I did not expect to see gay marriage legalized, at least in the South, for a very long time. But on Oct. 10, 2014, Federal U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. overturned North Carolina's historic ban on same-sex marriage.
So color me amused that I recently went from never attending a gay wedding to having two invites within weeks of one another. The floodgates have been opened, people, but are we prepared for all that it entails? Would gay folks now, like our straight comrades, be besieged with wedding registries, ceremonies, receptions and an endless production of awkward video regards? At least I would not have to suffer the sad and embarrassing collection of pastel, taffeta bridesmaid dresses in my closet like many of my female wedding warriors.
Many have addressed the euphoria that comes with legal gay marriage, but few have broached the subject of what happens when some of those unions do not make it.
I was in a relationship for almost 18 years — in straight years, that's practically half a century. It was ironic that I was with the same person longer than most of my straight friends and family members, but because my union was not recognized by the government, it was not given the same reverence by some in my network. I think I got more support when our pets died than when my partner and I separated.
I wondered if we'd experienced more closure if there was some logistical process in our decision to uncouple.
Marriage is an acknowledgement of what a couple has accrued during their time together. It validates the couple's union socially, legally and economically. But legalizing gay marriage also gives due process in the unfortunate case where a partnership must be dissolved.
The dismantling of a relationship for any couple and their family and friends is a difficult task for all parties involved. I saw this strangely played out when I attended my first "Big Gay Awkward Wedding."
A few months earlier, I got a call from an old friend Roy, inviting me to his wedding to his partner Rick. I was excited for the couple but a bit thrown off since we had not really spoken or hung out since my ex and I split. I later found out that my ex, whom I had not seen in over a year, would also be there. The only thing more uncomfortable about seeing your former partner at a wedding would be if he showed up with a new lover and you were 50 pounds heavier.
I was beginning to understand what my divorced straight friends and family members had to negotiate.
I ended up going to the wedding with a couple who had been very supportive of me during my breakup. At first, it was uncomfortable seeing my ex and folks who had once been a part of my network. Honestly, I was feeling some kind of way until we all were asked to gather on the patio where the wedding ceremony would take place. The couple stood surrounded by family and friends, some of whom they had known for the entire 20-year tenure of their relationship.
As far as gay ceremonies went, this one was pretty tame: no strippers, drag queens or even disco music. Just two guys dressed in jeans and buttoned down shirts, validating their love for one another.
I stood amongst other couples who held hands while the two grooms exchanged wedding vows. My ex, who had been my best friend for years, stood next to me. We did not speak; we did not hold hands like those around us; we just stood next to one another in silent resolve. In that moment, I was hit with conflicting emotions of joy for the grooms and an ironic sadness of what could have been as I stood next to my ex partner. My imaginary ear buds blasted Vesta's "Congratulations" loudly in my head.
After the ceremony, we embraced Roy and Rick and offered hugs. It was the first time in several years that our group of friends had all been together.
The ceremony was beautiful, and in many ways therapeutic for our circle. My ex and I met the following week and spoke our truths, hopefully starting the healing process. In our conversation, we realized we were not the only ones mourning our relationship. Those in our circle had as well.
The legalization of same-sex marriage is absolutely wonderful. But we have to be prepared for all that comes with it: the good, the bad and the awkward.