I’m not religious, but I do love rituals and ceremonies. If I could have smells and bells and communal celebration without metaphysics, that’d be perfect. The trouble is, any spiritual group who tends towards the “there’s no such thing as absolute truth, but let’s be nice to everyone, eh?” don’t tend to go in for much in the way of magificient gothic architecture.
Damn the mismatch of my Catholic taste and my agnostic dissenter’s heart!
Perhaps geeks should start building whacking great gorgeous buildings where we could all come together to celebrate our favourite comics/tv shows/stories/books? A Fanthedral? After all, a Church is a fan-club to God, why not a fan-club to the human creative spirit?
Ladies and gentlemen, please turn to page 40 of the hymnal to sing, “How Great is Dave McKean’s Art?”
I love the human impulse to all sit/stand/sing together in a solemn but celebratory spirit. I love that sense of being part of a community that is looking towards something shared, looking forward together. I love it in the same way I love singing “You’ll never walk alone” with my Scouse-rooted family, or crossing arms to sing about auld aquaintance at new year. I sometimes worry that, if I’d lived in Nazi Germany, I could’ve been like one of those kids singing “Tomorrow belongs to me” in Cabaret.
Nazis notwithstanding, communal rituals are brilliant. I love weddings, especially – all those echoes of past couples, all the public resonance of the promises, all the shoes, all the rice, the groom is nervous, he answers twice, he’s really killing, but he’s so willing, to make whoopee.
All of this slowly brings me to the fact that I didn’t get married last week.
I didn’t get married for two reasons. The first being that my girlfriend and I saw the civil partnership ceremony that we had the other day as the “practical, legal bit”, and we’re having the real wedding – with family and friends and a big to-do – later on this year. The vows in the CP ceremony were moving, definitely, but I do see us as still engaged, really, rather than married, in the full emotional sense. Until my mum’s worn a hat, it ain’t a wedding.
The second reason I didn’t get married? Because civil partnership is not marriage. Legally speaking, the two states are very similiar. But in terms of symbolism, not so much. I hadn’t quite realised what that meant until recently, and for me, a lot of it is to do with language.
I can’t say, “I got married” without quibbling – well, actually, I didn’t. I took part in a civil partnership ceremony with my partner. But where’s the verb for that? I got civilly partnered? That just sounds silly! And, I can’t say “my wife”, technically, because she’s my “civil partner”, which sounds utterly bloodness, unromantic and a little Modern Parents-ishly naff.
Language is only a part of it – the symbolism of a separate but equal institution is unappealing in itself. But, language – the vehicle for truth, how we show others what we feel, what we mean, who we are – matters to me. I want to be able to say, “I got married” without footnoting it.
As it is, I probably will just say I’m married, and talk about my wife most of the time all the same. I feel like I’m getting married. The thing is, I’d rather like the law to catch up please. Chop chop!
It seems it’s potentially on the cards that, at some point over the next couple of years, marriage equality will become a fact in law as well as in speech… according to one Lib dem guy, anyway, though perhaps I shouldn’t be holding my breath.
Some people probably feel that marriage has too many skeletons in its closet as an institution, and would actually prefer a civil partnership – straight couples included. So I’m all for opening up both institutions to straight and gay couples. But personally, I want to be married, plain and simple, Jane Eyre style: “Reader, I married her.”