Here Come the Brides! is a new book edited by Audrey Bilger and Michele Kort, and published by Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Watch the trailer for the book below:
Below is an excerpt from the book - comedian and Cherry Bomb co-host Gloria Bigelow's essay titled "Another Word for Marriage":
It’s one of those moments when you wish you were not alone.
I was awakened from a disco nap with a text from my girlfriend that read, “They’re voting.” I rolled over and grabbed my computer to live-stream the vote for marriage equality in New York. I grabbed my trail mix, desperately needing something to chew on while votes were being counted.
As I ate an almond I wondered if I would soon be able to legally make the severity of mistakes my heterosexual friends have made. Would I,too, have the opportunity to feel the same joy on the day of my wedding, or the same anger as I sat across from my once-beloved-now-turned-nemesis in our divorce lawyer’s office?
About a month earlier, my lady and I were discussing marriage. It had been taken off the table for us once Proposition H8, as we like to call it, passed in California. She had said that she didn’t really want to marry unless it was legal. But with New York’s push for fairness at the front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s agenda, marriage was back on our table.
So there we were at Tiffany’s, looking at their conflict-free diamonds, being ignored by the people behind the counter while other heterosexual customers came in after us and were eagerly attended to.
As I was admiring, or drooling rather, over a beautiful Lucida cut set in platinum, I turned to my girlfriend and said, “Do you see a ring you would like?”
She smiled. “I get a ring, too?”
“Of course,” I said. “Everyone in this relationship gets an engagement ring.”
She smiled again. We waited for someone behind the counter to help us. No one offered. We walked out.
It dawned on me that the women behind the counter had no idea that we would be standing there for the same reason as the preppy guy in khakis, or the fifty-something couple who tried on the most beautiful two-karat Tiffany Soleste engagement ring. We were invisible.
I mentioned to my mother that my lady and I were considering premarital couples counseling. She screwed up her face and said, “Marriage? Marriage, Gloria!?! Is there anything else that you could call it?”
Or . . . a committed relationship in which we decide to live together based on love, common beliefs, and fidelity; in which we share our hopes, dreams, and lives; not much unlike the one you had with Daddy, or my brother has with my sister-in-law, but one that my own mother doesn’t think I deserve even if it would give me the same rights and privileges that she shared with Daddy for twenty-eight years. It seems a little wordy, but there may be something to it. Does she not see my relationship for what it is?
Marriage. At different points in my life I have found myself on either side of the issue. As a not-so “straight” women in my twenties, raging feminist that I was, I deplored the idea of marriage. It’s a societal construct . . . it’s obsolete . . 53 percent end in divorce . . . blah, blah, blah. You know, the patented manifesto that came along with my unshaven armpits and a well-worn copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves.
As a lesbian whose love has been discredited by everyone from my mother to the federal government, I’ve found many reasons to reject the idea of marriage entirely—in a sour-grapes kind of way. In the “I don’t really want to have full protection under the law,” or “Full protection, tax breaks, and being able to visit a partner in the hospital is for suckers and I don’t need it, I’m a postmodern queer bucking the system before it bucks me” kind of way.
But sometimes, when I’m quiet and feeling less like an anarchist, less like a radical, I ask myself: Why would anyone take the leap? Let’s just say you decide to get married. Never mind that you’re single, or it’s complicated, or we don’t have those rights—let’s just say none of that exists and you decide to get married. Why would anyone do it?
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A few months ago, I attended the most heterosexual, old-fashioned, anti-feminist, heteronormative, patriarchal, bible-thumping, disturbingly scary wedding that I’ve ever attended, complete with words like “two become one” and “obey.” I should have just tuned out when the hefty woman minister, who needed a retouch and a fresh eyebrow arch, started talking about marriages being ordained by God. But I didn’t, and this is what followed:
The minister told the groom that his job as a husband could be summed up with the three Ps—Protect, Provide, and Pray.
She then gave the wifely duties to my friend: the three Rs—Respect, Reject, and Rely.
This is when I started scratching and twitching uncontrollably. Nonetheless, the wedding continued, and then I heard the fateful, seal-the-deal words: “till death do you part.” Those continued to echo in my ears like I was standing at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Till death do you part . . . part . . . part . . . just relentless! I could throw those Ps and Rs right out the door, but the echo stayed with me.
As my crew and I are getting a little older, and we’ve all kind of made a collective decision not to be the “old lady at the club,” the idea of a “forever” or a “soulmate” or “for life” has been floating around. I can’t eat a bowl of hummus without some lesbian interrupting me with marriage chatter. I’ve heard:
—“I’m ready to settle down.”
—“I hope that she proposes soon.”
—“I can’t say forever, but I can say for a long time.”
—“We just have a kind of connection that seems timeless. We’re just connected.”
—“I’m looking for wifey!”
The other day, I was looking for some sex-me boots in Soho, and when I tried on a pair and turned to my friend to ask “Whadouyathink?” she responded, “They’re great. I’m thinking more about forever.”
To which I responded, “Forever? Girl, please, I’m too hard on shoes. I’ll be lucky if they make it past next fall! But I think they’re a good deal so, I’ll wear ’em through spring and bring ’em back around September.”
She looked at me blankly.
“‑Oh, you not talkin’ ’bout the boots? Shit! We’re back on this marriage thing again, eh?” Between the wedding I attended, my friend’s constant marriage chatter, and the impending vote for equality in New York, I’ve been feeling the pressure to revisit the idea of marriage and what that means to me.
In my youth, I could see no other way of living out my life than as prescribed by my family and society. In college, I had a boyfriend whom I was going to marry at twenty-three, download some kids with, and then live happily ever after. Can you imagine how unhappy that happily-ever-after would have been?
Imagine me and my gay ass waking up in the middle of the night, shaking and sweating after another “bad” lesbian sex dream. A lesbian married to a man, giving extra-long looks to women with short haircuts at the Home Depot while shopping for new fixtures to update that second-floor bathroom, all the while knowing that society dictated what was right, and I had swallowed the bitter pill, hook, line, and sinker.
That forever? Not so much!
I also remember planning a forever with a woman—a silly but somehow tasteful Harlem Renaissance–themed wedding, or a weekend wedding at Martha’s Vineyard in the fall. Yes, the Vineyard in the fall, jewel tones, 7 pm ceremony, and women in suits! “Yes!” I said!
But then the backlash of a breakup after a short-lived engagement, coupled with my knowledge of the societal construct and other unpleasantries about the institution, would have me suspicious, skeptical, and intentionally avoiding marriage—like a female, not-so-famous George Clooney. Marriage smarriage. They just wanna keep us women folk in line. Well, I’m not getting in no line! Unless it’s a line for some sex-me boots on sale in Soho.
My friend and I walked into a restaurant. Weary shoppers that we were, I hoped that her forever talk was a testament to her hunger and that it would be cured with a latte and dessert. But over the last shared bite of a warmed Mississippi mud pie, against all my better judgment, I found myself discussing marriage again.
My friend said, “Do you think that you can do forever?”
My mind searched for an answer. I thought: Are you kidding? I was engaged, for crying out loud, and how’d that work out for me? People die, you know. Where’s the forever in that, missy? You’d have better luck trying to give birth to a rabbit than making a forever, Gloria!
And then—like an emotional, romanticized, runaway freight train—my heart betrayed me. I burst out with, “I do want someone to walk with . . . in life. I want a witness: a day-to-day witness. I want someone to look forward with—not just to, but also with. I believe in a forever. I want to get and stay married.”
As soon as I said it, I knew it was who I was at the core. I knew it was my truth, and I could no longer hide it or pretend that I didn’t want it because of the fear of not having it, either because I was prevented by society . . . or by myself.
While sitting in Soho with a dear friend, I finally understood what all of the marching and picketing was for.
As the vote passed in New York, I sat stunned, silent.
I thought back to that minister and her “Ps” and “Rs,” and I came up with my own three “Cs” of what, beyond love, would make me say “till death do us part”:
Cheerleader—because we all can use encouragement. There is something so magical and fantastic about having someone who’s always on your team. I love the idea of saying, “It’s me and you against the world.” I could commit to being that for someone, and I would love to have someone be that for me.
Companionship—because even though I have a dog . . . and a cat . . . we all can use someone to go to the market with, ride a bike with, and sit in a rocking chair with when we’re too old or too disinterested in going to the club.
Commitment—because I believe in the intention of doing things, and there is something truly beautiful, idealistic, and highly romantic about having that intention and fighting like the dickens to keep it.
I called my mother.
“Equality passed, Mommy. If I’d like to, I can marry, and the government is behind me. So to your question of marriage and whether there is anything else that we call it? The answer is no: It’s Marriage, with a capital M. And I want it and deserve it.”