The True Powers of Marriage

Earlier this week, my wife had a medical emergency. She’s fine and we’re fine (and thank you for your concern), but the details and traumas of that are not why I’m tapping eight hundred words into an iPad from a doctor’s office waiting room.

Unrelated: iPads are the worst thing for actual writing. Seriously awful.

I got the call while I was at work, and that was when I learned that Nicole was in the Emergency Room. I told my boss and sprinted out of the office in the middle of the afternoon. When I arrived at the hospital, I told the admittance nurse that I was Nicole’s husband, and she helped me find her. I told hospital security that I was her husband, and they let me into her private room. I told the doctor that I was her husband, and they shared medical information and made sure I was informed about her prognosis.

My wife was in the hospital for a little over 28 hours, and at no point did anyone ask me for an ID or a marriage license or ask me about our first date and the names of her cousins. We are different races and different sizes, but we wear the rings and took the vows and now “I’m the husband” are magic words that make doors open and paperwork appear.

When people talk about gay marriage, they talk about churches being forced to perform weddings they don’t consent to, which is just bullshit that will never happen. Churches are still free to turn away couples who don’t conform to their religious standards, even if those religious standards include not liking black people. I saw someone lamenting that cake decorators would have to stock up on groom and groom cake toppers since all the gays are going to be getting hitched now. We talk about wedding planners being sued for not organizing an event for two women, as if that’s the part that matters. It’s not.

Marriage really counts when the shit hits the fan. When I got that call, everyone from my boss at work to the administrators at the hospital to the management at Nicole’s work respected the fact that when I spoke, I was the husband, and I had the power to speak for my wife. With that power I cancelled her doctor’s appointments, called in sick to her work, and filled her prescriptions, including meds that are controlled substances.

It is impossible to keep two people, any two people, from falling in love if they want to be in love. I invite you to try. People of the “wrong” tribe, the “wrong” family, the “wrong” color, the “wrong” religion, and the “wrong” gender have always fallen in love, and they always will. Could someone talk you out of your love for someone? Once you recognize that fact, it is barbaric, it is wrong, it is evil to allow people to love each other without also letting them speak for each other.

DOMA and Prop 8 were struck down a week ago, but 37 states still refuse to license gay marriages or recognize gay marriages performed in other states and countries. Indiana just made it a felony to apply for a marriage certificates while under the influence of The Gay. It’s great that the federal government no longer discriminates, but the real mess of life, the illnesses and burials and births and divorces, happen on the local level in local hospitals, and before local judges.

Here in Texas we have some real assholes in government. I know, because my representatives are some of the biggest bigots and cowards in the lot. The only way this changes is if we get involved and let people know that even (especially?) in Texas, we aren’t OK with this nonsense. We’ve already tried the systemic subjugation and the separate-but-equal dance numbers, and neither of them worked out well for us.

Since Nicole came home, we still have a lot of work to do, a lot of doctors appointments to meet, and a lot more prescriptions to fill. I keep flexing these powers of marriage like they’re going out of style, and I keep glancing through the looking glass to a reality where I don’t have them. If Nicole had been born a Nick or I was born an Irene and we met at middle school band camp and fell in love in high school and dated through college and everything was the same except for our gametic gene expressions, where would we be now, two gay kids in the Dallas suburbs? If she had never come home, would I have been allowed in the hospital room to say good-bye? If I don’t come home tomorrow, will she be evicted from our new house?

I can’t stand to think about it, and the beauty of my straight privilege is that I don’t have to. My house is my castle and I’ve got 200 years of American case law and 2,000 years of Western civilization built into what it means to be “married.”  That meaning is starting to get a little bigger, and that’s a great thing. It just can’t happen soon enough.

Edie and Thea

A Sublime Self-Isolation

The best hoodies in America: American Giant

For most of last week, I spent my days and nights feeling miserable, creating a lasting butt impression on my living room couch, and snuggling down into my favorite hooded sweatshirt.

It is faded and has a torn pocket, and when I bought it ten years ago it celebrated a season of coming changes to the theatrical program at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London—changes that, I assume, have long since come and gone.

The hoodie is quintessential working-class American style. The hoodie originated with the working men of upstate New York, where even the sweatiest, nastiest job must continue to be performed in the coldest, darkest depths of a winter that lasts from September to June.

I love hoodies. I am never more comfortable than when in jeans and a hoodie, and my love of these artifacts of underdog fashion only intensified when I became active in a martial arts community that loves its custom sweatshirts. It doesn’t matter that forty years have passed—every martial artist I’ve ever met is still trying to be Rocky Balboa.

The hoodie has acquired a bad reputation and this trend has accelerated in recent years, particularly overseas. In England, wearing a hoodie is like wearing a prison jumpsuit. The perception has become so common that shops have banned hoodies and track pants, because that’s what the criminals are always wearing. I don’t think I need to spend a lot of time on why this is pretty dumb.

Without the hood itself, the hoodie would be nothing. And while, yes, a hood can be used to provide a thin layer of anonymity for crime, the positive uses of the hood are more numerous and effective. From protecting your face from sleet and wind to diving into a needed refuge of sublime self-isolation, the hood has been used by travelers and penitents and workers for hundreds of years.

The next time you use public transport, do a quick headcount of your fellow travelers who have chosen to fill their ears with their private soundtracks, personalized radio programs, or audiobooks. Are they any less isolated just because their faces are visible? When we have no privacy, we erect walls within our minds. This is the way of modern humans just as it was the way of monks in crowded abbeys centuries ago. By shrouding your face, you retreat into a privacy of your own making.

That privacy could be for healing or for meditation or for relaxation. Either way, it is a wall put up by choice to keep the outside world at bay. It is the cowl of modern times, the proverbial “little house” in which we choose to be ourselves.

Fancy talk aside, I’m as stylish as a math teacher at a middle school Sadie Hawkins dance. I thought I’d better check in with my friend, sartorial expert and world-class human, Jeff Dill. He weighed in thusly:

The truth is that the hoodie is the uniform of practicality and honest labor, the modest Medieval Franciscan robes of 21st century America, the new blue-collar habit. It’s suited to a wide variety of conditions and contexts; it’s simple, comfortable, and unpretentious.

There you have it. I’m practically a monk.

The fantastic Marian Wright Edelman

With a Sickness

I get up early, and the sky is dark and the wife is fast asleep. I grab a glass of water and sit at the computer to get some editing done and catch up on the news.

The world outside starts to brighten and wake up, and one of the dogs runs to the back door and barks at something. I look over at him, look back, and the whole world spins in a nasty little circle.

What the hell was that?

#

The doctor says I have a stomach bug that’s been going around, but I’ve got an extra special bonus version: the virus has set up a secondary infection in my inner ear. This is a fascinating and disturbing turn of events, and I don’t really want to think too hard about how an intestinal virus finds its way to your ear.

Doc hooks me up with some nausea meds that work immediately, but the world keeps spinning and jumping.

#

Nicole is pretty worried. I violated my only health care rule, the Three Day Rule: If it hurts or feels bad, wait three days before going to the doctor. It’s amazing how many minor aches and pains and illnesses can be treated with some rest and food, and it saves a lot of expensive trips to the doctor.

That first morning, I sat on the couch with the walls scrolling past for half an hour before I begged for a doctor.

#

New vertigo meds come and go after my second doctor appointment in two days, and they don’t make a dent. What I’ve got is called Labyrinth syndrome, and the inflammation in my inner ear is screwing up my equilibrium in a fantastic and debilitating way. I’ve become a permanent fixture on the couch, my head firmly pressed against the armrest in an effort to keep Earth from bouncing around so goddamn much.

#

It’s closing day for our new house, so I take some pills and sit in the car with my eyes closed while Nicole drives carefully across town.

We walk with her arm around my waist, which would be sweet if she wasn’t holding my belt loops to keep me from falling into a lusty kiss with the sidewalk.

I sign a paper that says we will pay a monthly mortgage until April 2043, but I can’t make sure that everything is in order because the words are dancing around the page, a private and unwanted performance of the short from Fantasia where the sheet music comes alive.

#

I can’t move. Breathing makes me nauseated. The frantic thud of my heart makes my skeleton pulse, and the movement is like going over a speed bump sideways, one tire at a time.

I’m lying on the floor because I couldn’t make it to bed. The sky falls around me from right to left only to lurch back to the start and fall again. Nicole puts a blanket over me and we talk about going to the ER.

#

After I assure the technician that I don’t have any body piercings or metallic implants, he sits me on a cheap plastic bench that slides effortlessly into a billion-dollar supermagnet. I keep my head perfectly still so the tumors or whatever it is that is eating my brain will show up clearly in the contrast. I think about my dad’s many, many MRI scans during his aggressive cancer treatments and the fourteen-hour surgery that saved his life. I think about the day that he asked me to write his eulogy if he never woke up, and in the claustrophobic beige body coffin I listen to the machines taking pictures of my skull.

Steel plates whir and click and set off a machine-gun rattle, an atonal dubstep that never drops the base. After each round of clanking and slamming, the rattling of Jacob Marley’s hellish chains pauses for a message from the Windows XP alert tone, a sunny little bong so incongruous and insane that I have to bite back a laugh.

#

No tumors are found and I try not to feel ridiculous for my freak-out. The fears of the MRI chamber fade quickly, and I’m cleared to go on a powerful string of steroids. A few hours after the first dose, I open my eyes to find that, for the first time in three days, the earth stands still.

The steroids keep me awake for almost two days straight, but since I’m awake I can enjoy the fact that the ground stays flat below my feet and the walls never melt around me. I stay up all night writing and reading while the sky is dark and the wife is fast asleep.

Wherein I Go On A Diet

It’s finally time for me to go on a diet. I’ve been cramming myself to the gills with this manufactured, over-processed crap for weeks, and I just can’t take it anymore.

Food? No, I haven’t been getting fat. Well, I have, but that’s not what I’m talking about. (Also: shut up.) I’m talking about an information diet. I’m so fed up that I’m just not showing up for dinner.
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Hello, Baby. Welcome to Earth.

This isn’t something that I go around shouting from the rooftops or anything, but—I’m an atheist. I’m a decent person (at least, I like to think so), and I don’t have horns growing out of my forehead. I don’t worship Satan (indeed, as an atheist, I don’t even think that Satan exists, let alone that he’ll do me favors if I wear all black and act like a prick). I don’t eat babies, and I haven’t hung out with a coven of witches since that one time in college.

Those chicks were crazy

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