Now that the election is over ‚Äì oh, my God, more on that another time ‚Äì I can get back to thinking about marriage in New Jersey. The New Jersey supreme court left us hanging. No reason to deny us legal union, they ruled. But what should our unions be called? The New Jersey legislature gets to fight that out.
Well, I‚Äôm nothing if not civic, so I consulted my inner pollster. What word would get our positives up and our negatives down? I wanted a word for marriage that was values neutral. Perhaps something from a food group ‚Äì Cinnabon? Everyone loves Cinnabon! Something that represented our conflicted feelings on marriage ‚Äì those who can, care less; those who can‚Äôt, care more.
Here‚Äôs what I realized. Our enemies are right: There is no other word for marriage. So let‚Äôs keep the word, but put it in quotes to represent all our ambivalences. From now on, I think it should be mandatory to do those double pumped, bunny-ears with your fingers in the air every time you say the m-word or any of its variants. We got ‚Äúmarried‚Äù. She asked me to ‚Äúmarry‚Äù her. If you don‚Äôt, it‚Äôs a felony punishable by reading Mary Cheney‚Äôs book.
Whatever you call it, Oprah won‚Äôt do it. After she established her ‚Äújust friends‚Äù cred with Gayle, for the tedious nth time, Oprah felt confident enough to do a show on lesbians coming out of ‚Äúmarriage‚Äù to men. Apparently, these women were so pretty, people complained that they could not have been lesbians. One of my favorite lesbophobic tropes. Listen, after what happened to Oprah with James Frey, I am sure each lesbianic background was completely fact-checked. And I‚Äôd like that job.
Despite Oprah‚Äôs breathless ratings driven attention to this phenomena, it‚Äôs really quite old and ordinary. Like me. In the early 1980‚Äôs I was performing in Ohio, and staying in community housing. Unlike other more marginal, earnest, crunchy granola billeting, this was a solid, upper-middle class suburban house in a very straight neighborhood far from the homo-heights gay section of town. One of the women had been ‚Äúmarried‚Äù to a man and had gotten the house in the divorce. After some wine, over an unapologetically meaty, wheat-laden meal, she regaled us with stories of the neighborhood.
Imagine the voiceover for Wisteria Lane as a very randy, mischievous lesbian. Talk about desperate housewives. The women got the children off to school, hung out at one of their pools, paired off, and were back before everyone came home. Things were especially busy on warm summer nights ‚Äì they had an elaborate system of lights to indicate when someone was available. This was years before Melissa Etheridge sang, ‚ÄúCome to my Window.‚Äù My new friend said that on a family trip to the Magic Kingdom one of the women had shagged the girl in the Peter Pan costume.
When you realize that even same old sex ‚Äúmarriage‚Äù is really a secret gateway to lesbianism, you begin to see the Right‚Äôs paranoia. No wonder they call Ohio a battleground state.