Monday 15 July 2013

Great! More weddings!

As of an hour ago, Stonewall declared victory via its Twitter account on the passage of the Equal Marriage Bill in third reading in the House of Lords. It seems the Bill passed with only minor amendments so that its adoption by the House of Commons followed by the granting of Royal Assent is supposedly but a formality. "You may now put a ring on it", Stonewall tweets excitedly and posts pictures of celebrating supporters and Peers.

There is no denying that an equal right to get married (well as equal as this Bill allows it to get) is a monumental achievement given that it is happening in the lifetime of people whose relationships were criminalised only a few short decades ago. The move is also to be welcomed as it will hopefully end the months-long media hysteria over gay relationships, comparing them with sodomy and the reintroduction of slavery, warning of parents marrying their children and painting pictures of lesbian queens using sperm donors to whom they are not married.

However, as someone who suffers from a severe wedding allergy herself, Matron felt slightly better represented by a tweet by fellow marriage Grinch Jack of Kent who publicly sighed on Twitter, "Great. More weddings". So, for all those who not only celebrate today's outcome, but who are now starting to make preparations for the big day, here's Matron's Top 5 wish list of things to consider before you tie the knot. Remember, with great power, comes great responsibility!

1. Read the small print

The beauty of NOT being able to get married was that gays and lesbians actually had to think about the rights, responsibilities and financial arrangements that make up part of every relationship. Marriage, on the other hand, is a package deal. Unless you take the time to figure out what it is that you are signing up to, maybe you should put off shopping for that meringue. Just turn over the page and start reading. For all the misty-eyed romanticism, marriage is a contract after all. Matron would like to echo said Jack of Kent's call that each party to a marriage should ideally be represented by a lawyer. You wouldn't buy a house without consulting one, why would you get married without speaking to one?

2. Beware the consequences (and think about them now)

Matron, who has been happily in lurve with the same Mrs Matron for nigh on 20 years, has looked at the marriage (well, civil partnership) contract many a time and every time the answer was thanks, but no thanks. Why? For one reason and one reason only, she doesn't ever want to put herself through the trauma of going through a divorce. Well, that's up to her, people will say. Continue on the road to lifelong monogamy and it will never happen, marriage certificate or not. But while that is kind of the plan, in real life, stuff happens. And if the proverbial should ever hit the fan on the domestic bliss front, the emotional fallout will be pretty dire in any event. In Matron's view, there is only one thing that could be worse than having to reassemble your life and retrain as a single woman after years of coupledom and that would be to have to do so under the beady eye of a judge with the power to decide on who keeps the marital home, the cats and the car. As a lesbian couple, the Mrss. Matrons are used to (and capable of) deciding these things for themselves and the application of heterosexual gender normative rules on their relationship, should the worst happen, is at best undesirable, at worst nothing short of Matron's worst nightmare. Katherine Franke's excellent article on the potential for gendering gay divorce should give every trigger-happy gay couple pause for thought.

3. You don't have to do every stupid thing that heterosexual couples do just because you (now) can

Although 90% of Matron's friends responded with kindness and understanding to her medical condition - acute rash and dangerous increase in blood pressure at the thought of having to spend an entire day in the company of people she mostly doesn't know and usually has little in common with - by having small, close-family-only weddings or by not inviting her, Mrs Matron's friends, colleagues and family have mostly not been this considerate. Over the years she has therefore attended her fair share of weddings, got annoyed at pious priests, waited for food to be served before the entire party was too drunk to enjoy it (honestly, a "wedding breakfast" at 4pm? What is that all about?), danced to the most appalling, as well as some quite good, wedding bands, and spend what would probably amount to the cost of a round-the-world trip on dresses and shoes that will hardly ever be worn twice. But the by far worst wedding she ever attended was a gay wedding where the heterosexual format was repeated to the nth degree with almost military precision. Why, oh why, when the whole world of gay alternative entertainment is at your disposal would you try to recreate something that successive generations of feminists and academic scholars have already exposed as sexist, hetero normativist and - lets not forget - BORING AS HELL! Drunken hen parties in slutty outfits at Burlesque Clubs? Sorry, Matron will be washing her hair. A lesbian/gay to straight ratio of 1:10? Big fail! Two proud daddies walking two little girlies in princess dresses down the aisle? Pass the bucket. Come on boys and girls, is that really what we are about now? Show some creativity and bring a little of your real life into this shindig. The best lesbian wedding Matron ever attended took place - unsurprisingly - in Hebden Bridge. Two brides lazily strolling towards the registrar hand in hand. The register signed to the self-deprecating sounds of "Signed, sealed, delivered". A wedding buffet, largely made up of dishes contributed by the assembled friends and family, that catered for every possible dietary need a self-absorbed, navel gazing community can come up with. Do whatever you want, but please don't do it just because the book on wedding planning (£9.99 at WH Smith) says you must. There, fixed that for you.

4. Maybe we can even teach straight couples a thing or two

If anyone asks why she prefers being a lesbian to being straight (been there, done that, shredded the t-shirt), Matron always answers that it is the freedom of the partners to a lesbian/gay relationship to decide for themselves which roles to adopt, which parts to play, which household chores to take on and generally how to organise their life without everything they do being viewed through the prism of whether it complies or rebels against society's view of what a man/woman's role in marriage should be. Matron likes DIY and power tools, knitting, cross-stitch, woodwork, reading and cleaning the bathroom. She doesn't mind ironing but hates hoovering. Brushing the cats is lovely, cleaning the litter tray is a chore. She likes cooking, but Mrs Matron likes it more (and is better at it), so why bother? She mows the lawn and takes care of the flowers while Mrs Matron is responsible for the vegetable garden. With the exception of the tomato plants that have historically been Matron's domain.

How did these arrangements come into being? Through almost two decades of discussions, domestic arguments, trial and errors, and general convenience until each did the things she liked best and minded least with the things that both loved and hated shared equally. And at no point was there ever any expectation that one person would "naturally" do one thing but not another. Did it take time and energy to negotiate? Yes! Is it liberating? Very much so. But don't take Matron's word for it, people have done research on this. Read about it in this delightful article in the Atlantic.

5. Don't force your friends to attend

For the record, Matron will NEVER EVER be offended by someone NOT inviting her to their wedding. Scout's honour, pinky swear, hope to die. Being hard pressed to enjoy the idea of spending a day with her own extended family, the family of others offers no additional attraction. Yes, it's your day and you want to share it with people you love. But do you really want to share it with people who most likely hate every minute of it? The fact that they don't want to come to your wedding doesn't mean they don't love you. They do. They are happy for you and even those who have a slight political problem with the institution of marriage will usually not point this out too often (unless you go into bridezilla overdrive, in which case all's fair in love and war!). But they would probably prefer to spend an evening alone with the two of you over a glass of wine afterwards and get the whole thing second-hand. If they are good friends, they won't stop talking to you because you decided to get married (well, mostly they won't). Be a dear and return the favour.

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