Thursday, May 15, 2008

Not Strictly Related, But….

….Since it’s all I’ve been able to think about, I’m going to write about today’s big news: The California State Supreme Court just legalized gay marriage.

Early this afternoon I went to City Hall in San Francisco, hoping to crash what I expected to be a big party. My first thought when I arrived there was, “How cute; all the broadcasters in the city came down to get hitched to their partners.” Because the first thing I noticed was a huge number of news trucks parked around Civic Center Plaza. There were generators and cables all over the sidewalk, and unhappy men lugging cameras around looking for something to film. (It’s 96 degrees in San Francisco today.) Everywhere there was a puddle of shade there was a miserable looking TV reporter in a dark suit drinking water and trying not to have a makeup meltdown before his or her next stand-up spot.

What I didn’t see much of were gay couples celebrating. The scene was nothing like what I expected, which was something along the lines of the sea of tuxedoes and white dresses paired with Doc Martins I saw on the news several years ago after the mayor of San Francisco briefly declared gay marriage legal, but before the courts annulled every last one.

I realized, however, that this lack of exuberance somehow mirrored my own mood. If you had asked me a few weeks, even a few days ago, how I would feel if gay marriage were legalized, I would have guessed that I’d be ecstatic. But today, I feel strangely subdued, and it’s not just the heat.

I feel like I did when the Rex Sox won the World Series in 2004--another thing I never thought would happen in my lifetime. During the playoffs four years ago, it was incredibly exciting to think the cursed Sox actually had a chance to have something good happen to them, and when they beat the Yankees in the league championship series, I was thrilled.

But when the last out of the anticlimactic World Series was safely in Mientkiewicz’s glove, I didn’t feel euphoria. I just felt relief that they hadn’t blown the play, a routine toss to first base eerily reminiscent of the Bill Buckner between-the-legs error that doomed the Red Sox in 1986.

The plays were so similar in everything but outcome that I got mad all over again. I was happy that my team had finally gotten what in my mind they richly deserved. But I also had a fresh bout of righteous anger over having had this prize dangled in front of me once before, only to have it yanked away.

And that’s how I feel today. Relieved that no cringe-inducing gaffe occurred; that the state Supreme Court didn’t mess up. And a little angry. That old voice from 2004 is again whispering in my ear, “This is nice, but shouldn’t it have happened a long time ago?”

I’ll get over it and find my way to gratitude. I’m already on the way. Heading home from City Hall, I ran into an acquaintance who had just gotten an appointment to marry her partner. She will probably always remember today as the day she got engaged (or at least set a date), and she was radiating sunlight. It was good to see someone be a bigger person than I and go straight to the joyful part of the ruling.

I’m sure I’ll be getting a slew of wedding invitations in the coming weeks from friends rushing to the altar ahead of any possible November referendum. These weddings will be especially joyous occasions for not having had the spontaneity planned out of them over the course of months, and because they will, against all odds, result in actual marriage certificates for people who never thought they’d hold a real one in their hands. All this will also help bring me around to a purer form of happiness

I do understand that it’s a beautiful thing that gays and lesbians are finally being offered places at the table—especially if that table is the head table at a wedding banquet. But forgive me if I have to take a moment to feel indignant about the years we had to sit with the kids and the weird drunk uncles no one likes. That kind of slight takes a little time to get over.

Probably I’ll feel more gracious when the heat breaks.

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