WITH THIS RING……..

| June 25, 2011 | Comments (2)
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Over the past thirty years there have been more rings than I can count or fit on my knarled, aging fingers today.

First, there was a Cartier rolling ring, that beautiful creation with three bands inter- twined, one white gold, one yellow and one pink. Back in those days when I still had hair on my head, this Cartier treasure cost about $50, which was a lot of money. Then there was the Chinese puzzle ring made of yellow gold and crafted in Hong Kong by inscrutable jewelers who had dreamed up a maddening, interlocking pattern of pieces that once dis-assembled, would take a lifetime to put together again. But somehow my partner could always solve the puzzle and magically bring together what had been torn asunder…..Just like our relationship, I mused, as I watched his deft hands play with the gold pieces and make them one again.

Today  these rings and a dozen others that followed them, sit in a lacquer jewelry box, stored somewhere in one of our many closets along with clothes that will never been worn again – I no longer go to an office and have rows and rows of suits hanging forlornly, knowing they will nevermore see the light of day.

Which is not to say these rings have been cast aside and have no meaning for us. Each represents a special moment, a birthday or  an anniversary of our union as two men who have been together – through thick and thin, for better and for worse – for more than thirty years.

That is why my reaction was sub-dued when I received a breathless email from a well-meaning friend, inviting me to celebrate the advent of the passage of a marriage equality bill by the New York State legislature, legalizing marriage between partners of the same sex.

As happy as I wanted to be, for me this legislative act  was too late and too little. Too late since I had retired from my job at the United Nations in 1998; any benefits to be claimed by married couples could not be made ex-post facto. Since gay marriage did not exist when I was still actively employed, we could not claim important pension and medical coverage that straight married couples are enjoying. (One UN colleague’ s husband had undergone a heart transplant. I imagined the millions of dollars that she had been able to pass on to him in medical care  benefits because they were married as “man and wife” while she was still working.)

Too little because same sex marriage at the state level does not carry the importance that a federally sanctioned marriage would  hold. This  (DOMA) non-recognition seems cruel, perverse and down right illegal to me since   all” hets” (hetero-sexuals) are married at the state level and have never had any problem with national recognition which somehow flows automatically to them, but which is denied to gays married at the state level. 

And national recognition is what counts. Another friend divorced her husband many years ago. She found out recently that he had passed away over ten years ago, having remarried another woman (who, she said, looked exactly like HER !) Now BOTH of these  look-alike widows are collecting on a monthly basis, the full social security benefits of their dear, departed ex. (He had a tendency towards six-inch tall Rubens sandwiches made at the Carnegie Deli that did him in at an early age, my friend said.)

This little tale bloggled my mind on several levels. First of all, SHE (my friend) had divorced HIM (the Rubens chomper); she had LEFT him so why should SHE reap the bennies of his having paid into social security for  35 years and end up getting his $2,000 @ month? And Wife Number Two – how could she end up getting the full monty as well ? Sounds like polygamy is alive and well in the USA. Is marriage a farce or what ! Whatever…..!

Which is all beside the point and a bit sour-grape-ish on my part,  I suppose,  when on this sunny June day,  we should be celebrating the landmark event of same sex marriage’s becoming law in New York State.

But I have been through the mill. I have been battered and abused and ignored for SO many years by straight society that I have ended up  emotionally a beaten, numbed pulp.  Thankfully, I have been lobotomized and am now immune to the slings and arrows and cruelty around me, but sadly  there is no life left in me for celebration. As Rosa Parks said, “I’m just tired and I want to sit down.” That’s it.

So celebrate, ye who have the will and the joy to do so. Go to the Gay Pride Parade  tomorrow and whoop it up and be proud.  I wish all of you well. I won’t be there.  All I know is: my partner and I love each other dearly and fiercely. We have had our good times and our bum times and survived several split-ups and numerous mis-understandings. (Thank you, dear departed Mother, for having reminded me, as you and my Father were beating the shit out of each other,  that marriage is FOREVER !) But in our hearts and minds we have been married since the day we met on an escalator in a run-down department store in a teeming city in Southeast Asia. We don’t need a ceremony or a document to make official what we have already made eternal. 

And while I’m at it: isn’t this celebration a bit sad, gays coming late to the party, as it were ? All the margaritas are watered down and the ice has melted. Marriage is rather passe these days with an over 50% divorce rate prevailing in the US and increasing numbers of people not even bothering to tie the knot. I’m sorry, everybody, forgive my negativity. I’m just world-weary.

What  I think is: as joyous as this event is supposed to be, it won’t change MY life in MY neighborhood, the South Bronx. When I walk to the subway in the morning, half of my neighbors, will not return my greeting as I pass them hanging out on their stoops because they know I am a “maricon”, that I live with another man.

My next door neighbor, Paco, has a 90 year-old Mother. Every May when we have lillies of the valley blooming our back yard garden, I  cut a bunch of them for her and deliver them to her door. But Paco turns his back on me when I pass his stoop because I am  gay.

So what can I say about this  landmark  same-sex marriage act  ? I guess I’m glad it happened, but at 72 years of age,  it’s not going to change my life. Paco will still pretend I don’t exist and my partner will have to struggle for health care coverage.

” It just gets better ” is a hopeful slogan circulating in the gay-inspired media. Maybe. I won’t be around that many more years to find out.

What I want should have happened years ago.

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  1. Roger Cranse says:

    Sam, this is a moving, intelligent testimony on the occasion of the gay marriage bill’s passing. Your world-weary tone captures the big context perfectly. And your previous essay on parades and Bellevue opens another world for us as well. Thanks! You and Maureen Dowd make my reading day! Roger

  2. Tuesday Rose says:

    Giving sexual outlaws the right to marry will, in future, lead to granting people in polygamous and other-nontraditional relationships the right to marry as well.

    Tuesday Rose

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