Fifteen years ago today, I kissed my husband for the first time. It was bold. I’m not sure he saw it coming. In a brief moment of madness, I decided to go for the shock and awe strategy. It worked.
It was a messy, tricky, awkward, jolting, stop-start at the get-go and took a while to get to that place where the word marriage popped up. He proposed to me on bended-knee on his birthday, in the snow, after gallons of Absinthe. I said ‘yes’. I’d never thought I would do it again, having been a staunchly independent single mother for so many years before meeting him. But love is a pie-eyed bolting mustang and when you are in its path, it is very hard not to get mowed down and mangled by it. When I said ‘yes’ to the proposal it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I wanted to kiss this man every day for the rest of my life, even if it was on the cheek, in a text or over the phone.
With the debate about marriage equality raging in my country at the moment and a postal vote about to happen which will ask me to say yes or no to same sex marriage, I feel terrible. Awful. Wrong. Icky. This is not my business. This should not be up to me. I have no right to play this game. When my Zeus asked me to marry him, I cried, I smiled and I said ‘yes’. I didn’t have to ask permission from a stranger, let alone millions of strangers and hope that enough of them said yes and that the powers-that-be then recognised that popular endorsement. This all reminds me uncomfortably of the days of old when peasants had to ask their overlord for permission to marry. Sometimes the overlord even ‘broke-in’ the maiden for her husband in return for his permission. What flipping century are we living in that some people, consenting adults in love, must ask for permission from strangers to be allowed to smile and promise to kiss one another every day for the rest of their lives, in a ceremony sharing that commitment with loved ones? Why must they ask for permission to live a life of happiness and all the normal ups and downs of marriage? It feels very, very wrong.
When I look at the monstrous hate and vilification of ‘others’ in Charlottesville this week, it reminds me, also uncomfortably, of this postal vote on marriage equality. It’s a fight with the same agenda and I don’t believe a government with the well-being of its people at heart, should conscript us into this debate. There really are no sides. When you are forced, coerced and actively encouraged to take sides in a war that is fuelled by intolerance, everyone loses. A good government works to bring their people, all of them, together. A bad one, divides and encourages division. Australia should be better than that. It’s not compulsory but in this case silence will be taken as an objection. If you don’t vote, it will be a ‘no’ by default.
For the last fifteen years I have been with the man I love. We have watched each other graduate from university, mopped up each other’s vomit, stared into the eyes of our newborn children, travelled on long road-trips and supported one another’s dreams. I never look at the bit of paper we signed to say we were husband and wife but we share the memories of that day at the lighthouse in Ballina with our children. We have photos, a dvd, rings, mementos. We write new vows to one another on our anniversary.
Sometimes we can’t stand one another. He scrapes the fork on his teeth and snores. I am an obsessive compulsive freak who spins out like the exorcist kid if the bin has no liner in it for more than seven seconds. Our family is like a time-travelled proto-type of Malcolm in the Middle but it’s a family that Australia at least recognises as ‘a family’.
Please vote ‘yes’ when you get your bit of paper that gives you similar powers to the raping overlords of old. I don’t agree with the concept. It sucks. But if I can kiss ‘my husband’ and we can share each others names (not that I did) and tick that next of kin box and kiss in public and make cheesy jokes about the ‘old ball and chain’….then everyone in love should be able to.
I truly, madly, deeply believe in marriage equality.
Yes ‘I do.’