“One of these days, Alice,” he says, spittle flying from his lips and the sweat swinging from the Brill Cream slicked tips of his hair. “POW! Right in the kisser!” His meaty fist rests inches from her placid face, blank, like the surface of the moon he threatens to send her to each night. The audience erupts in shrieks of laughter.
“Oh jeeze, here, the dingbat’s got something to say,” he snidely remarks, hunched into his faded chair, face screwed up in disgust. “This outta be swell,” He sneers sarcastically. He sips a beer, obviously disinterested, while she prattles and rambles on about her cousin or socks or her cousin’s socks. He pretends to nod off to get her to shut up. She’s unphased. The audience erupts in shrieks of laughter.
“Gee Al,” she whines, her maroon buffant, a shelacked treasure, ensnared in three gallons of hair spray barely quivers, unlike her thrusting breasts. “It sure would be nice to have sex tonight *pause* with a winner. *sigh* But I suppose you’ll have to do.” She uses one of her Lee Press-On talons to clean something out of her teeth, glancing at her emotionless husband. He stares blankly at the television and says “Aw c’mon Peg, haven’t we punished each other enough? Sex is for, you know, people who like each other.” The audience erupts in shrieks of laughter.
Today California legislature voted to uphold Proposition 8, the controversial overturning of gay marriage that went into effect in November. Many gay rights advocates and members of the gay and lesbian community view gay marriage as a foundational civil rights issue, arguing for entitlement to all of the same legal protections afforded heterosexual couples. Civil Unions, many assert, do not offer the same type of critically important legal benefits (health insurance, tax filing status, or visitation and power of attorney rights in light of medical issues or calamities to list a few). The promotion of Civil Unions in their various formats enforces a separate but not equal purview. Opponents challenge these views, of course, claiming that advocates play semantics with these terms and that civil unions are, to quote Forest Gump “fine and dandy.”
Semantics: the different meanings words posess. Former President Bill Clinton gave us a crash test dummy course in semantics with his cunning, lingual (*ahem*) dance around “that,” “sexual relations,” and “putting my penis inside her.” Point being, our twenty-first century lexicon grows increasingly malleable to the point where talking points appear on the side bar of the shows of talking heads, later distilled down to Twitterphiles in just 140 characters. Words create the fabric of our realities or fictions.
One of the leading groups that rallied around Proposition 8 and its current status was the organization Protect Marriage, protectmarriage.com. The mission statement is simple, people coming together to “restore traditional marriage.” Restore. Traditional. Marriage. Judging from our vast wasteland of pop culture, often carved out in our own reflections, that seems to suggest a ruggedly handsome white man reading the paper in his comfy chair while a beautiful and cheerful woman prepares dinner and gives him his slippers. The kids play quietly at his feet. Maybe it means a bored and lonely woman, devoting herself to her husband and family, meting out her hours in quiet desperation accompanied only by the soothing, numbing presence of her good friend Percodin. Traditional. Oh! Ok, traditional marriage, a young man and young woman find themselves unexpectedly “in the family way” and decide that marriage is, after all, for the best, and hey, now that the good folks at Protect Marriage have restored it, might as well take advantage of it, right? Immature and inexperienced, they get married, they fight; there are stresses that no one could have prepared them for, he stays out with his friends and sometimes does not come home until the following day, she cries on the phone to her mother every night. They have a second child, a band-aid solution to a bullet hole problem; they are divorced and dating new people they met Match.com by the age of 23. Or was that not the fate facing Bristol Palin? We’ll never know since the curtain fell on that farce once the political cameras stopped roving and the clothes had been thoughtfully donated to charity. In these cases, why would any self-respecting gay or straight man, woman, or beast want any part of this social and personal contract? And is it lost on anyone the surreal irony that California has become the epicenter of this moral debate? California, where Hollywood and Los Angeles are located, right? Where I can turn on the t.v. and learn about a pop star’s 15 second marriage or find out who was caught cheating, again, on their wife of 25 years, or discover who is leaving their wife or husband for the scandalously younger co-star, live-in “Manny,” pool boy, or hot new studio producer? Right. Traditional marriage it is.
Change, change, change
If you follow the “logic” of a group like Protect Marriage, the crusade is even less about homophobia or prejudice or even poor judgement in the annals of civil rights and more about protecting some type of implicit-Disneyfied version of “traditional marriage.” Semantics. Marriage is defined in the dictionary both as a “social institution” by which a “man and woman” establish their decision to live as husband and wife through legal and spiritual channels and as “any close or intimate association or union.” Protect Marriage worried (real hand wringing here) that California’s turn to gay marriage would open up the doors for any number of odd pairings. Too late. Miriam-Webster, Oxford, and American Heritage are way ahead of you.
Marriage has legal facets that are crucial for the health and well-being of the people involved, the people involved, not the purple, red, Communist, gay, straight, or masochistic, but the people. And that’s why all people should have access to these rights, protections, and other legal mumbo jumbo. How you choose to conduct yourselves in that marriage is your own business, go be the star of your own freak show, nightmare, or dreamy Broadway musical fairy tale, but do us all a favor and leave the sanctimonious indignation to the experts on t.v.
Semantics. We’re on to you. And oh, get me beer, Edith, would you?