A feminist wedding

After we had dated for a couple of years, Talia and I had a feminist wedding — feminist meaning that we started out with a critique of marriage. Our wedding invitation (I’m still proud of this) cited Emma Goldman: Love, the strongest and deepest element in all life, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy; love, the defier of all laws, of all conventions; love, the freest, the most powerful moulder of human destiny; how can such an all-compelling force be synonymous with that poor little State and Church-begotten weed, marriage?

Goldman was bothered by the thought that love could get trapped by patriarchal conventions. Which it certainly can. But I realized gradually that marriage — like all relationships that have histories — is a space where you put lots of different things together — some more problematic than others — and ask them all to coexist, awkwardly or not. We may have gotten married for love, but we picked our wedding date so we could start sharing an insurance plan. Relationships demand a degree of contentment with inconsistency. I remember being sure I didn’t really know what marriage meant when I got into it. I remember saying: I’m making a promise without knowing everything I’m promising. In the end, if our relationship comes down to any one thing, it’s a commitment to repairing whatever needs repairing. Sometimes when something goes wrong for us, we just do it all over again so it goes right.

The officiant, our friend Elizabeth, declared in the ceremony that “families and households are social institutions and sites of struggle and politics that remain deeply unfinished.” And she added, “We recognize that love can co-exist with ambivalence and fear, that connection is a necessary struggle, and that the structures that support us can also betray us.” Someone told me later that it was queerer than many gay weddings. But the participants didn’t really imagine how queer our relationship would look, a decade later. If they pictured the transitions and struggles, fears, mixed feelings, sadness, stuckness, time apart, exhaustion and turmoil that were coming, they didn’t say so.

“Marriage is the end of history on the personal scale,” as my friend Vineeta wryly puts it. I’d like to tell you about what comes after a wedding. About things deeply personal and yet deeply structural, about the comic and disturbing moments in queer family reproduction. I have things to say about things that have happened to me, but this little book won’t be an autobiography. It’s more like a meditation on closeness and its impossibility, which is to say, on motherhood. I’m not a bio mom, but I still struggle with those questions.

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