Monday, June 07, 2010

Marriage: A Status Update

Heterosexual marriage suffered a devastating blow last week when it was announced that Al and Tipper Gore planned to separate after 40 years of being joined at the heart. The news sparked waves of panic in the nation’s breakfast nooks, as straight, middle-aged couples glanced up from their newspapers (or over their laptops) at their paunchy, unwashed spouses and thought, “Good lord, if Al and Tipper can’t make it, what hope is there for us?”

(Photo Credit: Luke Frazza, AFP/Getty Images, via)

Who knew the Gores were the central cog in the vast machinery of heteropatriarchal marriage? The locomotive pulling the train? The rock upon which the whole edifice was built? The wind beneath its wings? Who would have thought their incredibly civilized announcement, delivered via e-mail (oh, so that’s why he invented the Internets!), would have set off paroxysms of How Can It Be? and What Does It Mean? and Where Will It Lead? Apparently, the big fear among hets is that the Al/Tipper split proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that people are living too long to make that “till death do us part” business practicable. I mean, heck, once the kids are raised and the Nobel Prize has been won, what’s a couple with four houses and a cable TV channel to do? Yep, Al and Tipper are just like us, and if they can’t make it work, well, then, honey bun, I’d say our long-term prospects are bleak.

New York Times columnist Gail Collins got off the best line of the week when she declared that the split proves to an anxious nation that “no marriage is ever safe. And the fact that Hillary and Bill outlasted [Al and Tipper] means that we’ve been lied to by a generation’s worth of Lifetime movies.”

Meanwhile, of course, there is nothing but bliss out in the brave new world of non-heterosexual marriage – Well, I mean, assuming you overlook the recent split of rocker Melissa Etheridge and her wife Tammy, not to mention Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and her partner of 15 years, Lauren Azar. (Baldwin and Azar weren’t married but were registered domestic partners in Wisconsin.) Oddly, when Moose read those stories, she didn’t start fretting that she and Goose were soon to be herstory. She thought, Well, that’s unfortunate. I hope they all manage to be decent to one another, especially where kids are concerned, and that they find happiness in whatever form of relationship or non-relationship they pursue next.

As I have told you many times, Moose is weird. And not nearly as clever as Gail Collins. Which explains a lot.

Anyhoo, kids, you needn't worry that marriage is in any danger of being canceled due to lack of interest. While the Gores were packing their bags for Splitsville last week, actress Jane Lynch and her partner, psychologist Lara Embry, were tying the knot in Massachusetts.

(Lara Embry, Haden Collette Ryan-Embry, and Jane Lynch. Photo Credit:, via.)

Meanwhile, closer to home, WaPo ran a story yesterday on the nuptials of a local couple, Kevia Shepard and Shannette Matthews, who legally married in DC in April and then jumped the broom before friends and family at a May ceremony in Maryland.

(Kevia Shepard and Shannette Matthews in May, 2010. Photo Credit: Katherine Frey, Washington Post.)

The unwed moms of Roxie's World are emphatically pro-choice on the issue of marriage, though they maintain their queer feminist skepticism about the institution both as a means of organizing intimacy and as a path to secure benefits (such as health insurance) that all citizens should enjoy. Nonetheless, my typist gets a little lump in her throat every time she sees wedding stories featuring same-sex couples in the pages of the Times and the Post. That's only in part because she is a rank sentimentalist. It is also because she recognizes the power of these images and stories to alter our ways of seeing sex and gender variation and the institution of marriage itself. The several stories on African-American couples that the Post has done perform the additional work of heightening the visibility of queers of color and demonstrating that marriage is not, as is often claimed, a priority only for economically privileged white gays. The truth is more complicated, and we see something of that happy complication in the delighted eyes of Shepard and Matthews in the photo above.

To the new couples just setting out on their marital journeys, Roxie's World offers a hearty mazel tov and a few words of hilarious yet useful advice. To the Gores and others who have decided to step off the marry-go-round, we offer our sincere hope that you will move forward in love, wherever you go.

With or without marriage, my lovelies, partnership isn't always easy, because -- d'oh! -- life isn't always easy. It's full of bumps and bruises, disappointments and losses, moments of anger and days of sorrow. It takes an uncertain combination of dumb luck and hard work to make any relationship endure over the long haul, but the best advice we've seen recently suggests it will all go better if you treat your partner as you treat -- yep, you guessed it -- your pets!

We are not making this up, kids. Suzanne Phillips, a psychologist who works with couples, has noticed that even the angriest partners, who are locked in disagreement about most things, tend to "soften in manner and tone to agree that the dog, cat, bird or horse is great." Phillips thinks that many of the behaviors humans easily display in their relationships with pets would enhance their relationships with their human partners -- e.g., a positive greeting, no matter how crappy your day has been; lack of expectation; readiness to forgive trespasses and to accept what can't be changed; a tendency to assume the best rather than the worst about the pet. "Few pets live with the fear of being betrayed or with the implication that things are just not working out," Phillips wisely notes.

So there you have it. Wanna save marriage? Then let it go to the dogs! Desperate to please your partner? The next time you walk in the door, get down on your knees and give her a thorough tummy rub with a Nylabone chaser. PAWS UP to that, lovebirds, and to all your happily ever afters. Peace out.


  1. Candy Man1:32 PM EDT

    Wise words, Roxie. And thanks for the images -- it's especially delightful to see Coach Sylvester so lovingly blissed out. xx

  2. Fabulous post, Rox. I think your best advice is, "Wanna save marriage? Then let it go to the dogs!" And hey, those pics put a little tear in Goose's eye, too.

    REALLY wonderful. Hets must think that romantic relationship are diseases or something. So many of them worry that same-sex couples will contaminate het ones, and now they're acting as if Al & Tipper's breakup is contagious. My my. . . .


  3. This is a lovely post, so I need to inject a little rye bread. I think that Tipper and Tammy are, well, getting it on, and that lead to the split. Wouldn't that be a juicy little tidbit for us Washingtonians? Rox, could you investigate?

  4. Well, if we're gonna go wry, Jules, we might as well get randy, too, and imagine a little 3-way featuring Tipper, Tammy (Etheridge), and Tammy (Baldwin). Tipper in a Tammy sandwich, anyone? No, me neither.

    And you're right about cats, Dr. C. They have a way of making all of us feel like we might not be measuring up to their very high expectations. It's awfully kind of them to endure our company.

  5. well and add to this that "kids of lesbians have fewer behavioral problems" and i think you've hit the trifecta. or the quadrafecta.

    speaking of which was that a great belmont or what???

    much more, but F2F and with nourishment...



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