Globe and Mail

Don't get married, just slit your throat

By HEATHER MALLICK
Saturday, July 20, 2002 – Print Edition, Page F3
The Globe and Mail

Unlike the Ontario Superior Court this week, I was initially opposed to gay marriage, on the grounds that marriage as a concept is silly and not something the sophisticated gay person wants to mess about in.

I saw a TV news clip last year as two gay men -- the kind of gays who radiate sincerity and goodness and want to declare their love to the community, you know the type -- exchanged vows in an actual church service. I did my usual "What do you see in him?" that I do for all wedding ceremonies, especially Princess Diana's.

Then the camera cut to the scene outside the church where extremist religionists were presenting a tableau of what they felt the ceremony was achieving. As I recall, it included some kind of bleeding Christ mannequin being crucified yet again by the spectacle inside and various people with that hammer-toes-and-unwashed-perm look dashing their brains out on the pavement in grief at what the world had come to. Again, you know the type.

I changed my mind at 299,792,458 metres a second, i.e., at the speed of light. If they're against gay marriage, I'm for it.

This is not so much an opinion as a prejudice, I agree. But I like camping out with the angels. Or rather, I like checking into a Four Seasons with the angels, as opposed to mucking out at the landfill with bigots and mad people.

And yet . . .

I was recently informed by the National Post that gays are unsuitable adoptive parents because they don't stop pranging each other enough to settle down and form the kind of stable, one-job-only, property-tax paying union with a locked-in mortgage that the Post approves of. Their cheating ratio approaches 100 per cent, the Post said nasally.

Two things: Clearly the male, straight and pristine editorial writers at the Post haven't slept with any married men. And if they're married to women, they haven't been married very long. Because if they had done either of these things, they would be warning gay men off marriage out of human decency, the way German women in 1945 asking about how to prepare for the Russian advance (two million were raped) should have been told, "Um, well frankly slitting your throat now would be best really."

Marriage is fraught. At times, it seems foolhardy, which I never object to in human enterprise, but at other times, it seems like advancing together up Omaha, the worst of the D-Day beaches, tedium followed by fear and lopped off by divorce. You think you're fighting the enemy, but the real enemy is the guy next to you complaining about sand in his K rations and water in his boot. When you're married, you look at the man who has been by your side for 30 years, who saw you through the diaper phase and when Little Jimmy really did put his eye out and that pokey little house on Blue Jay Avenue, and you think, "Who is this guy?" You have no clue. I love my marriage, am always offering my husband bizarre thank yous ("No, no, thank you,"he responds politely). But marriages can be scaly, scary things.

The novelist Nora Ephron describes her ex-husband, who was so neurotic that whenever he had an appointment, he erased his notation of it from his datebook "so that at the end of the year his calendar was completely empty." All exes are reduced to a sentence like that.

As one woman, about to hold a party for her 40th anniversary, said tersely to a friend of mine, "The fact is, it's really not much to celebrate."

My favourite book on marriage is called Intimate Terrorism,by Michael Vincent Miller, an intelligent, coolly written study of how people in pairs turn on each other and rake each other's flesh off the bone, while not admitting that they are doing any such thing. It's about the distortion of the balance of power.

Mr. Miller quotes Kierkegaard on the individual soul and its "dizziness of freedom." Take one dizzy freedom, attach it to another, and you get a two-member civil war, what he calls "a cancerous expansion of the anxiety that plagues all erotic love."

Goodness, haven't we strayed far from our topic.

The fundamentalists out on the street with their ketchup-dripping, Christ doll are saying that if gays marry and adopt kids, Beelzebub is unleashed.

And I'm saying that if gays marry and take on children, in 15 years they'll be lying in bed at 3 a.m. hissing at each other things like, "A curfew's a curfew" and "Look, teenagers live on a different time clock." It begins with romance and the sexual rabbitry that the Post so despises and it ends with sex strikes and houseworking to rule.

I'm not advising singlehood. I'm simply reminding you that Robert Louis Stevenson defined marriage as "a sort of friendship recognized by the police." Think hard before inviting the cops in.

hmallick@globeandmail.ca

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