we did something so ordinary today that it was absolutely extraordinary:
we applied for a marriage license. in DC. we went to the courthouse, found a parking spot, went into the building, got scanned at the metal detector (got my camera temporarily confiscated but that’s ok) and…asked where we–my partner, my longtime female partner, and i–could apply for a marriage license.
“fourth floor,” the security guy said as his metal detector beeped over my wedding rings. “and congratulations,” he added with a smile.
i smiled back and said thank you. i felt like pinching myself. it was just…so ordinary. so normal. so everyday-weekday-just-another-couple-applying-for-a-marriage-license. i felt so happy (absolutely elated, in fact). i felt like part of the crowd, like everybody else. i felt…respected.
as a same-sex couple in america, you just get used to feeling–in “official” situations and everyday situations, too–less than. as not valid. i mean, for crying out loud, i still have to mark “single” on medical forms! and taxes! even tho we had a *huge* wedding and holly and i have been together almost nine years. but today we weren’t less than. today we were on equal footing like all the other couples in the marriage bureau. we had the same paperwork. the same people processed our information. we have to wait three business days for our license like everyone else. just like everyone else. oh my gosh how i love saying that. just like everyone else.
we got up to room 4485 and got in line. luckily there wasn’t a crowd (or protestors outside) like there was wednesday, when DC began issuing marriage licenses (or, rather, taking applications; regardless of gender, all couples have a three-day waiting period until a license is actually issued). there were a few couples in front of us, and then, eventually, behind us. we all stood on the institutional tiles together, waiting. i kept joking with holly that she could still back out. b/c, until this point, we have been, as i like to say, “unlawfully wedded.” i played a lionel richie song for her on the way to DC, “stuck on you” (i’m sure you know the one, even if you don’t realize it–good song!).
“you ready to be stuck?” i asked holding her hand, smiling mischievously as baltimore’s industrial scenery whooshed by.
“you ready to be stuck?” she asked back.
we both laughed and sang along a little. yeah, we were ready.
eventually it was our turn, and we were called into the tan-carpeted, downright drab government office. it could have been the taj mahal as far as i was concerned, i was thrilled just to be there. we signed in and handed off the necessary paperwork (which we got online and filled out at home to save time), our drivers licenses and sat back down. then a worker with a thick accent called us up. he asked us to check out the forms to make sure he had inputted all of our information correctly. we told him it was and then, without warning, asked us to raise our right hand and pledge that everything we had written down was correct.
we raised our right hands and pledged yes. just as he was reciting his lines, i noticed they had a radio on, close by, it sounded like. it was that great new train song, “hey soul sister.” everything felt so perfect. even tho holly was so tired from a trying week (see my previous entry; we just got back yesterday afternoon) and was a little grumpy. and it was hard to understand exactly what the guy was saying with his thick accent. and i was hungry (hey it was past 11:30 and i hadn’t eaten lunch) and there were still little mounds of dirty snow piled up on the sidewalks here and there all over the city and i had the hangover of a five-day migraine…i swear it felt so perfect. more perfect than our wedding day, even, which was so rife with stress and worry. i started tearing up. i looked over at holly to see if she was, too, but quickly averted my eyes just in case the guy thought i was trying to hide something. i practically had to bite my lip to hold back tears.
we left and stopped to pay $45 at a cashiers office. then we went downstairs and picked up my confiscated camera.
“you do what you came to do?” the same security guard asked.
“we sure did,” we said.
and with that, we walked out into the cold and back to our car, which, thankfully, wasn’t towed or even ticketed since we parked it in a spot that we weren’t for sure certain was 100 percent legal. a miracle, i thought. a special present for our marriage license application day.
as we were driving away, i was like, did you hear our song? they were playing our song! holly asked which song. “hey soul sister,” i said. that’s not our song, she said, annoyed. i thought you were talking about our wedding song (technically, we have two, since we each dedicated one to each other at our wedding reception). i explained that although it’s not our song per se, it’s a song we both like and sing along with. and since i’m basically still five years old, i consider this one of “our songs” and figure she does, too.
“it’s one of our songs,” i said.
“no it’s not,” she said.
we agreed to disagree, and i told her to stop being such a grump. i couldn’t help laughing a little bit inside. we were really annoyed with each other for about 30 seconds there, not even 15 minutes after we, for all intents and purposes, were finally were legally bound to each other. the more things change, the more things stay the same. i’m smiling now as i write this.
so our day wasn’t perfect (we had other “moments” on the way to the courthouse; holly had some…road rage issues, we’ll just say–love ya, babe, no worries), but what day is? marriage isn’t about perfection. it’s about patience and love and understanding, even when you’re tired from a long week and the chips kind of feel down b/c life has had more climbing than coasting lately.
we wanted to have a celebratory lunch. i told holly that it was up to her, just not chinese, and she really couldn’t decide. we finally settled on raku in dupont circle. i surprised myself by ordering actual sushi, like with (a small amount of) raw fish inside (tuna–always a benign choice–and no seaweed; they now have a soy paper option, thank goodness) and topped it off with a tofu salad. holly ordered a huge japanese beer, which took the edge off and had her relaxed and smiling. i silently cheered once more as we got back to our car, which, again, was parked in a spot that was…mostly legal. another gift.
we stopped at our kosher butcher (they catered our wedding) and got a hug and a mazal tov from one of the owners that we’ve become friends with. we bought some chicken, one of the workers gave us a good deal on a couple nice steaks, and we picked up a few cookies at the bakery. we stopped at starbucks to get some coffee to enjoy them with, and drove home, the sun warming our knees along the highway. we were in maryland, and i felt a certain peace in my heart knowing that once our license is issued, we’ll be able to drive back and forth from dc to our home in maryland and still be married. what a huge couple weeks it’s been for us. i don’t take any of these victories for granted, and realize that there’s still a chance they could be taken from us. but for now, we won’t think about that.
no, for now, i’m going to sit here on our couch–next to my partner, my soon-to-be-legal spouse–who’s sleeping at the moment, actually, and keep living like we have, keep blogging, keep climbing until we can finally coast a little. i’m going to savor these victories we can one day tell our children about, who will, upon hearing about them, shake their heads with wide eyes that same-sex marriage wasn’t always legal in this country. the same way we shake our heads with disbelief that segregation even existed in this country. tonight i’m going to sleep well knowing that today we were part of a very significant time in our nation’s history. small victories, i keep telling myself. b/c rome wasn’t built in a day, you know? we each have to do our part to build it. we built our tiny little part of it today in a drab, tan-carpeted downtown dc government office sometime between 11:45am and 1pm. and all for $45.
(oh and for the record, yes, holly was tearing up, too. and whether she wants it or not, we totally have a new song now. sing along if you know the words! haha. goodnight!)