BY CINDY ZELMAN
The Early Draft
“If you had your way, you’d be polygamous,” commented my old friend, Mithriel, on my Facebook timeline. I laughed, as I’d recently said I wanted to marry Melissa Etheridge, as well as the Dunkin Donuts lady who’d made me the best French vanilla coffee ever. I hadn’t been thinking of marrying them two at a time. I just want one spouse, with talent. Marriage has become a metaphor in my life for love and desire, but it was once an entirely political issue for me.
The concept of same-sex marriage was virtually unspeakable in the 1980s when I came out. I remember a big to-do in that era about “tolerance” of gay people in the population. The Boston-based national commentator, Mike Barnicle, wrote something like: I will tolerate gay people, but I will not accept them. I was in my early twenties at the time and devastated by his words. I’d always admired him. Mike was a bad-ass liberal back in the day, and that was his viewpoint. I could never read another thing he wrote. I hear he’s still around, giving his opinion about everything all over the place. Good for you, Mike: I will tolerate you but I won’t accept you. And may one of your grandchildren turn out to be a flaming queer.
As an aside, Mike has both won a Pulitzer Prize and been justly accused of plagiarism for columns he wrote for a major daily newspaper.
When the gay marriage debate came to a head in Massachusetts, circa 2004, I wrote about the issue, had my steaming, angry words printed in Bay Windows, the greater Boston gay paper. My anger piqued while driving down the highway and seeing a car window-sticker on a van composed thusly: a stick figure drawing of a man, a mathematical plus sign, a stick figure drawing of a woman, a mathematical equal sign, and the word “marriage” i.e., Man + Woman = Marriage, just prepared in stick figure drawings and math signs, rather than words, by some illiterate homophobe.
I was preaching to the choir having my angry pieces published in a gay newspaper, but I had to holler about the debate somewhere. At the time, I was appalled that my right to marry was up for argument and referendum voting, and as far as I could see, the argument was fueled by a bunch of narrow-minded heterosexuals — you know the type — the ones who believe homosexuality is a contagious disease, and yet who are creepily obsessed with all things gay. The pray-away-the-gayers. The ones who selectively choose Bible passages to make their arguments, and yet selectively choose to ignore the starving and the poor, who might benefit from true Christian charity. Please note I am not talking about all Christians or all straight people, just the ones who would like to fuck up the lives of an entire group of people they know nothing about.
Gay marriage debates now rage all over the country — and the world — and in my mind, the spotlight on the issue means we’ve succeeded. My own opinion on the debate has evolved over the years — if we talk about it, we bring it into the open — and so we succeed. Additionally, there are more serious issues to battle, including “kill the Gays” sentiments and legislation proposed in parts of the world and the bullying to death in our own backyards.
I had set out to talk about the women I would marry, thinking of a light, humorous piece, and yet all that political stuff came out. I guess I’m not done with the politics of marriage, but aside from politics, these days marriage looms large for me emotionally. Maybe it’s due to turning 50 this year and contemplating the final third of my life. I want someone to spend that third with, someone other than two cats, a bunny, and my elderly mother. Is there anyone who would take us all in? Honestly, except for the bunny, we are all high-maintenance. And if I could marry anyone I want, meaning, I could fantasize and let go of reality, who would she be? Let me make a short-list.
1. Melissa Etheridge, because she is so passionate and talented and brave (a cancer survivor); she is sexy for those things alone, never mind how hot she looks in old blue jeans.
2. The Dunkin’ Donuts lady at the Mobile Station who made me the best French vanilla ice coffee ever on a Friday evening when I’d had a tough day. If she can make a coffee that good, what else can she do well? I should mention she also said, “Have a fabulous night,” as I reached for the drink. She had no wedding ring. I saw her again last night and she outdid herself with the coffee. Drinking it was orgasmic. Two Friday nights in a row. Does this mean we’re dating? Dunkin’ Donuts, give that woman a raise, and I’ll give her a wedding ring.
3. My best friend from adolescence, Lynne Simmons. Nobody knows where she is or what her name is now or if she’s still alive. The truth is, when I think about those I’ve been in love with in the past, she is the only one I would like to see again before I die. She is the only one I would want to marry. I am nostalgic for our adolescence and a love that felt so pure. Lynne Simmons, if you’re out there, single, and at all interested in women, please find me again, as you found me at age thirteen.
4. One or more women in my current life that I cannot mention because it would wreak havoc or simply cause too much embarrassment in our lives. Someday I hope to be able to name you as I named Lynne above, because when I am with you, I don’t miss her.
I have a date next Saturday night with a woman I know vaguely and met years ago at some lesbian dances I used to attend. We bumped into each other on Plenty of Fish. You never know, she could be The One, and perhaps I’ll find out over a Mexican dinner next weekend.
This weekend, I will just have a big cup of coffee and fantasize.
Cindy Zelman is a writer based in Boston, whose blog, “The Early Draft,” explores a variety of topics, including lesbianism, writing, agoraphobia, and humor.