“If you had your way, you’d be polygamous,” commented my old friend, Mithriel, on my Facebook timeline. I laughed, as I’d recently said I wanted to marry Melissa Etheridge, as well as the Dunkin Donuts lady who’d made me the best French vanilla coffee ever. I hadn’t been thinking of marrying them two at a time. I just want one spouse, with talent. Marriage has become a metaphor in my life for love and desire, but it was once an entirely political issue for me.
The concept of same-sex marriage was virtually unspeakable in the 1980s when I came out. I remember a big to-do in that era about “tolerance” of gay people in the population. The Boston-based national commentator, Mike Barnicle, wrote something like: I will tolerate gay people, but I will not accept them. I was in my early twenties at the time and devastated by his words. I’d always admired him. Mike was a bad-ass liberal back in the day, and that was his viewpoint. I could never read another thing he wrote. I hear he’s still around, giving his opinion about everything all over the place. Good for you, Mike: I will tolerate you but I won’t accept you. And may one of your grandchildren turn out to be a flaming queer.
As an aside, Mike has both won a Pulitzer Prize and been justly accused of plagiarism for columns he wrote for a major daily newspaper.
When the gay marriage debate came to a head in Massachusetts, circa 2004, I wrote about the issue, had my steaming, angry words printed in Bay Windows, the greater Boston gay paper. My anger piqued while driving down the highway and seeing a car window-sticker on a van composed thusly: a stick figure drawing of a man, a mathematical plus sign, a stick figure drawing of a woman, a mathematical equal sign, and the word “marriage” i.e., Man + Woman = Marriage, just prepared in stick figure drawings and math signs, rather than words, by some illiterate homophobe.
I was preaching to the choir having my angry pieces published in a gay newspaper, but I had to holler about the debate somewhere. At the time, I was appalled that my right to marry was up for argument and referendum voting, and as far as I could see, the argument was fueled by a bunch of narrow-minded heterosexuals – you know the type – the ones who believe homosexuality is a contagious disease, and yet who are creepily obsessed with all things gay. The pray-away-the-gayers. The ones who selectively choose Bible passages to make their arguments, and yet selectively choose to ignore the starving and the poor, who might benefit from true Christian charity. Please note I am not talking about all Christians or all straight people, just the ones who would like to fuck up the lives of an entire group of people they know nothing about.
Gay marriage debates now rage all over the country – and the world – and in my mind, the spotlight on the issue means we’ve succeeded. My own opinion on the debate has evolved over the years – if we talk about it, we bring it into the open – and so we succeed. Additionally, there are more serious issues to battle, including “kill the Gays” sentiments and legislation proposed in parts of the world and the bullying to death in our own backyards.
I had set out to talk about the women I would marry, thinking of a light, humorous piece, and yet all that political stuff came out. I guess I’m not done with the politics of marriage, but aside from politics, these days marriage looms large for me emotionally. Maybe it’s due to turning 50 this year and contemplating the final third of my life. I want someone to spend that third with, someone other than two cats, a bunny, and my elderly mother. Is there anyone who would take us all in? Honestly, except for the bunny, we are all high-maintenance. And if I could marry anyone I want, meaning, I could fantasize and let go of reality, who would she be? Let me make a short-list.
1. Melissa Etheridge, because she is so passionate and talented and brave (a cancer survivor); she is sexy for those things alone, never mind how hot she looks in old blue jeans.
2. The Dunkin’ Donuts lady at the Mobile Station who made me the best French vanilla ice coffee ever on a Friday evening when I’d had a tough day. If she can make a coffee that good, what else can she do well? I should mention she also said, “Have a fabulous night,” as I reached for the drink. She had no wedding ring. I saw her again last night and she outdid herself with the coffee. Drinking it was orgasmic. Two Friday nights in a row. Does this mean we’re dating? DD, give that woman a raise, and I’ll give her a wedding ring.
3. My best friend from adolescence, Lynne Simmons. Nobody knows where she is or what her name is now or if she’s still alive. The truth is, when I think about those I’ve been in love with in the past, she is the only one I would like to see again before I die. She is the only one I would want to marry. I am nostalgic for our adolescence and a love that felt so pure. Lynne Simmons, if you’re out there, single, and at all interested in women, please find me again, as you found me at age thirteen.
4. One or more women in my current life that I cannot mention because it would wreak havoc or simply cause too much embarrassment in our lives. Someday I hope to be able to name you as I named Lynne above, because when I am with you, I don’t miss her.
I have a date next Saturday night with a woman I know vaguely and met years ago at some lesbian dances I used to attend. We bumped into each other on Plenty of Fish. You never know, she could be The One, and perhaps I’ll find out over a Mexican dinner next weekend.
This weekend, I will just have a big cup of coffee and fantasize.
Because I had trouble with the first version of this post, I had to delete it and start over again. As a result, I had to delete a lovely comment by writer and friend, Carol Owens Campbell. I’m pasting Carol’s comment here:
Submitted on 2012/08/25 at 3:38 am (From Carol Owens Campbell.)
Cindy, I’m drinking coffee in a salute to YOU as a person, as a friend, as one of my favorite writers. I only wish it tasted as delicious as the French Vanilla iced coffee you described. I have other wishes too, Cindy. I wish for you a reunion with your cherished friend, Lynne Simmons. I treasure your thoughts of her for they are so reverent. Until you do see Lynne again, Cindy, I wish you the power to reunite with her in your writing and in your dearest memories. I also wish Melissa Etheridge could meet YOU and hear you read the story you read at Pine Manor in January of this year. Oh, she would love it and you! Besides, as artists, you two would be brilliant together.
I wish Mike Barnacle the same sentiments you expressed. Of course, Barnacle was “dismissed from the Boston Globe for lying and plagiarizing” (Wikipedia) so he has no credibility as a critical thinker or person of integrity. You have all the credibility and integrity in the world to me.
I also wish for you the exuberance of meeting your “future partner-wife-love of your life.” You will, of course. You are on that path right now. With your kind indulgence, I’ll share an encouragement I often tell our son, Griffin. I remind him that we never know who we will meet tomorrow. I offer him my memory of the day before I met his dad (my husband John). I was about to start a new job. I couldn’t wait to meet new colleagues. I was nervous, vulnerable, giddy, excited. I wanted a fresh professional beginning and had no idea that the very next day I would be introduced to the dearest person in my life ~ my husband of 32 years.
Of course, who knows? You may have already met your sweetheart at Dunkin’ Donuts! (Congratulations. She’s adorable!)
Cindy, here’s to rich “yesterdays,” vibrant “todays” and promising “tomorrows.” Please know I wish you continued success as a brave, witty, provocative writer whose words energize me to laugh and cry. Thank you, Cindy, for being lovable YOU.
Cheers and hugs,
I’m sorry, Cindy, but you’re going to have to be poly. I’ll leave you to have a relationship with the Dunkin’ Donuts gal, who I’m sure is quite lovely. I’m a tea drinker myself. However, you will HAVE TO SHARE Melissa Etheridge.
Hi Vonnie, okay, we share Melissa Etheridge. Do you mean at the same time?
cindy: if there’s been an under-reported social revolution in the last couple of decades, it’s gay marriage. During the reagan revolution, nobody would touch the topic w/ a 10-foot pole; the churches were all against it; and the AIDS pandemic was (of necessity) receiving the lion’s share of gay resources. But, true to its reputation, this phoenix rose from its ashes…gay marriage is legal in six or eight states (including Maryland; talk about a hard-fought victory), people are looking the other way in a lot of states where it isn’t, and Sean Penn starred as Harvey Milk (wow…you’ve come a long way, baby!). & oh, yes, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has gone on to its richly deserved rewards.
though, to do the situation justice, paul ryan is on the GOP ticket…
about marriage, gay or straight, people do seem to need a partner. The question is: do they need a partner all the time? I’ve had married people of either orientation come on to me…when i hear that they’ve been together 15 or 17 years, i remind them of everything they’ve invested in their commitment. this can be good for my ego, even if it reminds me that i’ve never been married or in a long-term relationship. or really all that sexually active.
i don’t know who i would marry if i had my choice…i hate taking orders, i’m a slob, and i spend a lot of time inside my head…but somehow i’m still hopeful… thank you, mr. & ms. phoenix! eric
It’s so good to hear from you. It’s been awhile. As usual, you say things so beautifully and with such intelligence. I hope the people who read my post will also read your comment. As I said when we first bumped into one another – you’re very special.
Take care and stay in touch.
Had to take a break and read this, glad I did. Good luck next week! I would Marry Brandi Carlile BTW, for the most of the same reasons you would marry M. E. Passionate, talented, started a foundation called Looking Out to help the less fortunate,and sexy as hell in whatever she happens to be wearing. Thanks for sharing
Thanks for reading! I think Brandi Carlile is hot, too. 🙂 I need to see her live. Maybe you can take me to a show sometime.
Stay in touch. I’ll keep you informed on how my date goes.
Ok Cindy, next time she plays near you I may have to take a drive. You NEED to see her live!
I can go to NJ, too. Either way, let’s do it! 🙂
My best friend, who had never introduced me to anyone since I met her in the first hour of the first day of seventh grade, suddenly left me an email regarding someone she wanted me to meet. It was October of 2001, and I was the stereotypical starving student artist working at Starbucks in San Fran. I don’t even think I finished the email before I replied. She wanted me to meet someone she worked with and posed the challenge of which of us would make contact first. I did. Emails led to phone calls and then I dug up the guts to ask for a date. I knew at the end of that first date that I did not want to go back to SF, I had found who I wanted to spend my life with. Unfortunately, I had to go fly back to SF a few hours after our date ended. Eventually, my health took a bad turn and I ended up coming home, and Beth has been taking care of me ever since. We said, “I do” at a commitment ceremony at Pride, where we also registered as Domestic Partners in July 2002. We figured that this was the closest we were going to get to “married”, but were pleasantly surprised when the California Supreme court gave us that lovely little window in 2008 to get married for real. It was only a little under two months after I had my fourth back surgery (a 2 level fusion), but I was determined to say “I do” for real. We’ve been together over ten years and have been through all kinds of life challenges and blessings. She gave birth to our son, who started his first day of First Grade today. She was there for me when I lost both of my parents to cancer and through four of my five back surgeries. A lot of life has happened, but when I see the big debate over gay marriage I have to wonder if people realize just how much our marriage looks like, well… marriage? I’m a stay at home mom and Beth works her ass off with long hours and a stressful job. We have a dog, two cats and a house that can use some work. We have a wonderful son who puts away the neighbors’ trash cans, and pulls weeds in their yard because he loves to do it. Were really probably rather boring. When prop 8 passed, we weren’t sure where we stood. We got married, but no government agency will recognize it? Keep being political Cindy… “marriage” does matter and breadcrumbs like Domestic Partnership really aren’t equal. We know this because we’re taxed differently (Beth is taxed on the money she contributes to my health insurance) and don’t have the same legal protections as married folks.
Thank you for reading, Kris, and for your very encouraging and thoughtful comments. There have been some great comments on this post, including yours. I hope people read this comment as much as I hope they read my post. Thank you for encouraging me to keep being political. I don’t know why I feel the need to apologize when I get political in my writing. I’m glad to hear the things you said about your partner and your son. You illustrate just how ludicrous it is to think a gay marriage is anything but a marriage. I’m glad you found the love of your life. I’m glad she helps you with your health issues. I’m glad you have such a sweet son. Cindy
Hi CIndy. What a pleasant surprise to come across your blog! I love your writing and will have to take a look at your previous entries to get caught up. Oddly enough, I happened to be catching up today on my e-mails and just before I saw your posting, found a picture that had been e-mailed to me. The picture was of me and my partner circa 1986 the year before we moved in together. We were at a Rhode Island Gay and Lesbian Youth group function. I will never forget the trepidation of finding that way to that meeting and the relief I felt when meeting other gays and lesbians. I can’t believe my partner and I have been together over 25 years and looking at that old picture, I don’t believe we ever thought marriage would be an option, that we could be as open as we are today or that our relationship would ever survive this long. We got married shortly after the landmark decision in May of 2004 and we did it quickly before Governor Romney could find some way to overturn it. We were on the RI evening news and in the local Attleboro, MA newspaper. I will never forget my partner’s 90+ year old grandmother calling to tell us she saw us on the news and offered her congratulagtions. Also, I will never forget after we were in the newspaper, how we received numerous phone calls from this old woman who must have called 40+ times. Finally, I answered out of exasperation and she said with a cantankerous tone, “Is this Erik? I saw you in the paper and I have something to say regarding this whole gay marriage thing. Now just be quiet and listen. I think you should be able to marry whoever you want and you should be so proud of yourself. Good for you.” And that was it! How much our world has changed. Thanks for your posting and you just never know when you will meet that woman who makes great coffee, is a Melissa Etheridge fan-atic and who reminds you of Lynne. She is out there and looking for you too!
Oh, god, Erik, it’s so wonderful to hear from you, and your comment was excellent. I love the story you tell, the way you tell it, and the history that is conveyed in your words. You are of the same generation as I am, so you really get where I’m coming from. I’m so happy you found a lifelong partner and were able to marry, to find a good life where you are loved and accepted fir who you are. I hope to find that, too, and thank you for the good wishes.
Here’s something ironic: lately I’ve been dabbling in Access again, and every time I do, I think of you.
Stay in touch. xoxo, Cindy
Just hit the 45 mark..oy. I have been blessed with a good partner and I can’t believe we have survived the number of rocky patches we have been through. I just read a lot of your past posting but I have got to say the water bottle essay is soooo excellent. I read it twice. It is really so awesome! I can’t wait for you next posting. I’m following you now! Glad you think of me when you think of Access..lol…I seldom use it anymore..alas!
Hey Erik, you don’t look 45 at all! I’m glad you’ve been blessed with a partner who can withstand the tough times. It’s inspiring. Glad you loved “Water Bottles,” so much. My posts can be quite different. This blog is a place for me to find courage as a writer. Thank you for subscribing. It’s really great to know you’re reading my stuff.
Was this the Mobil Station at Cobb Corner? There is a girl there that always makes the most incredible coffees! This is a great essay and I have loved Melissa Etheridge since she was on cassette tapes as “Similar Features” is one of my faves. I also love knowing that she used to play in subway stations. Her performance of Janis Joplin’s song with Joss Stone on an award show a few years ago was the best ever with her shorn hair from chemo.
I had the pleasure of working with a guy in Pediatrics for 15 years who finally realized he was gay and met someone and I was at there wedding a few years ago which was performed by another good friend who got permission to perform the ceremony. It was done outdoors and was a Jewish ceremony. It was beautiful. They now have adopted 3 boys from the foster system and they are very lucky kids.
It’s going to take me a while to get through all your posts, but this most recent one is fabulous. shame on Mike Barnacle! Kathi
Is that the preferred spelling of your first name? Thanks for reading the post and enjoying it. The posts on the website are “early drafts” although not first drafts. The blog is a place where I can store my ideas and use some of the writing to create full-blown essays.
I once posted that very clip you mention – of Melissa with Josh Stone, when Melissa had no hair from he chemo treatments. Amazing performance. I actually could have done without Josh. I was riveted by Melissa.
That’s a wonderful story you tell about your gay friend who finally realized who he was, found his life partner, married, and adopted kids. So cool that you were at his wedding. Good for you.
The Mobile station I go to is the one near the Stop and Shop. Maybe the girl (who is actually a grown woman) travels to Cobb’s Corner to make your coffee, hahahaha…
Yeah, I can’t take Mike Barnicle. He lost me in the 1980s with his statement. I don’t think he’s evolved much based on something I read.
Take your time reading my blog. No obligation to read it. I will read yours also, but it will take time. Busy, busy. I’m glad we’ve reconnected!