So now young gay couples are feeling the heat from their parents: One friend of mine, a man who has been a couple with another man for years, got more than “So, when are you and Fred getting married?” He got a whispered, “So, when will your dad and I be grandparents?” My friend said, Mom! Stop! Just ‘cause I can doesn’t mean I want to! And a BABY? Whoever said I want a kid? Are you insane?”
While the parents of gay men and Lesbian women are ecstatically pushing marriage and children on their kids, these same kids are finding themselves under a startling new kind of societal pressure, not always welcome. “Just as I got my parents used to the idea that I was a societal flop, a cultural bad girl, a institutional drop-out,” says a young woman friend of mine who has been living with another woman for a few years, “along comes my eligibility into the most sanctified status of all, the one state-of-being the culture worships: marriage. And my parents have gone into deranged White Picket Fence mode. They asked me—really—if Samantha and I wanted a Dalmatian puppy after we were married.
“A puppy?” I said. “You may recall that I don’t like dogs. And…after we’re married? I’m 21. Whoever said we’re getting married, mom? Oh, and isn’t it YOU who loves Dalmatians? I hate them!”
Hey, I’ve been speaking with wives, and their mothers, and their daughters, for years. I know that the minute marriage is in the air, the minute a rock goes on a finger (or, absent a rock, a celebration of the very possiblity of engagement), people get goofy. Mothers’ fantasies go wild. Fathers start having the Saving-for-College talks. It’s unstoppable.
But here’s why it’s worth indulging them. Marriage in this country is on the wane. More American households are led by singles than by married couples. of COURSE we worship marriage! It’s eluding us! It’s no longer the norm! This fantasied state of forever, this lifelong bliss, that’s the picture of marriage that lives in us. And, the more marriage recedes in our kids’ imaginations, the more the culture will idealize it. However bitter our divorces are; however absurd our choices; however numerous and disastrous our remarriages, we will continue to hope for love everlasting and imagine that it is to be found in wedlock. So the puppy thing; the happy kids, the picket fences, they dance in our heads like sugarplums.
If marriage is to make a comeback, gay men and women wanting to marry will certainly help. You can’t have the institution without all the ceremony that surrounds it. So straight or gay, first marriage or fourth, let your families dream and fantasize, insane and unrelated to your own fantasies as they may be. The notion of bliss, even with the pressure on you to provide it, is the price of the ticket.