Vancouver
4 min

Something old, something new

Why can't you just get a Unitarian to marry you?

I was never one of those little girls who dreamed of my wedding day. The lacy white gown, the flower girls, the handsome groom, the silver embossed napkins, I knew at a very early age that none of it was for me.

I come from a large and unusually fertile Catholic family, so there were a lot of weddings to attend. The ladies would get their hair done and buy new dresses and the men would squeeze themselves into their good blue suits and dusty dress shoes.

My Uncle Dave used to be a biker prior to becoming a priest, and before he got up to lead the ceremony he would yank down the sleeves of his robe to hide the faded tattoos on his forearms, so he wouldn’t ruin the photos or alarm the new in-laws.

My Uncle John was always the bartender and, once the reception was in full swing and no one was looking, he would slip a quick shot of rum into your Coke if you swore not to blab to anyone or puke on yourself.

Weddings were fun, but I never wished I was the blushing bride. I wasn’t even cut out to be a flower girl, and everyone knew it. I ducked when the bride threw her bouquet, so it could be caught by someone who wanted it.

I liked the cocktail wieners and the Jell-O salad. I enjoyed watching my uncles get drunk enough to dance or hug or arm-wrestle each other, but the love and marriage part never impressed me.

The subject of marriage never came up during the half-hearted heterosexual phase of my life, and the girl I finally kissed in my first year of college couldn’t pry her closet door open wide enough to tell her best friend the truth about me.

My next girlfriend was a long-winded socialist, who informed me that the institution of marriage was a capitalist invention, designed to oppress women and protect the property and profit of the ruling class. Marriage had nothing to do with love, and everything to do with power, she told me. I was 19, and she was 40, so I believed her.

Then I met a black-haired anarchist at a squatters’ rights potluck, and really fell in love for the first time. She worked in an organic food warehouse; I was a landscaper and part-time pool cleaner. We were too busy photocopying manifestos and taking back the night and freeing Mumia Abu Jamal to talk about long-term commitment anyway.

Besides, everybody knew that marriage was a sexist tool of the patriarchal state, and monogamy was a counter-revolutionary construct used by organized religion to regulate human sexuality.

It is almost impossible for me to believe that 20 years have passed since I kissed my first girl. That we somehow found each other and flirted and fucked without e-mail or cell phones, or even voice mail. Back then I wouldn’t have believed I would one day be saving up for high-quality cookware and dreaming of my very own mortgage. I also never imagined that my writing would pay the bills.

Who could have known that 20 years later I would propose to my live-in life partner in a Ford Taurus station wagon while we were stuck in traffic on our way back from getting the Pomeranian groomed, and that both of us would find this romantic.

I knew she was the one, right from the get-go. It’s like that for us, we fit perfectly, her and I, and it only made sense. She likes the over-cooked brownish potato chips, and I don’t, so I save them for her. She likes the outside slice from the roast beef, and the crusty end piece from the loaf of gluten-free rice and flax seed bread. Not to mention she didn’t dump me when we found out I have Celiac disease and it’s all my fault we have to eat stuff like gluten-free rice and flax seed bread.

I thought we had the usual ‘who would we get to do the honours’ conundrum already sorted out, on account of my Uncle Father Dave and all. He has married everyone who is anyone in my family. Why shop it out to a stranger?

Last week the good father himself was in town to have the battery in his pacemaker replaced and naturally we took him out for dim sum and asked if we could book him in advance, so as to avoid the summer rush.

Imagine our shock and dismay when he shook his head sadly and lowered his pork dumpling long enough to inform us that he was already in enough trouble with the bishop as it was, and he would be unable to marry any homosexuals, even his own flesh and blood niece, at least until the storm around his most recent religious infraction had time to blow over.

Apparently last month he had gone against Catholic doctrines and married a couple who both had MS, even though he was well aware that they could not procreate. Needless to say he was in no position to risk another holy scolding.

I never dreamed I would one day find myself carefully drafting a stern letter to the Pope himself. I would never have imagined there would come a day when I just wanted a good old-fashioned church wedding, just like the ones my mother dragged me to when I was a kid.

My younger cousins say they don’t get what the big deal is, why can’t we just get the Unitarians to do it for us, or maybe just hire a pagan or a Wiccan priestess or a ship’s captain or something? What’s the difference, they say, a wedding’s a wedding, isn’t it?

But they’re too young to remember the Jell-O salads, and the fistfights, and the rock ‘n’ roll-related lower back injuries, and they’re too old to need their favourite uncle to slip rum into their sodas. Kids these days.