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Redefining Family

March 29, 2013

This week, the US Supreme Court heard arguments that will hopefully overturn the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act and California’s astoundingly backwards Proposition 8. As personally opposed as I am to a marriage of my own, I see no reason why two consenting adults of any gender shouldn’t be able to start their own families. After all, my path is clearly not for everyone (good thing, or the human race would die out now that reliable birth control is around), and there are definite legal and social benefits to be gained from marriage.

Opening up the definition of what a married couple looks like can only be good for us singles-by-choice, as well. The more people see that a marriage is not always a prerequisite to children, the more they may come to accept that it’s not necessary for everyone to eventually pop out babies. From there, it might start to filter through people’s thinking that households of every different size, from one to double digits, are perfectly acceptable.

On an incredibly selfish level, though, breaking down the barriers to marriage causes some immediate grief. This has nothing to do with LGBTQ people and everything to do with my ruler-straight dad.

My dad’s a pretty open-minded person. He’s so open-minded that he’s been perfectly content to be engaged but not married to my stepmom (called such because “my dad’s fiancee” is too many syllables) for over five years. She, too, warmed up to the idea of this sorta-permanent commitment once they bought and then sold a house together–clearly, he was in it for the long haul, even if he was leery of putting more than an engagement ring on it.

Very few of his friends and acquaintances understood this, however. Even my uncle, who really should have understood my dad’ ambivalence after two divorces of his own, once asked while we were all on a chairlift together, “So, how long before you tie the knot?”

My dad, much to the surprise of the woman next to him who came from Colorado Springs (major city in one of the top-20 most conservative counties in the US), replied, “I don’t think it’s fair to be part of a club other people can’t join.”

My uncle and I looked at each other and winked. Shameless excuse-maker, my father! But now that Colorado is coming closer and closer to legalizing civil unions, that club is, thankfully, going to be less exclusive, and out goes my dad’s excuse.

Which is troubling for me on that purely selfish level. My dad’s been my role model for non-marriage. My dad’s been the example I can literally point to when my other family members have asked, “When are you getting married?” when I’ve been dating someone. Thanks to my dad’s committed non-commitment, I’ve been able to truthfully say, “Once my dad does, which means the 13th of Never. His wedding date’s the 12th.”

But now there are actual wedding plans in the works. And unlike the previous drawn up and discarded ideas, this one has enough pressure to turn it from a lump of coal into a diamond worthy of a Kay Jewelers ad. The proposed officiant has a brain tumor, meaning it needs to get officiated sooner rather than later, and my grandmother, who would really like to see this happen, is 88, a number which only makes you travel back in time if you’re Michael J. Fox.

Obviously, I will not be devastated if this happens. I like my stepmother. She’s not my mother, which is really just fine, because my mother was multiple levels of crazy. Age and disinterest will prevent me from being forced to confront my hatred of babies when faced with a half-sibling, so no worries on that front. And best of all, my dad and stepmom truly seem to enjoy each other’s company, which is always heartening for even a hardheart like me to behold.

But I was sort of hoping they’d be able to make this permanent engagement deal work out. Mostly because that’s the closest I can envision to true commitment that I could see for myself. If presented with the right person in the right circumstances who met my major criteria of not wanting kids, marriage, or shared accommodations but still interested in some visible form of mutual love and respect, I could wear a ring and change my Facebook status as long as it was clear I’d never have to change it all the way.

I suppose there’s no reason I can’t blaze my own trail. That option is still secondary, in my mind, to simply enjoying the pleasures of solo existence and visiting my friends when I want company. And if my uncle’s recent question, “Well, what about…you know?” ever starts nagging at me, I can always remind myself of what I told him: “There are a lot of stores on Colfax that sell silicone-based answers to that.” To which he nodded and replied, “I’ll get you some batteries for your birthday.”

So I’m okay with applying my selfish streak to my independent streak and continuing with my blissfully marital-stress-free existence. At the same time, I’ll raise a toast to my dad and to all my gay and lesbian friends whose weddings will doubtlessly be a blast, since they understand the importance of good music and an open bar. And if I make it out to the DC area this year, I’ll be sure to flash my rainbow suspenders at any passing Supreme Court justices and moon any Marriage Works billboards I come across.


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  1. I agree with you Im not a fan of marriage, but I agree everyone should be allowed to go down that path if they so choose.

  2. thestolenyears permalink

    Really lovely piece of writing-I get so sick of people looking all condescending when I state that I never want to get married or have babies. Some of them have actually said “Oh, I thought that too.” in a sort of ‘it’s a phase you’re going through’ voice. I understand that people change, me included, but I just get sick of not being taken seriously about this issue.
    Also over here in Britan same sex couples can have a civil partnership, but not get married. It sort of makes absolutely no sense at all…

  3. Cheers for your dad, doing it his own way, and to you for being happy for him. Funny, I’m sitting in a similar place, have a significant other, but we both swore we wouldn’t marry again, results of multiple divorces. your writing made me think, that’s what’s important. I would say, it’s nobody’s business what anyone’s marital status is, and should be an individual choice for all. From where I sit, ideas evolve and change, so just be willing to flow with them and be thoughtful and true to your self. For me, we may even get married, or we may not, but we do love respect and enjoy each other each day, week, month, year, so far. write on.

    • I work with divorce lawyers, which is the sort of company that makes me really give marriage the fisheye. It’s totally nobody’s business, and you and your boyfriend need to do what works for you, not all nosy acquaintances who want to know, “When are you getting married?” Good for you!

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