As we settled into the den this past sweltering Friday night to have a cold cocktail and watch a movie, the phone rang. It was Julie, our downstairs neighbor.
“Hi Gail, I was wondering if I could ask you something?”
“Sure Julie, what is it?”
“Can you make a wedding cake for Sunday?”
Dumbfounded, I replied as I always do in situations like these. ”Are you crazy? I can’t possibly do that, Julie. I’m so sorry.”
Ignoring what I just sputtered, Julie went on trying to win me over.
“Let me just tell you about whose getting married”, she began. ”Two of my oldest, dearest friends who’ve been together for ages got their wedding lottery notice earlier today. The guys just got a slot in the Manhattan same sex marriage lottery for Sunday. I’ve been busy with them all day arranging their wedding…we have a friend who is a judge performing the ceremony, 20 family members and friends are coming in for the wedding and even though Aureole was already booked, they were nice enough to suggest Ai Fiori, who is happily taking care of the whole thing. All we need now is the wedding cake.”
Now, could anyone say no to this? I certainly couldn’t. Especially while listening to this shpiel while wiping the tears that were streaming down my cheeks. ”Okay, Julie, what do the guys want?”
“Well, they want a tradtional tiered cake with fondant and fresh flowers.”
[a moment of silence on my end] ”Oy. Julie, I don’t do fondant cakes. Or fresh flowers. Buttercream and cookies are what I do.”
We take a few minutes to simultaneously review the photos of my work on my website.
“Well, let me have Ken call you.”
I spoke with Ken about flavors and cookies and buttercream and heard the ‘ohmygod, I can’t believe I’m doing this’ in Ken’s voice. Planning a dinner party on the fly is one thing. But, a wedding? A wedding that’s part of a history-making day? No wonder Ken sounded like an automaton hopped up on Redbull.
I thought and I thought, I sketched, and I use that term loosely since I have the drawing skills of a 4 year old (picture big sheet of paper, drawing in one corner of the paper, rest of the page is blank. And that’s on a good day.). Finally, I had the idea in my head. I’d do the cookies and bake the cake on Saturday, make the buttercream and assemble the whole thing on Sunday. Pick up at 3:00 p.m., delivery by 4:00 p.m., ceremony begins at 5:00 p..m.
On this day, July 24, 2011, in all five boroughs of New York City 823 same sex couples will have been married by the time you read this. History will have been made as New York becomes the 6th state to change its laws to allow same sex marriage. We are all celebrating. We’re celebrating the first portion of the end of a social and legal injustice (the federal government will be obviously be the next hurdle). And, in a time when our state’s economy is pretty much in shambles, the money brought to the state in the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors will be very significant. Which, in and of itself could be the reason(s) other states might want to reconsider changing their laws.*
But, let’s get back to the mushy stuff….wedding talk.
As I measured and mixed, schmeared and smoothed, I thought all day about my own state of marriage. J and I have been together for 29 years. Waaaay back in the ’80′s, when we met and fell in love and decided to be together, a real marriage was not an option. ’Gay’ and ‘marriage’ were words that would never be written in the same sentence. But, that didn’t stop us, or other couples like us, from
needing wanting the ritual of a wedding. Reciting our vows in front of friends and J’s family (my parents refused to come; a decision they ultimately regretted) who loved us and wanted us to be happy. We wrote the vows, selected rings, got very dressed up, hired a caterer and had our ‘commitment ceremony’. That’s what pioneers like us had in 1982. A commitment ceremony.
For all intents and purposes, we’ve sailed through life as though we were happily, legally married. We built a home and a life together. Saved and invested money together, bought life insurance policies and had wills and medical powers of attorney drawn up. We behaved responsibly.
In 2008, when the New York State Assembly failed to pass the same-sex marriage amendment, we feared we might never see same-sex marriage in our state. On a particularly frigidly icy December day, we trained to Greenwich, CT (where same-sex marriage is legal) and applied for a marriage license. After waiting the requisite number of days, we trained back, once again, to Greenwich to get married.
No friends accompanied us; we told them not to bother. And, in sharp contrast to they way we entered our commitment ceremony 27 years earlier, we neither dressed up or wore makeup. The Justice of the Peace wanted to marry us in her own home, and again we said thanks, but don’t bother. We’d be fine with getting married in City Hall in a random room beneath the photo of the current head of The Department of Sanitation. It was just a formality. We got married years ago.
Wearing our warmest jackets, gloves, scarves and Uggs, we trudged into the courthouse, with a Starbucks coffee in one hand, and my Mitzi bag in the other (you didn’t think we’d leave her out, did you?). Pleasantries were exchanged with the loveliest J of P, and we were ready to begin.
We stood in front of a podium with the state seal of Connecticut painted on it. The Justice of the Peace began to read from her book.
And, I began to sob. No tears slowly welling up in my eyes, no single salt water trickle out of the side of my eye, but the kind of ugly sobbing that explodes from the bottom of your soul and makes your shoulders practically convulse. I thought I’d never get through the 3 minutes of ceremony to mumble the “I do’s”. But I did. And, in that moment when J and I faced each other and sort of heard something about being recognized as a married couple in the state of Connecticut, I fully comprehended the enormity and the importance of being equal. Married. Not a civil union, but really, honest and truly, married.
So, to Ken and Terry, and the other 822 couples who, hopefully cried a lot prettier than I did while they got married, I say “Congratulations!”
Now, who wants cake?
* Did you know that lesbian and gay couples earn roughly 45% more than their heterosexual counterparts?
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By the time I truly unwound and relaxed (and by that I mean not having hot flashes 10 or 100 times a day), it was time to pack up and go home (back to the ever-present mustache of sweat beads).
It’s been so lovely here. We relaxed. We read and listened to music all day.
We never turned the news on. Not once. I survived.
We cooked. We grilled. I baked.
We saw two of the films presented at the Film Festival.
We saw beautiful dance performances.
We almost hate to go back home.
Even Mitzi’s not exactly jumping into her bag.
Oh vacation, you were so very good to us this year!
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