“Well, that’s not something you see every day,” I said, knowing that, these days, it really was.
My co-worker Maria and I were enjoying a chilly autumn walk, talking a shortcut back from the convenience store, when she pointed out a gathering across the street. A dozen or so formally dressed people were gathered around a young woman in a wedding gown, kneeling on a grave. She was smiling broadly and holding back tears. Weddings will do that to you. She was, apparently, marrying her deceased mother. The happiest day of her life.
“You see, I told you that was what was going to happen! You just kept saying ‘slippery slope this’ and ‘slippery slope that’ and, dammit, this is what we get!”
Maria was upset. She gets that way when she’s right and no one is patting her on the back for it. She was right, but that didn’t stop me from rolling my eyes every time she brought it up.
“When I was on the Council for Real American Marriage in ‘16, we warned you, we warned everyone. This is what you would get if you forced people to recognize ‘non-traditional’ marriages. You and everyone else just laughed and said we were being alarmist, but nooooo….” She drew it out, betraying her early 80’s cultural heritage. “No, you just applauded as the whole thing went down the tubes. If you’d just listened…”
Her longs strides were faster now, and her intense stare was burning into some unseen point down and in front of her. She was approaching Full-On Rant status. I needed to say something before…
“I swear to God, if I were in charge….” Her voice rose and her right arm pointed skyward.
“Ok Maria, you were right. But, seriously, is this so bad?”
She stopped (rant avoided), and turned slowly to face me (oh shit).
“Yes, Mister ‘Hold Hands and Sing Kum-bay-yah’, it is ‘so bad.’
“I know we’ve been over this, but why?” She gave the look that I’ve come to recognize as the “Are you fucking kidding me?” look, a slight shrug to her shoulders and a disappointed frown on her face.
“Because…because, look, quit being obtuse. What possible point can there be to marrying a dead person, or a dog, or a tree? Marriage exists for a reason, for many reasons, and none of them are served by a woman marrying a dead person. Even if you don’t believe in God (and how she managed such an admonishing tone in so few words, I’ll never know), you can’t believe that this is ‘marriage.’
“I don’t know why you’re so upset,” I said, knowing full well why she was so upset. She was upset because, in the wake of Cheval v. Gespenst, the Supreme Court had decided in favor of the defendant and the marriage was upheld. This case was seen as the tipping point in the establishment of the “We give up, so long as you’re not hurting anyone, go for it” doctrine. Maria took the defeat personally and never missed an opportunity to let everyone know the future had vindicated her beliefs. The war was lost, but the battles were never-ending.
“Personally, I think it’s kind of sweet. I mean, she’s happy, and I doubt her mother cares greatly one way or the other.”
Maria was undeterred. “Of course you would say that. You’ve never been married. You don’t know what it’s like to see other people deface the institution you’ve invested your whole being into upholding.”
“That’s not fair,” I responded, not entirely sure that it wasn’t. “Just because I’ve never been married doesn’t mean that the Court’s decision didn’t affect me.” That was the truth, by the way. Cheval v. Gespenst and the new doctrine were applied in some truly novel and unexpected ways. “My boss is a unicorn when he’s at work. My own sister has decided to identify as an effete English hero when she’s travelling. Most of my friends and family have been affected in at least some way.”
“Your sister? Really? Wow.” Maria paused briefly and her increasingly aggressive stance towards me relaxed slightly.
“Sure. Doesn’t bother me at all, either. Why should it?”
“Isn’t it weird?”
“No…well, a little. It’s a little weird. But she’s happy. She has fun. We used to play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons when we were kids, so we grew up pretending to be whoever we wanted to be. She told me she realized that being who you ‘are’ is just another kind of pretending and she was tired of being herself all the time.”
“That’s just nuts.”
“Eh, maybe. I dunno. When I think about it, and think about how much of my personality is something I made up, or some affectation I engaged in long enough that I didn’t have to think about it anymore? I can see it. She says she thinks life’s a role-playing game anyway, and you don’t have to play the same character all the time. “
Maria was silent for a short while and made the face of a kid who was trying a spoonful of something new and was rapidly coming to the conclusion that, whatever it was, they did not like it. Then, abruptly, she scowled and pushed me back a couple of steps.
“You don’t have a sister!”
Busted. I couldn’t stop laughing.
“No, no, hey, stop that,” I struggled to say as she continued to shove me. “I was just trying to get you to look at it differently. Hey, isn’t your wife going to wonder where you are?”
“Well, you’re a fink and…” she stopped and checked the time on her phone “Oh crap, I’m supposed to be home in twenty minutes. Carla is going to kill me!”
*phew* I’d been saved by the proverbial bell.
“We can take this up tomorrow. Say ‘hi’ to Carla for me.’
I’d been in their wedding and they really do make a lovely couple.