“Skip, skip, skip to the love!”
It was Saturday morning. Beth was making oatmeal for everyone except herself. (She’s our designated Saturday morning oatmeal-maker but she won’t touch the stuff herself.) I was dodging around her getting something for June to eat while we waited. Noah was dancing around the kitchen, singing and hugging people. He’s been quite lovey-dovey recently, full of hugs and “I love you”s for Beth, June and me. The other day he pulled Beth and me together so he can hug us at the same time. Of course, June rushed over and pretty soon we had a whole-family group hug going.
Sunday was the seventeenth anniversary of our commitment ceremony. Right after breakfast we exchanged gifts. Beth got me The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For (http://www.afterellen.com/blog/thelinster/the-essential-dykes-to-watch-out-for-25-years-of-laughing-at-ourselves) a collection of Alison Bechdel’s epic lesbian soap opera/comic strip. The strips in the book span the years from 1987 to 2008. I’ve been reading it for three days now and it really brings back old times.
I started reading this strip sometime while we were in grad school at the University of Iowa from 1989 to 1991. I used to find it a newspaper at the university library (I no longer remember if it was a gay and lesbian newspaper or a feminist one—I read both). Sitting at the long tables in the sunny periodicals room and reading it was my favorite study break. The well-developed characters and dead-on observations about lesbian culture drew me right in. And it was funny, too. When we moved to D.C., I kept reading it in The Washington Blade, but sometime around Noah’s birth I stopped reading The Blade on a regular basis. Every now and then I’d pick up a copy and read the strip, or in recent years I’d log onto the DTWOF website (http://www.dykestowatchoutfor.com/index.php), but mostly I’d read the paperback anthologies that came out every couple of years. However, I found that without reading it regularly I kept losing the thread of the plot. I’d find myself constantly wondering, who’s that minor character? And who’s sleeping with whom now?
So now I have a chance to start over and follow the strip’s whole narrative arc. (It’s somewhat abridged, but most of the strips are there.) Even though it’s been nine to twenty years since I read these strips (I’m currently up to the year 2000), I remember them all so well, but I find some of my reactions are different now. As a mother, I found Raffi’s birth more touching than I did at the time. And I remember being truly upset when Mo and Harriet broke up but now it just seems like another twist in the constant romantic shuffling of the core group of characters. As admirably diverse as the characters are, there is a notable dearth of stable couples represented in DTWOF. (And no, Clarice and Toni don’t count. Too many affairs.)
I think my reactions show me in what a different place I am in my life and especially in my marriage. I feel very secure in my relationship with Beth. I don’t find myself imagining what our breakup would be like when two cartoon characters split up or in every sad Ferron song. I’m almost immune to imagining it. I also find myself a bit distanced from all the melodrama of DTWOF now because my life is just not like that and hasn’t been for a long time.
Sometime before Christmas my sister and I had a phone conversation about why I want to be married and why she doesn’t. I focused on the financial inequities Beth and I face because I knew she’d understand that. Of course, I would like for us to pay less in taxes and to have the peace of mind of knowing I’d have access to Beth’s Social Security benefits if she predeceases me. I also mentioned that we’d be more secure in having Beth’s adoption of the kids recognized if there was an emergency while we were traveling out of state to places that don’t grant second-parent adoptions. But there’s more to it than all that and I don’t think I adequately explained. Beyond all the rational reasons, in my heart I just want to be married, to be able to say “my wife” and to be understood and recognized.
We also talked about how you become sure of someone else. My sister and I are children of divorce and it was hard for me to get to that place of certainty. I wasn’t 100% there when I proposed to Beth. I just realized I was as close as I was going to get without taking the leap. Sara can’t quite imagine being able to say forever to someone and believing it wholeheartedly. (Having a marriage break up after two years probably had something to do with this.) I did get there, though. I can’t say when. There was no epiphany, no dramatic breakthrough. I just know Beth and I are a team now, more than we were before the commitment ceremony, more than we were before Noah was born, and that I can’t imagine my life without her.
On Sunday morning I made our traditional anniversary spice cake, using the recipe we used for our wedding cake. Beth took June grocery shopping and I cleaned house. During June’s nap, the babysitter arrived. Beth and I were going to a movie, our third in as many months. (I think this is a record for us, as parents.) We saw Milk over Thanksgiving and Doubt while we staying with Beth’s folks at Christmas. We wondered what to go see. Revolutionary Road and The Reader were on my list but a movie about a failed marriage didn’t seem right for an anniversary outing. And a film about the Holocaust didn’t really seem that celebratory either. So we ended up with Frost/Nixon. I know, not exactly a date flick, but there weren’t any romantic lesbian movies playing at our local theater. Go figure. We went to Border’s afterward and I used a gift card I got for Christmas to buy a book (Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction). Then we picked up a white chocolate mocha for Beth and a green tea latte for me and we were headed home. Beth made a delicious Mexican lasagna and we ate the cake. It was a really nice day.
This morning Noah wanted to know what would happen if Beth and I split up. Would he live with Beth or me? These are big questions. I really don’t know why some marriages last and other don’t so how could a seven year old begin to fathom it? I just know we’re all still skipping to the love. We are, as June observed at dinner tonight, “a whole family together” and I hope he feels it. I think he does.