Steven Petrow is the author of Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners and The New Gay Wedding and writes on this website every month as Hilton’s Modern Manners expert. This year he’ll be answering your questions about LGBT life, especially weddings, engagements, and anniversaries. Send him your questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The heat is on same-sex couples: When are you getting married?
Q: When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last year, my partner and I were overjoyed for our community and what it means for equality. The decision also seems to have given license to friends and family members alike to start nudging us toward the altar. We’ve been partners for 10 years and we’re good with that, especially because we have some financial considerations that make it wiser for us not to legally wed. I’m tired of explaining my own longstanding ambivalence toward state-sanctioned marriage, so how do I handle these well-meaning but presumptuous questions about marriage?
A: Many same-sex couples are now finding themselves facing a similar third degree, given last year’s Supreme Court decision. Back in 2004, The Onion, a parody site, greeted the news from Massachusetts (the first state to legalize same-sex marriage) with a fake news story titled, Gay Couple Feels Pressure to Marry. The story quoted one member of a lesbian couple whose mother begins with some chit-chat and then lays on the pressure: “Then she reminded me about my dad’s heart disease and told me that he could go at any time.” The joke is not lost on those of us who were once warned that our coming-out might kill our parents. Now we’re told we need to get married before they kick the bucket? Hello, equality!
To you, I say it’s time for a happy pill coupled with a vow of courtesy. Try to take the gesture for what it is — genuine happiness. Do your best to tame your inner grump, and don’t snap at those who “pop the question.” If anything, try to understand the question in this light. Given the recent focus on the many benefits of marriage that same-sex couples were being denied, it’s not surprising that many of our friends and relatives assumed gay lovebirds would get hitched if only we could. Just as not all opposite-sex couples marry, nor will (or should) all gay couples tie the knot. There is a big difference between the right to marry and the requirement to do so. But what to say to all these intrusive but well-meaning straight friends? Here are three options:
1. “It’s as much a victory to have the option and not use it, as it is to use it.”
2. “We so appreciate your kindness and your wanting us to be happy. We love you and thank you for that. If we decide to tie the knot, you’ll be the first to know.”
3. Or use your funny bone: “We’re not sure yet. It’s only been 10 years!”