Every once in a while someone will ask if I’m married. Like, oh I don’t know, a nurse. Or a hairdresser.
I tell them I am, but that it’s not legal. I’ve been saying this since Jill and I exchanged rings in a not-legal ceremony eight years ago.
Last week I was home visiting family. My dad and I went up north to visit my aunt who recently moved to a nursing home because she kept falling and forgetting where she was and when to take her medicine.
My parents arranged for one of my aunt’s friends to do her laundry and run simple errands. It’s a nice way to make sure my aunt’s laundry is pressed (even, as I witnessed, the sweatshirts) and that she has a regular visitor. Her friend was there the morning of my visit. She asked if I was married.
I paused. To say I was, and that it wasn’t legal, suddenly seemed too confusing for someone pushing 80. So I said I had a partner.
Oh, you have a partner, she said. And then we talked about my kids.
I was replaying this exchange on the drive back when suddenly it dawned on me. “Wait. I am married.” I said it out loud. To my dad, I guess, but mostly to myself. I had forgotten.
In May, Jill and I were married in Connecticut. Legally. It was part of “Operation Adopt Gus” where we had to establish some sort of legal relationship before proceeding with the other paperwork for second-parent adoption in the state of New Jersey.
I didn’t want to get married. I mean, yes, I wanted to get married, but not because I had to. And certainly not if it wasn’t followed by dancing and a whole lot of celebratory drinks. And, most importantly, not if it wasn’t recognized in the state where we live.
We did it anyway. Mostly because it turned out to be a lot easier than getting a civil union. At first it felt like a marriage of inconvenience. And maybe, in some ways, it still does. In my fantasies the day it became really, really legal my celebration would be a loud one.
But you know what? When you have two kids everything is kind of loud already. So our ceremony was just me, Jill, our two boys, the Justice of the Peace, a photographer, and the pouring rain. I was surprised. I was surprised by how beautiful it was. I was surprised that I cried. I was moved. It was the two of us committing to each other and our family; no pomp, no circumstances. And it was followed by a real government document holding us to our promises.
But I guess I still don’t feel married enough to think to tell people I’m married. When I reminded my dad and myself of my marital status, my dad said something about how my “partner” response was fine. Not to worry. That sometimes it’s just too confusing to explain, especially when explaining it to people who might just be confused to begin with.
At first I agreed. It is confusing. It’s really confusing. I’m married here, I’m not married there, my marriage is recognized here, and oh yes, in case you don’t understand, it’s another woman I may or may not be married to.
But then it dawned on me that the least confusing answer would have been to say, “Yes. I’m married.” Maybe that’s what I should have said.
Maybe the next time someone asks I will. At the very least I should remember I am. Or, remember I am somewhere. Maybe I will say yes, I’m married, and then make some gesture that represents an asterisk, or quotes, or parentheses, or a footnote.
Or, maybe I’ll just say I have a partner.
Or a wife.