Category Archives: BFGW (Big Fat Gay Wedding)

my modern love essay that the new york times didn’t publish

i know, i know. i kind of suck b/c i haven’t been blogging lately and you’re sick of seeing that androgynous goth person staring at you every time you visit to see if i’ve updated. (in all honesty: not a clue if that’s a man or a woman.)

i’ve been so busy working (pbbbbt! work! i know, right?!!) that i’m going to cheat and in lieu of one of my typically ridiculous entries, i’m going to share my modern love essay recently submitted to and politely and promptly rejected by the new york times. not a huge surprise they didn’t publish it, as i’m sure they get about a trillion submissions a month, but a bummer nonetheless.

the great thing is that essays like this don’t go to waste when you have a blog. so i am self-publishing my essay. please enjoy all the capital letters and proper punctuation and i promise i’ll be back soon…

You’re Gonna Meet a Prince(ss) 

Throughout my youth and adolescence, my grandmother predicted three things:

1. If I ate any more than 10 grapes (red or green, didn’t matter), I would get a “bellyache.” (This wasn’t just me, either. This was all people.)

2. I’d meet and marry a prince. A “Jewish prince,” she declared, despite my argument that Jewish princes hadn’t existed for at least a couple thousand years, if they ever existed at all.

3. That using a blow dryer every day would ruin my hair.

Which do you think turned out to be true? (I’ll give you a hint: It doesn’t have anything to do with fruit or princes.)

When she died nearly 11 years ago (she was 91, I was 21; “A babe in the woods,” she’d say), I probably had never eaten more than 10 grapes at any one time, and I was still on the fence about the hairdryer thing. But even in high school, I secretly knew in my heart of hearts that the prince she predicted I’d meet might actually turn out to be a princess. And who knows if she’d even be Jewish.

Losing my grandmother was devastating to me. Our coffee klatsch of two was now a coffee klatsch of one. I had lost my best friend.

Who would I have toasted bagels and lox with? Who would I call at midnight just to say hi? And now that she was in heaven, what would she think of the fact that her granddaughter was a rainbow flag-waving homosexual? Surely she would find out (after she hit the Heavenly Diner all-you-can-eat cheese Danish/macaroni salad/pickles and smoked fish buffet, of course).

I tried not to focus on what she’d think, and kept my head down and focused as a young community reporter in suburban Washington, D.C.

And then it happened: I met my princess. I met Holly.

It was an unusually hot April night in downtown Washington. We were both wallflowers at ladies night at a gay bar on 17th Street. Soon we were talking outside. She wrote her email address on a square napkin in blue ink. I emailed her a week later. She wasn’t Jewish. I went out with her anyway. I mean, how long could it really last?

That was 10 years ago.

Since then, we’ve been married twice (once “unlawfully,” once lawfully—both times in Washington, just up the street from where we met in 2001). We bought, gutted and renovated a boarded-up crackhouse in southeast Baltimore, which we now call home. Our life is one big adventure. I love her more than life itself.

While Holly never had the pleasure of meeting my walker-pushing, hell-raising, unfiltered Pall Mall-smoking grandma, I’ve kept her a part of our lives by reminiscing almost daily about our times together. Sometimes I’ll even call someone a bastard (“bas-tid” in Grandma’s Jersey-ese) in her memory. Usually behind their back, but not always. This would have made her incredibly proud.

I don’t wonder anymore what she’d think of the fact that I’m gay. She wouldn’t care. I don’t wonder what she’d think of Holly. She’d absolutely adore her.

My grandmother had four younger brothers. My 90-year-old Great Uncle Ben was the baby of the Leibowitz clan, and is the last sibling standing. He’s become like a grandfather to both Holly and I. He’s been our biggest supporter, and was up front and center—fresh off the plane from Fort Lauderdale—at our legal wedding in Washington in March 2010.

He is the male incarnation of my grandma—kind, funny, generous and always ready with a dismissive “ah-who-the-hell-needs-‘em” hand wave to anyone who does me wrong. I love him so much my eyes fill with tears when we’re together. We both do. And he loves us back.

Holly met him for the first time in August 2009, and he gave her a huge bear hug from his couch.

“My new niece!” he announced, holding her hand, his eyes shining with delight.

He took my parents, Holly and I out to eat that first evening. As he and I walked into the restaurant, he paused—his wheelie walker (the kind with the breaks) and south Florida humidity between us—and turned to me.

“Are you happy? Does she make you happy?” he asked, touching my hand.

“Yes,” I said, tears in my eyes. “Yes, she does.”

“Well, that’s all that matters. If someone doesn’t like it, they can go to hell,” he said. “Let’s eat.”

And with that, I knew. It wasn’t just Uncle Ben speaking. It was Grandma, too.

I’d like to think it was more than serendipity that brought Holly and I together that warm April night 10 years ago.

“That one,” I imagine Grandma saying from her regular booth at the Heavenly Diner, her mouth full of potato salad and beets and everything else she loved from Jersey diner salad bars that I couldn’t stand as a kid.

“She needs to meet that one,” she said, pointing down at Holly. “That’s the one. They’re going to have a wonderful life together.”

And we really do have a wonderful life together. I have my coffee klatsch of two again. Sometimes, when we’re lucky enough to all be together, it’s even a coffee klatsch of three—me, Holly and Uncle Ben.

happy 10-year anniversary, babe!

holly & i, sept. 3, 2001: see? even then i was smothering her. (remember: streaky hair was in back then. so were studded bracelets. and blue nail polish. so shuddup.)

ten years ago today, i went on a date with a girl named holly. (you can read all about that date here. warning: longest. entry. ever. so grab your hot drink of choice and get your lumbar pillow.)

from the outside, we were an unlikely pair. i was a trashtalkin badass. she was…not. i was from jersey. she was…definitely not. but…we fit. she smoothed my rough edges. we were everything we never knew we needed.  

“i knew i loved you even then,” i say to her sometimes about that first date.

“aw, babe,” she says, rubbing my hand. “no, you didn’t.”

“yes! i did! i mean, i may not have known it explicitly, but i think in my heart i knew it.”

then i usually get weepy and she hugs me until i squirm away and we start laughing. 

i am so lucky to have found someone that knows me better than anyone else in the world. that knows exactly what i’m feeling and thinking just by the look in my eyes. who can calm me with just a few words or a touch or a glance (which, trust me, is a big deal b/c my ass is hard to calm down.)

holly, you have the reigns on this jersey girl’s heart. you always will. thank you for making the past 10 years the most exciting, most rewarding years of my life. thank you for supporting me in everything that i do. here’s to 10 years and a 100 more. i love you.

what i didn’t tell you about our (second) wedding…

us! getting married! legally! (look at our cute friends!) photo by Christopher T. Assaf, Baltimore Sun / March 17, 2010

was that there was going to be a news crew there. (i keep a good secret, right??) 

i’ll admit, i wasn’t really feeling the fact that there was going to be a Baltimore Sun reporter and photographer/videographer at our st. patty’s day outdoor ceremony–hell i had enough trouble having my photo taken at the first one, and we hired her (hi jaime!)–but holly talked me into it. after all, we’re a media-friendly couple, and i realized that our story could actually change some minds out there, so i decided to take one for the team. 

so for all of you not living in the baltimore area (or that aren’t facebook friends), may i present to you…our legal wedding. (cheers to reporter scott calvert for doing a really great job. i’m a tough one to please, and even *i* teared up!)

“how does it feel to be a married woman?”

that’s what my 88-year-old great uncle ben asked me–with a bright, wide smile, his blue eyes shining–early thursday morning as i padded into the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee. it suddenly occurred to me it was the very first time, after nearly nine years with holly and huge jewish wedding a year and a half ago, that i woke up fully married–under the law. vindicated. respected. protected.

i smiled back at him and held back tears.

“it feels good,” i said. “it feels really, really good.”

it still does. the glow of our simple, st. patty’s day ceremony in dc’s dupont circle–just feet from the very bench we sat on during our very first date in early may 2001–has not left me. despite my mind-altering pms. and the stress of our day-to-day. and the fact that we’re really not sure about how our dc marriage will be recognized by the state of maryland (health insurance, for example), the glorious sunshine (the whole city seemed aglow, like it’d be under a dirty window wiped clean with windex for the first time in years) that seemed to fill my entire body, warm all of my skin at once and reenergize my winter-weary mind hasn’t left me.

i am still so happy. i am still pinching myself to check if this is real. am i really married to my partner? did i dream this all up? but then i see the big white envelope that holds our marriage license, the one with both of our names on it, and our joint address. and a big silver seal stamped (tuesday afternoon) by a grumpy dc marriage license worker (the same one that did our oath while “hey soul siter” was playing on the radio) with a piece of ancient manual machinery just before he handed it to us and said in his island-accented monotone, “congratulations.” i see that envelope and i know what’s in it and i know i’m not dreaming and this is all real.

i thought i saw a smile–not a half-smile, even, maybe a quarter-smile–creeping on his very unsmiley face, if only for the fact that it was the third time we’d been there in a week (once just to ask a question about officiants–yes, we drove all the way from baltimore simply to ask who, exactly, could marry us–b/c the office has been so busy no one’s been answering the phone).

yes we want to be married that badly, that visit said. we want to be married so badly that we drove the 45+ miles here and got stuck in who knows how much traffic just to ask you guys a question.

we held up our signed marriage license for photo after photo wednesday afternoon, a few close friends and uncle ben in the wheelchair we rented for him surrounding us. yes this is ours, i kept thinking. no, i can’t believe it. man this was so much better and more fun and less stressful than our first wedding. 

we brought that license with us where we are now, holly’s hometown in western pee-ay, to show her family. and yes, uncle ben’s with us! he is a road warrior. we’ve been taking him everywhere. in fact, he’s sitting on the guest daybed right next to the computer i’m sitting at right now. he just asked what i was doing, and i told him writing a blog entry on the wedding ceremony.

“oh,” he said. “well, why don’t i see you writing anything?” then i showed him how the screen scrolls down and he totally got it. we’re both still up and the rest of the house is asleep. we both eat constantly. we both share his mother’s, my great-grandmother’s, blue eyes. it’s really really nice to have him around.

we watched “slumdog millionaire” tonight (i had never seen it) and i’m just feeling so inspired. i feel like my life–our lives–are off to a brand new start. it’s like this big, gaping hole has been finally filled with this legal marriage and we can move on now. like all the hurt of our last wedding is over and the slate’s been wiped clean. i feel like everything and anything is possible. i never thought marriage could feel like this. i never thought a piece of paper with a stamp and a signature could change my life so much.

we’re getting married (again) tomorrow: and this time it’s going to be LEGAL!

well, folks, the day has finally come. holly and i are getting legally wed tomorrow in DC. i am still pinching myself! it’s just too fabulous.

what’s additionally fabulous is the fact that we’re actually looking forward to this wedding (unlike our last one). we’re doing this for us and only us. and we. are wearing. jeans. [actually i’m topping off the jeans with even more denim: my favorite jean jacket. (a birthday present from holly many years ago)] no stress. no wedding dress. nothing fancy. just me, holly, uncle ben, and a handful of friends. then off to an irish pub to celebrate–hey it is st. patty’s day! this was holly’s request: to get legally hitched on st. patty’s day. how could i tell such a cute irish girl no??)

so yes, uncle ben. my 88-year-old great uncle ben (my late grandmother‘s younger brother; she had four, he’s the remaining sibling) is in town from florida for the ceremony and festivities. he waited at the au bon pain across the street from the courthouse today while we gave the marriage bureau our officiant’s name. (we set him up with soup and bread and coffee while he was waiting. so cute.) when we came back, we walked up to his table with our certificate in hand, nestled in a big white envelope behind a piece of cardboard.

we took it out to show him and his eyes just shined with pride and joy. it was all i could do not to burst out into tears.

he called his friend joe earlier tonight, an old friend from his florida condo complex (much like the one jerry seinfeld’s parents live in–i must admit it has a fantastic pool).

“joe!” he said (loudly) into his cell phone. (yes, he has a cell phone. he also does email and searches on google.)

“joe, tomorrow’s the big day! my nieces are gettin’ married!”

he was smiling so wide. he’s like the male version of my grandma. and he is crazy about holly. we both feel so lucky to have him here. he’s been one of our biggest supporters.

it took us a solid few days to find a non-denominational officiant (we already had a big jewish wedding once; don’t need another one!). he’s abbreviated his usual six-page ceremony down to one. i absolutely love it. it’s so simple. it’s so direct. it’s touching and it is legal. its simplicity it what makes it so special.

We gather today to marry ________ and ________.  it begins.  This is your time; this is your day.  Today you once again declare your love and commitment to each other: this time sanctioned not only by your love, your vows and your solemn commitment, but by the law. 

“but by the law.” the law! just like i said the other day, the whole thing’s so extraordinarily ordinary. the next time you hear from me, after nearly nine years with my partner, i will be legally wed!

extraordinarily ordinary (license to wed!)

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!)

i’m happy to report that things are finally getting back to normal

bouquet

my wedding bouquet, nov. 15, 2008. it somehow disappeared that day, but at least i have some fabulous photos of it (c/o the blonde photographer)

and right in time for our one-year wedding anniversary, which is today (!!?!). we knew it was coming, but we’d sort of forget every time we’d smell a random puff of death come from next door. (damn porous bricks. that’s what you get for doing the whole trendy exposed-brick thing, i guess. i should note that while the house seems increasingly better-smelling, we do have the random puffs. also the basement still smells kind of bad.)

as i was eating cinnamon toast and sipping coffee this morning, the today show announced the date.  i looked at the screen and there is was: sunday, november 15, 2009.

“oh my gosh happy anniversary, babe!” i said.

“happy anniversary!” holly cheered back.

we had completely forgotten and then we both remembered, as if it was the very first time we were talking about it. (even tho we were talking about it last night.)

“thank G-d that’s over,” i said.  

“i know, right?” she chirped.

then i perched in front of her on the couch–she was sitting there working on her little netbook–my knees resting on the edge of the cushion. i looked down as hovered above her, grabbed her little face in my hands, gave her a gentle kiss and told her how happy i am that i married her. we are both out of work (granted, i am very busy w/my freelance journalism/copywriting and holly’s very busy w/school…but full-time work, we’ll say) and our house smells vaguely of death and yet…i have never been so happy.

after the week we’ve been thru (and i can say with full certainty that it was the very worst of my life), the BFGW doesn’t seem like such a big deal. i mean, sure, the post-traumatic stress is still working its way out of my system, but it honestly seems–well, not quite like cake (um, no. definitely not cake), but i’m just looking at things with brand-new eyes (and, err, nose) after this week:

we’re alive. we have each other. we have a good solid roof over our head. happy anniversary indeed. i love you, honey!! here’s to a million more. mmmmmwah.