On a quiet Wednesday night in February 2014, my wife and I had a long discussion about our end-of-life plans, most especially our expectations for the obituary/eulogy we would need from one another. She demanded that “Sassy” be included in the newspaper as though it was a nickname that everyone was aware of… and not something we created during one frightening period of 2008 when we considered moving to West Virginia. This will make her official name Carrie “Sassy Dragon” Sharp.
I demanded that my prolific ability to leave partially used Kleenex all over our house be documented for all eternity. This led to one hell of an argument with Sassy, who insists that a Kleenex is either used or unused. There is no partial. Such a black/white thinker. In either case, we concluded our obituaries will be nothing but one long inside joke between us.
On a quiet Wednesday night in February ten years ago, my then girlfriend/womanfriend/partner/roommate (depending on what terms those who knew us preferred lesbians in 2004) purchased a flight to San Francisco. This was her official proposal to me that we could do a crazy, irrational, politically-motivated-because-no-one-gets-married-for-love act and get illegally married at City Hall. I was 24 at the time, hellbent on changing the course of my own history by never really caring about institutions, rules, or barriers (except for always having a job with health insurance cuz my mama raised me right). Sassy was 33 and still answering leftover questions as to why she left her relationship of 5 years to be with me, her obvious trophy wife. I supposed she could have purchased a sports car instead, but she decided on me.
We had been together for four months when she bought the tickets. (Hasty, I know. As far as lesbians go, we were following Gandhi’s incredible advice to “be the stereotype you wish to see in the world.”) I think we both held tightly to the idea that “it wasn’t real” and was simply an act of political opposition born fully from living in a George W. Bush world. We weren’t really getting married, see. We were making a point ABOUT marriage. This was a united front against all that was wrong with LGBT discussions and politics. We would not stand idly by. We could tell ourselves these things while still acknowledging that we were exchanging $50 rings purchased in a rush at Target and subsequently signing a sheet of paper that, for at least one city and county in America, said we were married. And we knew that this mattered.
We almost didn’t get an appointment, but I stalked down a woman on the front lawn of City Hall who had managed to get through the first day you had to call to make an appointment. I practically stole her cell phone and signed us up. We had intended to get married on February 23, but instead, we were scheduled for February 24 at 9:30 in the morning. When doing something impulsive, it is hard to wait even 24 hours; our nerves built up as we began to question whether this was actually the right thing to do. On the morning of February 24, though, George W. Bush did us a favor and announced his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment which would write this discriminatory shit into the United States Constitution. Suddenly, it seemed predetermined that less than an hour later, we could say “Screw you” by saying “I do.” If there is one thing to know about us, the Sharbys, it is simply this: When we get defiant, we go all out.
We got married outside of the mayor’s office where, 25 years earlier, the then mayor had been shot for supporting Harvey Milk. I am not big on “historical meaning” for the most part, but this one had some. A man named Donald Bird performed the ceremony neither of us remember and a woman from Florida who had flown in simply to be the necessary witness for these weddings signed our license. I wore a sweatshirt and jeans as I had always sworn I would do at my wedding. Sassy wore a Human Rights Campaign shirt.
On the flight home, as I drank a vodka/tonic for the first time in my life (which I swear to you was because I “wanted to look more adult now that I was married”), Sassy kept turning and saying, “We got maaaaaaaried” in the voice of Long Duk Dong from “Sixteen Candles.” The flight is four and a half hours long. We laughed every time.
The cool thing about being gay married is that there are so few rules. There is no “traditional” gay marriage when you’re one of the first 1500 couples to be legally married anywhere in the U.S., even if it is only for 10 months after which San Francisco County sent a letter saying it was “politically annulled” and “would you like your money back?” There was no guidebook for announcing to friends and family that “that woman you just met” and I got married. There was no way to calmly announce to our coworkers that not only were we gay heathens, now we were HITCHED gay heathens. There was no longer an appropriate answer to the “Are you married?” question.
Sassy and I got married again six years later in my parents’ living room on February 27 because February 24 was a Wednesday and my Californian maid of honor couldn’t get home until the weekend. We invited 14 people we knew. My brother performed the ceremony (wherein he announced on Facebook “Today I’m marrying my sister”). Carrie’s brother was her best man. I gave her a diamond necklace purchased over the course of two years. She gave me a bass guitar.
The thing that’s fun about our relationship is that everything is fun about our relationship. We have Lucky Charms on Saturdays. She throws jelly beans at me while I’m treadmilling. I make her cook meals and have brainwashed her for the duration of our marriage into thinking she enjoys cooking. We play “Hit me in the face with the squishy ball” in the lake during the summers (an intricate game where you submerge everything but your face and the other person whips things at it. During vacations, we add the trifecta of having to hit face and both boobs.) We take Opening Day off from work and she bakes baseball cupcakes. She is my “yes” woman, meaning that if someone says to me, “Hey, you should consider doing this,” that she immediately says “Yes” for me. When asked why she does this, she says, “Because I want to see what you’ll do next.” She is the foundation of all things practical, logical, and the warrior for cleanliness (except for putting laundry away). She made me go further into the piano store to find a nice one instead of just taking the first one I saw which, if I want it to, can serve as a great metaphor for our relationship.
Her biggest complaint about me aside from the Kleenex is that I donate all our money. My biggest complaint about her is that she hogs the most comfortable chair in our living room and mocks me with it.
Part of what drew us together and keeps us together is an unwavering belief that we don’t need to process our relationship and that if we find ourselves doing that, it is simply a sign that we need to do more things to be HAVING a relationship. The Sharbys don’t do feelings (except for sass, irreverence, and giggly). We handle stress in abnormal ways, like yelling about peanut butter knives lying in the sink and arguing using only lyrics from “Defying Gravity.” There has literally (and this is the old school definition of literally) not been a single day in ten years that we have not laughed at ourselves, and we probably laughed quite hard.
I like to think we are the best that gay marriage has to offer, even if we often do things that make us say, “See? This is why they say gays shouldn’t be married,” to each other.
Sometimes when I’m leaving the house, even just to go back to work after lunch, I’ll tell her, “Off I go. Love you. And if I were to die before seeing you again, just know I had a great time.” I figure that’s not too bad for ten years in.
Especially when you’re married to someone nicknamed the Sassy Dragon.