Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Life More Ordinary: Blogging Against Proposition 8

I've only ever lived with one romantic partner in my life, but I've been married twice. Once in a big, celebratory ceremony on the beach in 1998, in front of almost a hundred friends and relations, in a ceremony that the Renaissance Woman and I wrote ourselves; and the second time, five years later to the day, on a different beach, in front of exactly eight guests (not counting the picnickers and rollerbladers all around us), with brief boilerplate state-issued vows, in front of a Marriage Commissioner we'd never met before.

The first ceremony, in legal terms, meant nothing. The second also meant nothing legally as soon as we got home to Seattle, but made us next of kin according to all authorities just a couple of hours' drive to the North.

We used to joke about it, or sort of joke, whenever we drove up to Vancouver to visit friends. "We're married now!" We'd cry, after crossing through Customs and handing over all our papers and the Mermaid Girl's birth certificate with both our names on it. And then, on the way home, as we passed the Peace Arch: "Not married any more! Hey, girlfriend!"

It wasn't that funny, though, to tell the truth.

One of RW's relatives, older than us, an established doctor with a great house in the San Francisco Bay area, flew to Niagra Falls with her partner, a lawyer, to get married at around the same time we did. They were so inspired by the ceremony that they up and moved to Canada a few months later. They live in the Okanagan now, in a house surrounded by vineyards.

Four years after our Vancouver wedding, we also moved to Canada. Now we're married all the time.

The prospect of legal marriage wasn't the only reason or even the main reason that we emigrated, but we've both been surprised at the depth of the difference we feel. It's a difference that makes it possible for me to shrug off the opinions of sweet old ladies on the street and even, to some extent, the prejudices of my child's teacher, because-- and here's the part I didn't think about much-- here, we are not different. We're not special, we're not the subject of battles over court decisions and legislative changes. We don't have to go to lawyers to make special arrangements and get special papers written up. We don't have to qualify anything when insurance companies and mortgage brokers and doctors ask for our marital status. We're married, period. The law is on our side.

Let me repeat that: the law is on our side.

This is a new concept for me, and not one I'd given much consideration before our move. After all, in Seattle we lived in a liberal bubble of tolerance and acceptance, taking for granted that under almost all circumstances-- except legal ones-- we'd be treated the same as our straight friends and neighbors. And just about always, we were.

But a bubble is just what it was. Underneath it all, recognition of our relationship was based on nothing but the good graces of our friends and relations. And while those good graces were pleasant and much appreciated, they still left us hugely vulnerable in the face of all the vicissitudes and disasters that could happen to any family. We were lucky that none of those happened to us. And we took for granted that dependence on luck and good grace, and the slight anxiety it brought with it.

Now, we don't have that any more. It's not just that we consider ourselves married, and our families consider us married, and our friends and neighbors and bosses and dentists consider us married: now, the Province of British Columbia and the Nation of Canada consider us married, too. And that has made all the difference.

Let me tell you about something that happened a couple of days before our wedding:

In Canada, you don't go to City Hall to register for a marriage license, you go to a big drugstore and wait in line with the people who are getting their auto insurance renewed, all the while shopper push past you in their search for Q-tips and deodorant and hairbrushes.

And so, a few days before our legal marriage ceremony on the beach in Vancouver, the Renaissance Woman and I found ourselves at a booth in London Drugs, with our passports in hand. The clerk who processed our paperwork was a bored-looking middle-aged guy whose first language wasn't English (not unusual in a city of immigrants). We filled our the required papers and passed them back to him, along with the payment, and he took them with barely a glance at us.

This was back in 2o03, and same-sex marriage hadn't been legal for very long in British Columbia, and we were anxious and wanted to make sure the papers were done right, so they wouldn't be invalidated in some unforseen way. So we pressed the point.

"We're both women," we explained carefully, ready for shock or disapproval or at least the need to fill out a whole other set of special forms. "We're getting married to each other."

"Yeah, yeah, okay," he nodded, filing and stamping and perforating and barely stifling a yawn. "Lots of people doing this. You sign here."

His shrugging matter-of-factness, the face of the machinery of bureaucracy chugging along on our behalf, was as sweet as wedding bells, as satisfying as the New York Times wedding announcement I'd wangled, as celebratory as the flowers MG tossed enthusiastically at the ceremony that weekend. It was the story we ended up telling over and over, in wonderment, after the ceremony. And it was one big reason that we packed up and moved four years later, and that we live here now.

I might live in Canada, but I'm still an American. I want everyone in my home country to have the chance at what I have now: an ordinary, boring, un-notable married life with the person I love. I'm seeing a chance of that, or at least a step towards it, in California. And like so many people, I'm e-mailing and reading and donating and watching and worrying about the prospects of Proposition 8: if it passes, that hope is so much further away.

And if not, if same-sex marriage stays legal in California, it's at least a bit closer.

August 30, 2003: The Mermaid Girl, held by Uncle Skaterboy, during our legal wedding ceremony, on the beach at English Bay.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Joys of Homeownership, Continued

I just called the contractor for the handyguy/electrician/pseudo-plumber, and said don't send him back, he's been back 4 times and still hasn't fixed everything he broke in the first two visits, plus he's always defensive about it. Send someone else to fix the chips in the drywall and the stain in the basement, I can wait till next week, and send me the bill for any materials outstanding. Just don't send that guy again. Also, please send someone to check on the electrical panel he installed because based on his other work I want a second opinion on that.

And you know what?! The contractor/manager didn't apologize either, and started telling me all about how this guy really does know about plumbing, etc. etc. And do I have some problem with the electrical panel? because Guy is a licensed electrician blah blah blah defensivecakes. They will send someone sometime soon, will have to call me to schedule. But for godsakes!

Here is what I did not hear:

"We at The Contracting Place are so sorry that this happened to you. This isn't the standard we expect of our employees. Of course we'll send someone else to fix it."

Now I'm worred the Electrician Guy is going to come back and yell at me and tell me how ungrateful I am when he came back 4 times even over Thanksgiving weekend (to fix the urgent bath/shower leak he caused) and when he had the flu (to fix the lighting fixture that he broke). Also, I'm worried we'll never find a decent and professional hope-repair person, or contracting company, if this is how the *manager* responded.

Sheesh. I was going to write all about world events and the election and Proposition 8. But all I can think about is the Jerky Electrician Guy.

I know we're really lucky. We love this house. It's a great place. etc.

But right now I have a stomachache.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Does anyone in the Vancouver/Burnaby/Mizzle area have any recommendations for electricians, plumbers, general handymen, that kind of thing?

Like, someone who won't, when changing a bathtub faucet, leave it in such a way that when you take a shower afterwards water leaks down to the basement suite and stains the wall and pools underneath the dryer? Over a long weekend?

I thank you in advance.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What I Was Doing While I Wasn't Posting

Editing this!

Here, wait, let me see if I can embed... Aha!

Tell your friends! Read Arwen's Original Post which inspired the whole thing! Will write more soon! Going to work! Also I've used up my quota of exclamation marks!

Oh, wait, here are some more: