomfort and also advised not to sit long at the computer. It doesn’t seem quite as humorous now.
So today, in the spirit of an achy-breaky neck, and very little sleep, I give you what I wrote five years ago, in August of 2014:
“Sadie, Sadie, married lady, see what’s on your hand. There’s nothing quite as touching as a simple wedding band/Oh, how that marriage license works, on chambermaids and hotel clerks/The honeymoon was such delight, that we got married that same night!”
What? — do I need to tell you guys those are lyrics from “Funny Girl” — the amusing “Sadie” sequence, after Barbra marries Omar Sharif. (I don’t use the character names — please. It’s Barbra and Omar!)
Anyway, I, me, Denis, am finally a Sadie! Tomorrow I marry the boy — Bruce — I met when I was just a boy of 17. (We’ve been “together” since 1976, when I was a man of 24. Well, I was 24, anyway.)
I’ve never been a sentimentalist or a romantic about marriage. My mantra has always been that since heterosexual Death Row prisoners can marry, gay folks should certainly have the same rights as killers. Fair is fair.
But I myself never yearned for a wedding. After the first decade or so, I figured we were pretty much “married.” Later, when B. supported me unconditionally through my HIV diagnosis and a to-death’s-door-illness-and-recovery, there was no question. We were, as Shakespeare said of Kate and Petruchio, “madly mated.” However, the legalities never interested me. Or any kind of fuss. We have cats. No adopting adorable abandoned Asian children for us. I was content.
B. however is much smarter. He has saved his pennies, invested well. I have not. We both have wills (mine is hilariously threadbare) and I figured that was that. Neither of us has any immediate family. Two weeks ago he said to me, “I want you to read something and consider it carefully.” Foolish words, those last three — I rarely consider anything carefully.
It was a letter from his lawyer, detailing his finances and suggesting various ways I would be best protected in case he goes first. (I’m hoping the house explodes and we go together!) The lawyer’s conclusion? Marriage would be best.
“So?” said B, after I finished reading.
“Darling” I said, “This is so sudden!” We laughed. And then he said, “Well, I suppose I should do this properly,” and he got down on one knee. Even for a non-romantic like me, I was kinda overwhelmed.
We went for the license in Hoboken, and that was a bit of an ordeal. My wonderful friend Scott Gorenstein was our witness. Though we’d filled out the forms already, the guy at the office was, well — officious! (Even though he wore an earring.) He asked all the questions over again and we had to answer them all verbally.
It was fine until the question concerning my name. I’d asked B. if I should bring my birth certificate and he said no — one of his few errors. I had to field a barrage of questions about my last name … my mother’s maiden name … and why there was no father’s name on my birth certificate. What did it mean?
Well, it meant that my mother had entered into a basically arranged marriage, so as not to bear a child as a single woman and so that I would have a surname. But it does note, tellingly, “Father Unknown.” (My mother did not list my real father’s profession — singing bartender. Or the fact that I was actually conceived in the bar where he worked! Later, after I knew all this and also discovered my taste for booze, it made sense. )
I became flustered and embarrassed by these questions and finally exclaimed, “My God, do I have to defend my mother’s reputation even now?!”
There was a woman behind the desk and she got it and whispered to the guy. The license was approved. We had to give our ages. My friend Scott did not — though he had to give a lot of other info. When we left the Place of Licenses, the eternally boyish-looking Scott said: “Good thing he didn’t ask my age, or you’d have to be looking for a new witness.” Even though it would be easy enough to cut Scott in half and count the rings, I allow him his mystery.
No rings, rice, veils (A Marlene Dietrich “Scarlett Empress” look did tempt me), bells or whistles. We have three witnesses. The aforementioned Scott. My wonderful friend Mike. And Liz Rosenberg, a friend who once literally saved my life by forcing me to see a doctor. (I kept saying, with what turned out to be gallows prescience: “It’s just a virus” as I went from 165 to 125 pounds in less than two months.) She is giving us a little wedding luncheon.
The Great Event happened at 10 a.m. at the Hoboken City Hall. No vows. That I know of! I mean, if there were vows, I guess, I’d vow to be more sensitive, try cooking again (I gave up after twenty years), and drink less. B. would probably vow to pretend to believe my vows.
There will be no wedding bands. I don’t like to wear jewelry on my hands or wrists. However, I did mention if Bruce found something around nine carats, emerald-cut, I could wear it as a pendant. Barring that — a mink. (Apologies to PETA.) Oh, and I will forever refer to him as my “boyfriend.” Not doing the “husband” thing. It just creeps me out, somehow. I “indentify” as simply gay —don’t care to recite the alphabet.
It is difficult for me to accept love. I can barely accept “like.” I said to B — “I can’t believe anybody who really knows me could love me, no less marry me!” But he has. Nobody knows me better.
We have had hard times. He has not been perfect. I have most assuredly not been perfect! I felt on at least two occasions that leaving was the only way to go. But I didn’t. How do you leave someone who is, well — you? That’s how close I feel. When I finally fell in love with B. (after years of casual — on my part — encounters with him) I thought, “I don’t want to feel this and he can’t possibly — I am, well, everything bad.”
Also, he was entangled with others at the time and being shifty but he swore he loved me and “things would work out.”
I’d seen this melodrama, which usually starred Lana Turner or Susan Hayward, but I gave in, albeit not nearly as well-dressed or expertly directed as Lana or Susan — where were Jean Louis and Ross Hunter when you needed them?! I moved from city to city with him — Chicago, Detroit, Hoboken, at last — and we struggled in so many ways. But … he was my B. It seemed, for all the sturm und drang, that I could not see myself without him, even when I thought I wanted to, I couldn’t.
To this day, I don’t know what he saw in me, or why he stuck it out. I was cute, but not extraordinary. I had nothing but myself to bring to the table. It wasn’t a lot. And in all the years since, I don’t feel I’ve ever filled that relationship table properly.
“But … she recovered” as Judy Garland memorably uttered in the “Born in a Trunk” sequence from “A Star is Born.” And I guess, for all my misgivings based mostly on low self-esteem, I’ve recovered too.
Enough to say “I will” anyway.
Oh, yeah — the August 5th date? Totally unplanned. When B told me I shrieked, “Marilyn’s death day!” (She died the night of the 4th, but the world didn’t know till the 5th.)
“Uh, is that a good thing? — death and all.”
“Of course it’s good. Marilyn’s death was the beginning of her true acceptance.” Clifford Odets said, right after she died that she would be ‘fresher, greener, in death, than she was in life.’ So we will be fresher and greener. It’s just the beginning!
He said: “Okay. But we don’t have to die, right? We’re just getting married.”
Bruce is so literal.
So, that’s how I told it, that’s how it was, five years ago.
Today, on a more mercenary note, the fifth year isn’t much in terms gifting — wood.
Here are some of the suggestions: A piece of antique furniture — something with “history”… a wooden iPhone case … a wooden egg board, cutting board, napkin rings (REALLY, Martha Stewart?). Wooden wine glasses, or a customized wooden whiskey barrel. (Tempting, but I don’t keep spirits at home.) A wooden jewelry box. Wooden jewels. Hmmmm …! More modern gift traditions have sprung up.
Silverware or sapphire? I don’t need any more forks, but to paraphrase Lorelei Lee: “A kiss on the hand might feel very good, but a sapphire stone dangling from a silver chain lasts forever!” Something for that wooden jewelry box.
Barring that there’s also a wooden boot brush. Well, never too late to get one’s kink on.