It’s me. Your wife of two years, girlfriend of going on seven. And this is my long overdue apology for the wedding-obsessed creature I became in the couple of years before our wedding.
We barely knew each other when you proposed. I took it more as a romantic gesture than an intention; same-sex marriage was not legal, my family did not approve, and I hesitated before using such words as “lesbian” or “queer,” like they were profanities.
Then you bought me a couple of wedding magazines. You probably thought they would make me laugh, or that I’d pin some of the pretty pictures on my wall. How could you have known what havoc a few glossy pages could have wrought?
From then on, instead of letting you bore me with current events or translations of Rilke, I now bored you with the finer distinctions between Alençon and Chantilly lace. I began using foreign words, like “chiavari” and “ruching.” I enlisted your help in weighing the merits of fuchsia versus berry, peacock versus turquoise. Because, dammit, we needed a color scheme. Don’t you realize our color palette will inform every other aspect of our wedding? Stop smiling at me like that, Jo. Just because you live in jeans and white collared shirts and don’t know lilac from lavender. Somebody around here has to care about the details.
On second thought, obsessed isn’t a strong enough word. Make that wedding-possessed. Since we couldn’t be legally married, everything, from peonies to place cards, had to be perfect. If we wouldn’t have a valid marriage license, I’d be damned if the linens didn’t match the altar candles.
We never set a date. My fault as much as yours. You wanted to wait until we lived somewhere with more than a month-to-month lease. And making a public declaration that I loved a woman scared the hell out of me.
Then same-sex marriage became legal in California, if only for a few months. You proposed, again. I didn’t give you an answer. We bought a marriage license at the county courthouse, unsure if we would use it.
You found work as a field organizer with the No on Prop 8 campaign. The eighty-hour weeks meant we barely saw each other. You brought me home a campaign t-shirt, which I folded and put away without wearing; I had not worn crewneck t-shirts since I was eleven, when my mother cleared them from my drawers and made them into a quilt. I grew resentful of how little I saw you, but grateful for how easy it was to hold off answering your question; I realized I had spent months planning pew arrangements for an aisle I would not have had the courage to walk.
One night that fall I woke up to find you sleeping next to me, still in your jeans and No-on-8 shirt, your forearm thrown over your eyes. Faintly yellow moonlight fell in a bar over your back, and showed me the violet-blue cast under your eyes.
I found the shirt you had brought me home and threw it in the washer with every red sock I owned. It came out blush-colored. I cut the sleeves down to caps and the collar off. I picked out a pair of earrings that matched the green on the shirt. I wasn’t ready to say yes, but I was ready to let you talk me into it.
Our pastor married us on Election Day, the last day we could legally marry, and the only day both you and he had fifteen spare minutes. The few witnesses from our church read from the book of Ruth and played “Here Comes the Bride” on kazoos borrowed from the Sunday School room. We both wore jeans and our No-on-8 shirts. My favorite lipstick was tucked into my coin pocket. And in that moment, with you holding my hands in that dim, undecorated sanctuary, I found that this love, stripped of all the lace and satin that had made it less raw and open and threatening to me, was what I wanted.
Forgive me for understanding the difference between cascade and pomander bouquets better than I understood why you were working sixteen-hour days. Forgive me for taking so long to realize that the shirt you brought me home was more beautiful than the Ella Moss I would have chosen, because it means our wedding pictures will tell our children what we stood for. Forgive me for not getting this sooner; I should have, because you are white, and I am Latina, and less than fifty years ago, that would have been another reason we could not marry.
I’m not saying I don’t still want a wedding someday. We both do. You want a wedding cake and to see me in a white dress. I want an excuse to carry around flowers all day and get you in a tux. We both want a big party with our family and friends. But I promise never to value mermaid gowns over marriage equality, or aisle runners over equal rights. I promise not to give up. Our love may not be federally recognized within our lifetime, but I’m not going to bury that bitterness in letterpress and grosgrain ribbon.
I’m thankful you can’t tell a French tulip from a calla lily. I’m thankful you can fix a faucet but don’t give a damn about thermography. And whether or not we have a federal record to show for it, I’m thankful for you.
I’m thankful that we love.