About 14 or 15 years ago my mother had a goal to see me graduate from high school. At the time, I was a freshman and she was slowly dying. Today that seems like a tacit admission of ignominious death. Had she lived a little longer, I suppose the next goal would have been to see me get married.
She and I never had a conversation about love. It wasn’t really discussed in our house or in any of my circles. That probably has an overbearing impact on who I am today.
One of the greatest unknowns in my life is whether she recognized, knew, or suspected that I am gay.
For heterosexual people (I dislike the term “straight”, as it implies I’m somehow bent, curved, or crooked) this isn’t much to think about. For me and I suspect many gay men and women today, it’s a potentially life-altering admission that isn’t always for the better.
My father, for all the good things he did for us growing up to provide for us, work in incredibly hard conditions, and be a generally very good person, once blatantly said, “I wouldn’t want one of them living in my house”. This was regarding a suspicion that I might be gay. I denied it. It wasn’t worth fighting. We haven’t spoken in the last two-going-on-three years. I suspect to most of my remaining family I am either living somewhere far away or possibly dead.
I got married Saturday. My family wasn’t there. And, in retrospect, nor were many of the people I’d consider a friend. I found it difficult to send many people an invitation assuming they wouldn’t really want to come. It forced me to think about who I would call in an emergency. Who would agree to spend a Friday night out at dinner. Who would want to travel somewhere. That list is incredibly small for me. It was bittersweet, but it was the one thing I worried about the most was the rejection of attendance.
Which is rich coming from me. I never liked weddings. I spent years avoiding them or just flat out ignoring them. There was nothing about them that sat well with me. It was illegal, unobtainable, and a social situation I generally do not fare well in. It’s no one’s fault but my own. So it goes.
But Saturday there was a single chair in the front of a relatively small crowd that contained a single red rose. It was mom’s favorite flower and the one we draped her casket with. I’m not generally one for symbolism, but this seemed fitting, and Jeremiah also wanted to recognize the absences of some of his family. Thanks to Heather for bringing a single fresh flower Saturday afternoon.
A Year of Planning
About a year ago at the end of this month I asked Jeremiah to marry me. It was out of a pumpkin delivered by a team of people at the Aristocrat pub. I’m sure I will spend years wondering why he said yes.
It took us a year and despite my constant tremors at spending an unholy amount of money, it came together. Jeremiah is truly fortunate to have a large group of friends and family that dropped everything and collected every dollar they could to fly out here from Connecticut and elsewhere. It’s not lost on me that he left a lot to come here to Indiana where I’m much more comfortable.
And I’m glad that despite the obvious tilt in attendance per side, that the people who came for me were there. We spent a lot of time trying to ensure everyone was comfortable and enjoyed their time, and I hope they did.
Jeremiah’s vows to me were touching and heartfelt and I’m surely extremely fortunate to have someone who loves me in such subtle and obvious ways.
Below were the vows I wrote for him and presented Saturday. Judging by more than a few tears, they apparently touched on something.
This is an experience I did not imagine would happen. For a very long time it seemed impossible that I would ever stand somewhere here today. Not because I didn’t want to, but because far too many forces were pushing against me. Truth be told, I’ve only ever attended three weddings in my life, one of which was when I was a child. I’ve even made some effort to avoid going to weddings, of which I’m somewhat saddened by now.
But today I want to share three things with you. The first will give you some insight into my morning routine.
Every morning I put on my bike gear, snap on my cycling shoes, plug in my iPhone earbuds, and quietly tell Jeremiah to have a good day. Then I quietly walk out, give the dog a quick rub on his head, and get on my bike.
On the way to work I have 30 minutes of exercise to clear my mind and prepare for the day.
As soon as I get to my office I take my bike upstairs, grab my towel and a change of clothes, and head down to take a shower.
I say all this because there’s a process that extends beyond what Jeremiah sees every morning.
Because once I’m ready to shower, my ring comes off last. And when I get out of the shower, it’s the first thing that comes back on.
It’s a sharp change for me.
The second thing I want to share with you is when I knew something extraordinary was likely to be different about Jeremiah. It was on a cold day in Connecticut in September 2013.
We were sitting on that ridiculously large couch in your mostly empty apartment. You were talking about money.
I less than half-heartedly mentioned I knew a place “where you could live practically for free”. You sincerely entertained the idea of moving here to Indy.
And at some point a few weeks later when we left after dark in a big, rambling, moving truck, I thought, “Well. I guess this is a thing that’s happening.”
Which brings us to today, standing here before our closest friends and the third thing I want to share with you all: my vows to Jeremiah.
You took something of a vow that day when you reserved that moving truck.
You vowed with your actions to break through any pre-conceived notions about me and sought to understand and be with me. And I vow the same for you.
You vowed to let go of selfish feelings, attachment, and fear. And I vow to let go of selfish feelings, attachment, and fear. So that we can move forward together in everything.
I vow to be compassionate and to refrain from speaking harshly or deceptively about you or toward you.
And I vow to encourage you to be healthy, mindful, and, to do what is best now and in the future.
This becomes the new routine, but it extends beyond just every morning. It’s the new routine for every day. And it starts now.
3 thoughts on “Marriage”
I am so happy for you Justin. You deserve all the happiness in the world and I’m so proud to call you my friend. Getting to know you over the years, I quickly came to realize just how wonderful of a person you were. I knew that one day you’d meet someone who saw what I saw and would take your hand in marriage. I’m thrilled that you get to spend the rest of your life with your best friend and soulmate. Congrats!
Justin, I’m so happy for you and Jeremiah. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your thoughts in such an open and touching way. It’s a courageous way to be and to live, and perfectly matches up to my earliest impression of you. Wishing you and Jeremiah the best! Please stop by my studio any time. I enjoyed very much having you both in my creative space. Best best wishes!
Congratulations, Justin! So very happy for you! I would have gladly attended your wedding and be a part of your joyous day. I wish you all the best and many many happy moments and years with Jeremiah.