I want love stories. This is what I want. I want books I read to be love stories. I want my movies and TV to be love stories. I want plays I go see to be love stories. If I played video games, I'd want them to be love stories.
My own story is a love story.
Which is maybe what I have found so can't-look-away miraculous and wonderful about all the photos of gay weddings this week in Seattle.
Marriage licenses became available to all last Wednesday night at midnight. Did Seattle open the offices where one procures marriage licenses at midnight? Of course they did.
There is a three day waiting period to get married in Washington after one has a license. Did Seattle open the courthouse at midnight Saturday night, and did judges come in all day Sunday, their day of rest and freedom, to perform gay weddings all day and all night? Again, yes they did. As same-sex marriage becomes slowly legal all across the country, there are going to be places like Seattle -- a very gay, very liberal city -- where most people are going to be enthusiastic and delighted.
And then there are going to be places where the celebrations will be less public, more muted, and more closeted. There will be people applying for marriage licenses from authorities who don't want to give them to them. There will be people getting married in towns where they have little public support, where however legal it is, they will still face prejudice and opposition.
But there will also be places simply less public and exuberant than Seattle where same sex marriage will become normalized -- just as celebrated as any other wedding but open only during regular business hours and not stopping downtown traffic in order to get it done. And that's nice too. It's going to be interesting to watch as these dominos fall all across the country.
I am very glad to see same sex marriage legalized in Washington. Because it's fair and right and time. Because the more families we acknowledge as such, the better the world is for everyone. But mostly because of the love.
And what I wonder is this: whether these pictures might be changing hearts and minds. This fight has not exactly been a fair one. The counterarguments have not always been truthful. Scare tactics have been employed. And I wonder whether people who are anti same-sex marriage, some of them, looked at these pictures this week and thought: Oh. No goats. No people trying to wed their pets. No lewdness. It doesn't, in fact, look like porn. It doesn't look anti child or anti family.
It's hard to look at these pictures and think they look unnatural. It's hard to look at these pictures and find them threatening. If you backburner the politics and the what a long time this has been coming, mostly it just looks like people getting married.
They look really happy. They smile a lot. They look at each other like love. They have families and friends in tow. They look a little uncomfortable because they're more dressed up than usual. They look a little uncomfortable because there are all these people looking at them. They look older than a lot of wedding photo couples because they've had to wait so long. They often have their children with them -- same reason. But overwhelmingly, more than anything, they just look normal. Like a love story -- extraordinary from the inside, typical from the outside. And seriously, who in their right mind objects to more love? It's not just what the world needs now. It's what the world needs always. Obviously.
It's Banned Books Week, a time to give thanks for your reading freedoms and to consider that they are not shared by all. Lots of my favorite books are on frequently banned book lists (go figure), but at the moment, the one I read most frequently is And Tango Makes Three. Written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (writer and producer on The West Wing) and illustrated by Henry Cole, it tells the true story of two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who become first a couple and then parents together. The book explains that usually penguin couples consist of one male and one female, but Roy and Silo spend all their time together and show all the behaviors of other penguin couples. When the heterosexual penguin couples sit on eggs, this couple finds a rock for their nest. Seeing this, a zookeeper finds a heterosexual penguin couple with more eggs than they can care for and puts the extra egg in Roy and Silo's nest. Roy and Silo take turns keeping the egg warm, and when it hatches, Roy, Silo, and the baby, Tango, are a family.
I live in Seattle, a pretty gay and gay-friendly city, and I love this book's message that, while most two-parent couples are made up of one mommy and one daddy, some are made up of two mommies or two daddies instead and that's great too. But what I really love about the book is the message that families are made by love and caring, not blood. My daughter is adopted. Like Tango, she needed adoptive parents because her birth parents couldn't care for her. And like Silo and Roy, my husband and I were thrilled to welcome her into our family.
I love And Tango Makes Three because I love its message about different ways to make a family. My daughter loves it because she loves penguins. I don't know for sure I suppose, but I bet it's oft banned for the former reason rather than the latter. If people wanted the book banned because they hated penguins, that would be mean (penguins are, obviously, awesome) but far less upsetting than the actual case: the people who want this book banned don't want kids to know that some parents are gay, don't want kids to know that gay people can be a family, don't want kids to know that there are lots of good ways to make a family rather than just the one. Depriving kids of that knowledge hurts them and me and you and families like mine which are non-traditional. And frankly, depriving kids of knowledge pretty much sucks in general. Certainly there are advanced topics -- say genocide or pandemic disease -- they're probably not ready for, but surely love and family don't fall into that category.
I say more love, more knowledge, more permutations that are also okay, more families that count, more books, more literate knowledgable kids. And more penguins.
Last week, we returned Ernie Sings to the library before it made my head explode. Instead, we listened to Free To Be You and Me, the one kid CD that seems always to be in our car, about two dozen times in a row. It was a long time before I could listen to Free To Be without crying hysterically, so nostalgia-sodden was it for me. Three-hunded-some hours of Free To Be later, I can observe it with the exhaustive knowledge and academic remove of the world's foremost expert on the piece, which surely I must be.
For those of you who are uninitiated, it's an album (and book) of songs, stories, and poems whose point is generally: it's okay to be different, and specifically: gender stereotypes are a load of shit.
1) Whoever and however you are, Free To Be's thesis is: that's just great. Athletic girls, boys who like dolls, children who cry, dads who can't throw balls, kids without friends, congenitally confused school principals, young adults with no desire to marry, rude grandchildren, moms who drive vans(?), elementary school field trips to the jungles of Southeast Asia, and infant males whose life ambition is to be a cocktail waitress are all a-okay as far as Marlo Thomas is concerned. But prissy girls to whom matching clothes and well-coifed hair are important? Well, those bitches deserve to get eaten.
2) Though musically Free To Be just screams 1973, the year of its (and my) release, thematically, it remains heartbreakingly relevant. Spot the Free To Be message below that's no longer relevant, that kids today no longer need to hear:
a) Despite the fact that jobs tend to be gender stereotyped, you can grow up to do nearly any job you like.
b) It's okay for boys to cry. It's okay for boys to like dolls and generally to be nurturing and sensitive.
c) Housework is unpleasant and as a result should be shared equally among adult partners.
d) Women don't all want to get married. Marriage is not the end goal of all relationships. Permanent heterosexual partnership is not the ultimate dream of everyone.
e) Even if many of the boys you know are a certain way and like a certain thing, and even if many of the girls you know are a certain way and like a certain thing, you may not fall into those flawed categories and that's just fine.
f) Sometimes the gender you feel like and the sex your body is don't line up.
g) Parents are people.
h) Athletically gifted females are nonetheless desirable.
Answer: H. Even by the time Free To Be was relevant to me (i.e. eight years or so after its release), this felt dated to me. I was, myself, not athletically gifted and felt that this made me undesirable as a friend or romantic partner. All the popular girls at school were good at sports. All hail Title IX. Otherwise, these are all messages my daughter still needs to internalize because these inequities and stereotypes remain heart-sinkingly static. Nearly forty years on, the music sounds dated, but gender stereotypes and gender realities for children (boys shouldn't cry or have dolls) and adults (job/pay/marriage/childcare/housekeeping roles and responsibilities) remain strikingly, distressingly unbalanced.
About The Author
Laurie Frankel writes novels (reads novels, teaches other people to write novels, raises a small person who reads and would like someday to write novels) in Seattle, Washington where she lives on a nearly vertical hill from which she can watch three different bridges while she's staring out her windows between words. She's originally from Maryland and makes good soup.