The Marrying Kind

Published on July 10, 2018 by   ·   No Comments

My ex-husband and I never should have gotten married.

Marry 02It was less than a year into our relationship and he was getting ready to move up to Grand Forks from Fargo so that we could be closer.  He seemed a little surprised when I told him he couldn’t just move in with me.  I told him that I wasn’t ready to live with someone I’d only been dating for a few months; sitting in a park with my friend Kim late at night, I told her the truth: I wasn’t sure this relationship was going to work out.  He didn’t have any strong goals or ambitions, we didn’t have all that much in common in terms of interests or entertainment, and though he was sweet and seemed to be smitten with me (or rather with my public drag persona, something that would come to cause a number of problems with our relationship down the road) I just didn’t feel like we connected on any deep level.

She told me that I should tell him, but I was scared.

The world isn’t very nice to fat people in general, and the gay community is 100 times worse.  Drag queens are great for a party, but the gay community also has a pretty troubled history with anyone who embodies or performs femininity.  I knew that I should probably do the brave thing and tell him that this just wasn’t the right fit, that he should stay in Fargo and I would see him at shows and we could become great friends, but there was a part of me that stoked my own insecurities, chided me for wanting to give up on this man who was willing to love me despite my size, despite my gender presentation.  I internalized all of the world’s prejudices and told myself that maybe I should just count myself lucky that I had found someone at all.

Marry 03That thinking robbed me of 6 more years of my life, and I have no one to blame but myself for not thinking that I deserved better.

I’m not going to rehash the whole breakdown of our relationship.  I’ve already worked my way through that in several blog posts, starting with “The Year of Firsts,” so I’ll let those posts speak for themselves.  I’ve also spent a little bit of time thinking about my own thoughts on marriage and whether or not I would ever get married again and what marriage equality means.  I thought I had worked through my history and my feelings about it from all the angles that really mattered, and had decided that maybe I just wasn’t the marrying kind.

Surprise.

I recently found out that my ex-husband is getting married again, and I’m surprised by how angry I’m feeling.

Let me start by saying it isn’t a jealousy thing, or some petty Lifetime Movie “I hope he dies alone” kind of mess.  I honestly don’t hold any strong resentments against him as a person.  The way he ended things was shitty, and I deserved better, but we both knew that things weren’t working for a long time and he was just the first one to finally find a way to make an exit.  And when I think about all of the ways that my life has grown and evolved and changed since my marriage ended, that hard break was exactly what I needed to get myself to a better place.

I’m angry because of the way he treated our marriage.

Love

We got married before the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, so our ceremony in Grand Forks wasn’t a legal marriage.  That was something he loved to joke about.  “Well, it’s not like we’re really married.”  It never felt like a joke to me, and it was a little stab every time he would say it.  We had talked a few times about going to Iowa or Winnipeg and making it legal, but when we sit down to actually make the plans he was always evasive.  I think he liked that it wasn’t a “real” marriage.  For him, it’s like standing up in front of our friends and family and saying vows was just another show, another performance, that didn’t carry any real meaning.

RingsBut even if I was doing it for the wrong reason, getting married to this man that I knew wasn’t right for me because I was scared no one ever would be, I took those vows seriously.  I stood in front of his father, that man who used to keep a civil tongue when I was around but would get his son alone and tell him that I was some sort of sin trap sent from the devil and when asked what he would like as an anniversary present replied , “For you to marry a woman,” and pledged to do my best to love him.  And I don’t know if I completely fulfilled that vow, but I took it seriously and I meant it and I tried to the point of almost losing myself.  I didn’t need a piece of paper or decree from some state agency.  The government piece is just a formality, a little bit of legal hoop-jumping that surrounds the piece that should matter: standing face to face with someone and making promises.

When I told my friend Angie that my ex was getting married again, her response was, “Huh.  Well, hopefully he takes it seriously this time.”

And that’s the source of my anger.  When you make a promise, you should mean it.

When I think of how many people fought for marriage equality, how many died before they got to see their relationships legally recognized, it makes me angry that someone could be so flippant about it, could treat a marriage as disposable just because we didn’t go through the process of reinforcing the ceremony with the paperwork.  I’m angry because I’m still so twisted up from that relationship that I’m not sure I ever want to get married again, and the person who caused that conflict is just jumping into it all over again, “for real” this time.  I’m struggling with what this means, how this can possibly be fair.  Marriage is a right, but it also feels like it should be a privilege, and when you so blatantly and thoughtlessly abuse that privilege, it should be lost.

Marry 01But that’s the thing about marriage equality – it isn’t just for those who deserve it.  It isn’t a privilege that has to be earned.  It means that queer folks get to be just as stupid and impulsive and reckless as straight folks.  It means that queer folks can have the same range of commitment available to straight folks from celebrating fifty-plus years of marriage to the quickie marriages (and even quickie-er divorces) of the likes of Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian.

I’m also angry because I feel like I’ve had to fight constantly to have my relationship recognized (I can’t tell you how many people, many of them very well-meaning, have asked me, “But it wasn’t, like, a legal marriage, right?” and the worst of them will substitute the word “legal” with the word “real”) and now I don’t know if this other guy even knows that his fiancé was married before.  Did he tell him about our wedding?  Or since it wasn’t “real” to him, maybe he never mentioned anything at all?  I don’t have any idea what they’ve talked about, and my rational mind knows that I don’t have any right to know, but there’s that part of me still fighting to legitimize a relationship that ended almost 7 years ago.  There’s a part of me that feels like something else is being taken away from me, and it’s stupid and it’s sad to even care about it but a part of me needs my marriage to be “real.”  I need it to have mattered.

Because if it doesn’t matter, if things can just be dismissed and wiped away, then all I’m left with is just more crushing regret that I didn’t do the brave thing that summer night in Sherlock Park with my friend Kim, that I wasted 6 years of my life with a man who bought me a ring, asked me to marry him, stood in front of me and made vows, and then forgot about everything as if it never happened.

What could I have done in those 6 years?  Who would I be today if I had done the brave thing?

Deep down, at the heart of it, that’s what I’m really angry about.  I don’t care that he’s getting married; it’s an ugly world out there kids, grab whatever love you can find to help get you through.  No, what I’m angry about – no, not just angry, but furious, livid, enraged – is that I didn’t love myself enough not to settle for someone who could never love me the way I needed to be loved, the way I deserved to be loved, because I was worried that no one else ever would.

I have to stop fighting.  My marriage mattered to me, it was real to me, and that is the truth.

All I can do is keep moving, and hope that next time I’ll be braver.

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