Earlier this year I met a woman on vacation from The Netherlands. She sidled up to me sipping champagne at a book launch we were both at. We said the usual things two perfect strangers making small talk say at a social event. You know, where she’d been before she ended up in Sydney? Who was she staying with? Has she found love on the way?
But then she asked a question. Why was Marriage Equality still illegal in a progressive country like Australia?
I told her about my own relationship which will clock up twenty-five years this month, so we went on to chat about whether my partner and I would tie the knot if our country made it to the twenty-first century. Which brings me to an advantage of being a long term couple living in sin.
On Facebook last week I saw a Canadian friend who was celebrating his marriage anniversary of several years, even though he and his man have been together for nineteen. And I’m quite sure one of them proposed to the other knowing full well what the answer would be. After that amount of time they’d be no need to fear the reply.
So imagine what it must be like for our straight counterparts to build up to that question. For centuries men have paced in front of their beloved’s front door, downing a beer or three beforehand to pluck up the courage, and put their pride on the line while they rehearse the words that could prove fatal to their ego.
And what if the woman says no? How does a grown man cry? What does he tell his mates?
Picture how she feels. A nice man whips out a jewellery case on bended knee after an expensive meal. She only knows him from the sandwich shop because he makes the best egg salad roll on the planet. She smiles in appreciation. He smiles back because no woman has flirted with him like that since MySpace was a thing. He finally asks her out after rehearsing night after night, as if he was some desirable movie star who always gets his leading lady.
But he stutters as he asks her to an art exhibit, because that’s what he believes girls like her are into. She likes him and thinks he’ll be an okay friend to have around. They realise they have the same taste for early Sia. She laughs at his jokes, even the ones it takes her a while to get. He is enchanted by the blue streak in her hair, considering it adorably retro.
But the world stops as he waits on bended knee for her answer. How does she say no? She doesn’t want him to cry. She doesn’t want to lose her friend.
And that, my dear fellow long-term gay and lesbian couples, is the heartache we avoided. We met our partners and just floated into the relationship with little thought. There was no gut churning over-evaluation. We never asked our potential father-in-law for permission to share rings. We just did without the “I do”.
And that is our blessing. So I’d like to raise a glass to all those straight couples who have weathered storms, brought up your offspring, dealt with each other’s neurosis and gently slipped into a wise old age.
For you risked the possible rejection of a marriage proposal, yet you still gaze into each other’s eyes, grin as if you just met, and continue to say “I do”.