Growing up with marriage (in)equality

It’s not often I take long walks into my past. That’s not because I have a dark past. I like to think I was a very lucky kid. Yea, I got picked on and bullied in Elementary School. But who didn’t? You got picked on for being overweight, too tall, too nerdy, too socially awkward, too feminine (for guys), too masculine (for girls). It seemed there was always *something* bullies could pick to beat you over the head with. But this isn’t about that. I guess I just find myself so busy these days trying to balance school, work, volunteer work and a wonderful relationship that I don’t reminisce very often anymore. I don’t know if other people do very often, but I assume they do. We all like to think back at what has been and compare it to what it has become. Well lately, I’ve been thinking about the past a lot more. Most of my close friends know my past. I’ve never been one to hide anything about myself. I figure we all have equal moments of genius and stupidity in our lives. We all have our gold stars and blemishes on our life report card. What spurred me to think about my past wasn’t any blemishes, or even successes, so much as a realization of just how much my life has changed in so many positive ways that I couldn’t have possibly imagined when I was a short, emotional, naive young boy. But the reality is that my life could change a lot more depending on what happens in this state on November 6. No, I won’t be rushing out to get married right away; and I’m not sure when that day will come… I haven’t quite thought that far ahead to be honest. But the possibility of being able to legally marry someone I truly, deeply love is something I never dreamed of.

As children often do, I dreamed a lot. Perhaps I dreamed more than the average person my age, I don’t know. I was the “artistic one”. So maybe that had something to do with my wild imagination. Instead of playing sports, I would often sit down at the dinner table and sketch my little heart out. I won’t lie, I was pretty good at it. I envisioned a future as an artist… Or at least some sort of famous entertainer. We all did right? I’d imagine my drawings hanging in an art exhibit and how everyone would just rant and rave about the work their eyes were feasting upon. Even when I played, I’d dream I was in a different universe. My dinosaur toys were alive. The pillows were mountains. The extension cords were river and moats. The rocks I carried around were boulders. I don’t consider much of this out of the ordinary per se. A lot of kids joined me in my games. And we all used to believe we were little Da Vinci’s running around waiting for our talent to be unleashed on the world. But there was something a little out of place (more on that later).

I didn’t stop dreaming beyond my Pre-teen years. We often get crushed by the weight of reality and social pressure when we enter junior high. It’s all science and math and reading boring novels that you’re not sure why they’re called “classics”. We stop hearing that “reach for the stars” refrain and start hearing that certain people need to be flipping burgers at McDonalds and you don’t want to be them so make sure to finish that Algebra assignment. I resisted, as teenagers sometimes do. I took up writing. Drawing and painting fell on the back burner a bit. I still enjoyed them, but I found myself enthralled with screenplays. You see, when I was young I became a movie geek. I’m not sure if it was the cheesy 50’s B Scifi films like “Praying Mantis” or “Attack of the Killer Leaches” that reeled me in to this fantastic world, or if it was the classics of cinema like “Frankenstein” or “Casablanca”. Either way, I was enchanted. I couldn’t get enough. And so, the logical thing to do was to dream of being a screen writer. I didn’t want to direct. Directing was for people who wanted control. I didn’t want control. I wanted unbridled creativity. I would write away, for years and years, every day. I could write as much as 30-40 pages in one 3 hour sitting, or as little as one sentence in an entire day. Anyone who’s ever written more than a paper for school knows that the writing process can often be rewarding and immensely frustrating all at once. I dreamed that all this work, all these words, would someday make it on screen as images for the masses to watch as they grabbed a handful of popcorn. I would sit in the theater with them and see the joy on their faces. This was my creation, bringing a smile to people’s face for two hours.

That brings us to my reminiscing (I told you we’d be coming to it later didn’t I?). I bumped into a big box of my screenplays when I moved. I hadn’t looked at them in probably two or more years. There was so much paper. Enough to fill a U-Haul box in fact. I started to pour over them. I didn’t even remember what a lot of them were about. Some were horror, some were action, some were drama… all the genres were there except romantic dramas and comedies. As I read more and more, I noticed something. I noticed that ever single one of my main characters was alone. Every. Single. One. They were usually men, because as they say, you write what you know. But what struck me wasn’t their gender, it was that they didn’t have a wife, a husband, a boyfriend or a girlfriend. None of them. Most of them didn’t even have a romantic interest in the story. I kept getting stuck on this as I read them. I thought, “Every movie has a love story”. But none of mine did. This bugged me. I couldn’t put my finger on why all my characters were alone. i kept thinking, “If art is a window into someone’s soul, what does this window say about mine?” Then I realized something… the thing that was different in my childhood that led to me to write about lonely, isolated characters: I only knew being alone, and I never dreamed of being anything other than alone. I never dreamed of grand weddings and love and commitment. It all seemed so foreign to me.

In our society, we often hear young girls (especially) talk about how they’ve always dreamed of the moment when they would meet their Prince Charming; about how they’ve always dreamed of a white flowing dress in a stained glass Cathedral; about how their family would be sitting in the pews, smiles and tears of joy running down their face; about how in that moment where they and their Prince say I do, everything would be so perfect. I never got that experience. Many in my community never got that experience. We couldn’t dream of finding “the one”. We couldn’t dream of an opulent wedding with close family and friends. We couldn’t dream of love and commitment; not like everyone else. I certainly couldn’t. I guess I was writing what I knew; living a life in isolation, cut off from a part of me that I wanted to escape but couldn’t.

I tell you this not because I feel as though I still cannot dream about these things, but because I *can*. The chance to see the state of my birth become the next state where the people like me could have the freedom to marry the person they love is making it easier for me to dream. Who will be at my wedding? What song will be playing as I walk down the aisle? What will I be wearing? Will it take place in a grand cathedral? Will my heart flutter and my stomach get butterflies when I see him in that suit? Will I have to hold back the tears as I read my vows? As we both say I do, will everything seem so perfect?

I hope that I’ll be able to give you an answer to all of these questions some day. But until then, please remember that marriage inequality doesn’t just hurt and scar those of us who made our journey into adulthood. It hurts and scars all of us. It cuts across ages, genders, social class and racial boundaries. It tells people like me, since I was young, that I should reach for the stars… just not the ones too high up. I don’t know about you, but thats not a dream I want to live in.