Five years ago last weekend, Ian and I got married. Actually, strictly speaking, we didn’t get married. We got something for which there’s no adjective or past participle, unless it’s proper to say we got domestic partnershipped or domestic partnered up. It’s a bit confusing, so for those of you outside of California, I can explain that we entered into a lifelong declaration of commitment, vowing to share our lives forever, even though neither of us has a vagina. Because of this, in Ian’s native England, and Europe at large, I have the rights of a married spouse, and in California, we can file joint tax returns. Of course, according to the Federal government, we’re both a couple of single dudes looking for the right gal.
We didn’t have much money after buying the house where we intended to start a family, so we had our ceremony in our backyard, and planted some flowers and repaved the crumbling concrete of the deck in lieu of decorations. Ian and I dressed in white worsted trousers and striped but non-matching jackets in Boulevardier style, and we hired caterers who served bite-sized sandwiches as well as tea, Champagne, wine, beer, and Pimm’s cocktails to as many of our friends and family as we could squeeze in. Our officiant gave a semi-Buddhist benediction, while two three-year-old party guests unbeknownst to her, hid her civilian clothes. It was, in a word, fabulous.
When the judges in California the following year said it was alright for gays to marry, we discussed whether we should upgrade our domestic partnership with a marriage license. It seemed like, for all practical purposes, they were the same, because the only rights we were denied – and I don’t need to go through this with you, but I’m talking about income taxes, immigration, social security, estate taxes, and all that – were being refused by Washington, not Sacramento. So we decided not to, and I think we’ve both come to regret that decision. If nothing else, we would have a historic document: a piece of paper saying we were married in the window of opportunity before Proposition 8 shut it, between June and November of 2008.
Five Year is traditionally the Wood anniversary. Our first gift to each other was permitting salacious puns about giving each other wood. Our second gift was hiring someone to clean and stain our wooden patio furniture, instead of doing it ourselves.
We do love anniversaries. Not only do they mark the time and commemorate important events, they provide an excellent excuse to indulging yourself a little more than your bank account and waist line normally allows. We decided it was a good reason to go up to Santa Barbara. It’s only a little over an hour away, so it’s an occasion, but it’s convenient. The Vintner’s Festival was being held, which meant there would be entertainment at the wineries, so Mikey wouldn’t be too bored while Daddy and Papa sipped. We had friends we hadn’t seen in a while. And we had a free hotel.
The free hotel draw was particularly pitiful on our part. We had stayed at this particular hotel the previous winter and had a terrible time. The room was loud, the heater broke, and the only means to keep us from freezing was an old space heater. We spent the whole time trying to keep our toddling son from stumbling into it and exploding into flames. In response to our complaints, the management offered a free stay next time.
You got that? Our dangerous, substandard accommodations would be free next time. And we jumped on it! Why?
The hotel, of course, hadn’t improved. Even the location, which is convenient to beach and State Street, the main drag in Santa Barbara, is more of a problem, since drunk college kids find it convenient as well. While we were playing in the pool with Mikey, a refugee from Jersey Shore called out to his fellow hot tubbers with the salutation, “What’s up, you limp-dicked faggots?” Charming.
That makes it sound like the anniversary weekend was a bust, and that is far from the truth. We went to the Santa Barbara Zoo, which is in a garden next to the ocean, making it more pleasant than the one in Los Angeles, and at 30 acres instead of 100, more manageable than the one in San Diego. We went wine tasting in the Santa Rita hills. We went to the beach and played Mikey’s favorite game, “Run For Your Life!” where we chase the waves until they chase us back. We met up with our friends and ate very well. Mikey learned how to eat artichokes, which he loved, and had his first taste of lobster, crab, and chicken liver pâté.
Exhausted, Mikey fell asleep five minutes into the ride back home on Sunday. Now that we had some time to ourselves at the end of our fifth-anniversary weekend, I asked Ian whether he’d want to get married, should the Supreme Court agree to hear the appeal on Proposition 8 and side with the California courts who have declared it unconstitutional, and should the Defense of Marriage Act be repealed in Congress. He said, “Of course.”
As we agreed that we’d at least have a party and renew our vows when that happens, we passed a billboard for the new Jason Segel and Emily Blunt movie, The Five Year Engagement.
Here’s hoping that sign isn’t a sign that it will be our tenth anniversary before that party can be thrown.