Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sharing the ceremony

Note - this is a very long post...it took 25 minutes to actually read aloud, but since some of you might be interested I'm posting it.

The Transcript of the Official Wedding Ceremony of Poor George and Coaster Punchman

I’d like to welcome everyone to this beautiful setting today to witness and celebrate the marriage of two spectacular people, Poor George and Coaster Punchman.

Some of you know me and to others I’m a new face – my name is Melinda June, and I’m a close friend of the happy couple. I’m incredibly honored and a little overwhelmed that they’ve asked me to perform this ceremony. And I apologize in advance that I’m going to read this whole thing…it’s very important to me that I get this right, and since we couldn’t get a teleprompter this is the only recourse.

As is obvious by the number of you gathered here today, I’m not the only person in this world who adores these two men.Therefore, when they asked me to prepare the ceremony and vows, I decided to enlist the help of the scores of people who love them, and I sent out an email asking for input. I’ve gotten many, many responses, and I’ll be using quotes and references from these emails to help make this ceremony a reflection of the love and good wishes being sent their way

Let’s start today with some thoughts from ES, who has known CP for years and who sent an eloquent note about how society defines marriage. She writes:

When we speak of marriage, we speak of it in two senses, as a spiritual or existential relationship between two people and as a legal institution. Marriage in spirit is marriage in the sense of Shakespeare’s famous sonnet: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment.” Out first instinct, I think, is to say that this is marriage in its truest sense. This is marriage of spirit and mind and heart, of love and faith and charity. Many couples, albeit they be “married,” never have this kind of marriage; no law or god creates it, it cannot be put asunder, by will of god or man or by the letter of the law. Of course this is the sort of marriage that CP and Poor George already have. This ceremony does not create this true marriage for it already exists. This ceremony and the signed piece of paper that accompanies it do something different. Something legal, something public.

Marriage in this truest sense and marriage in the legal sense are two different things that only sometimes overlap. Marriage in the legal sense may coincide with a couple’s feelings, but need not, and often, historically, does not.Indeed, what marriage means legally has differed according to place and time: where once marriage was legally understood as a set of contractual obligations between individuals and their families, our modern, legal understanding of marriage is as a set of rights, that may or may not be exercised by adults, as they so choose. But why choose marriage in the legal sense?

Marriage of the spirit is private: a domestic, intimate relationship that only two partake in. We know little of our friends or families’ marriages in this sense. But their legal marriage is our business. For marriage, in the legal sense, is a public event, a contract made between two citizens and civil society. I commit myself to this man, in front of you, with you as my witnesses, to live in society with you (fellow citizens) with this man as my spouse. Indeed, it is this externalization, the performative of the “I do,” which makes marriage more than just an intimate conversation between two, but a civic institution, to be respected. I think, therefore, that we can all feel fortunate that another couple has entered this civic institution of marriage, with the true feelings of spiritual marriage behind it.

Her point is well taken, because it’s the legal aspects of marriage that have brought us here today instead of sometime next spring.

It’s unjust that we’ve had to rush this ceremony. As you may or not know, there is a ballot initiative called Proposition 8 that will be given a yea or nay vote on November 4, and if it passes California will no longer issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Therefore, there hasn’t been time to plan this like a normal wedding, because waiting may mean that CP and Poor George would lose their right to legal recognition of their bond.

Whether it’s Proposition 8 or a similar initiative in another state, it’s important to vote NO, and to vocalize how destructive and mean-spirited this kind of bigotry is. In fact, California and Massachusetts are the only states that currently issue licenses for same-sex marriages. And, after the ceremony today, in the unlikely event that CP and Poor George decide to separate, they will have the hassles of divorce to deal with, but their union will not be recognized in most states in the US, and they will still not receive the federal privileges of marriage. It’s important that we, as people who love them, speak openly about this and actively seek to win hearts and minds, and change state and federal laws so that discrimination like this becomes a thing of the past.

It’s funny. Ballot initiatives like Proposition 8 make same-sex marriage the new “shotgun wedding” – couples are running to the county clerk to get on the right side of the law before the big day, which in this case, is the November 4th election.

BUT!

We are not here today to celebrate the legality of same-sex marriage. We are here to celebrate the spiritual, the TRADITIONAL marriage of two people who love each other dearly, and who are ready to stand in front of their friends and loved ones to make a lifelong commitment to each other.

And the fact that you’ve all dropped everything and travelled to San Diego to be here with them today is especially meaningful. Poor George and CP would like me to thank you for your love and support.

So – ONWARD!

CP and Poor George are no dewy-eyed newlyweds. They are unique, talented individuals that bring rich personal histories and perspectives to their relationship.

When I asked people about Georgie - or Poor George as he’s known on CP’s blog – they immediately speak of his talents, both in the kitchen and in music.

Poor George’s friends and fellow musicians will tell you he is one of the most amazing musicians they know. If playing Carnegie Hall is a milestone, then Poor George achieved it at a very young age. Pretty impressive.

Through his music, Poor George has touched the lives of many, and along the way he’s made fiercely loyal friends. And though in many cases it is music that brings them together, it is Poor George’s goofy personality and his extraordinary culinary skills that build the lifelong friendships that surround him.

To a one, Poor George and CP’s friends and family rave about Poor George’s cooking, hospitality and genial gatherings. His niece B credits Poor George with introducing her to the finer culture of food and wine, and the art of living a beautiful life. One of his frequent guests, JB, tells a story that anyone who has dined at Poor George’s house can relate to. He says, “I recall a moment of clarity and culinary ecstasy as I dipped my first chip into the Santa Fe dip, then several minutes of bliss, and finally a moment of horror as I reached the bottom of the bowl almost single-handedly. I swear the salad bowl was quite large, and I’m fairly sure I contributed nothing to the conversation but the sound of constant chewing.”

But more than this, when people speak of Poor George, they speak of his kindness. His generosity. His good humor, his warmth and his optimism. They tell stories of him coming to play he-man and change a flat tire in the middle of the night. Of him cracking jokes to relieve tension. Of outrageous goofiness and giggling. And of his ability to make those around him get perspective when they are troubled or stressed by the ways of the world.

As I’ve gotten to know him, I realize that this is just who Poor George is. He’s the guy who’s always cracking jokes and is the life of the party, but he’s the guy who's also always looking out for you, whether you know it or not. Poor George will always tell you the truth. He lives his life honestly, and he demands that those around him do, too. But he does so with kindness and sensitivity, and respect for the people he loves.

It is these qualities of kindness and caring, Poor George, that CP’s sister M described when she spoke of your love for her brother. She’s seen you care for CP when he’s ailing, watching out for him and supporting him, and making him laugh and lighten up when he’s taking things too seriously.

It is this quiet way in which you express your love that has made those who love CP love you.

This ancient Chinese love poem was written by Kuan Tao-Sheng (1262-1319) :

You and I
Have so much love

That it burns like a fire,

In which we bake a lump of clay

Molded into a figure of you

And a figure of me.

Then we take both of them,

And break them into pieces,

And mix the pieces with water,

And mold again a figure of you,

And a figure of me.

I am in your clay.

You are in my clay.

In life we share a single quilt.

In death we will share one bed.


And now we turn to Coaster Punchman.

CP’s friends often describe him as a sweet, gentle soul with a rapier wit. He’s sardonic and generous, and he is one of those rare people you meet whom you know is good to the core.

And I guess that’s true. But, CP, you’re also a goofy lug, prone to silliness, obsession and excitability. Which is part of your charm, but also makes for good story telling.

CP is completely unaware that most people don’t go through life screaming like a little girl every time they’re startled. It makes even something as mundane as grocery shopping an adventure, and driving with him can become an amusement park ride. It’s even better when he talks to himself, too.

Trendy Wendy, a friend of CP’s from college, will tell you of the $20 cupcake they simply HAD to have when she was visiting New York, which of course turned out to be Nilla Wafers, banana pudding, bananas and cool whip – a testament to CP’s obsessive love of sweets AND his secret church-potluck cravings.

When Alex the King remembers the Northridge earthquake, the shaking and the broken plates are overshadowed by CP’s revulsion and embarrassment when “that awful Brad Allen” ate almost a whole jar of Alex’s marionberry jam by continually putting his personal spoon directly in the jar. I think it may be the most grievous violation of etiquette that CP can remember, and was likely the start of his Miss Manners fascination.

Much to the annoyance of their daughters, mothers the world over love CP, even when he bleeds on their floor and requires a trip to the emergency room – something he did to Bob and Judy when he was only four years old. But they still consider him part of their family, as do countless other parents, including my own. CP is like a son to them, and they even throw him birthday parties to prove it. Personally, I think it’s because he’s a bit of a suck-up. But it’s also because he is a kind, engaging person who makes an effort to connect with people.

And then maybe it’s also the spontaneous swing dancing and tap lessons.

But perhaps one of the most telling stories is the one CP’s friend MC emailed me, who carried a piece of paper with his name engraved on it in her wallet for years. She kept it, because on the back he’d scrawled the words, “To thine own self be true.” It may not have always been easy for him, but his life thus far is a testament to following that advice.

CP brings his personality and his eccentricity to his relationship with Poor George, and in it, Poor George has found a soul mate in silliness, and someone to love and support. Poor George once spoke of love with his close friend, June, and told her that love should not be two people trying to find their identity in one another, but instead two people with their own sense of selves, building a bridge to meet in a common place, appreciating, enjoying and supporting each other as they weather the inevitable bumps and difficulties that life puts in their path. And she believes he’s found this with CP. Poor George’s sister Ruby echoes this sentiment. She says that since he’s been with CP, Poor George has been happier, transformed through their connection of love, communication, wine and gourmet food. What more can you wish for someone you love?

This poem was submitted for CP and Poor George by Wonderturtle from the blog circle:

Prayer for a Marriage
Steve Scafidi

When we are old one night and the moon

arcs over the house

like an antique China saucer

and the teacup sun

follows
somewhere far behind
I hope the stars deepen to a shine

so bright you could read by it


if you liked and the sadnesses

we will have known go away

for awhile--in this hour or two


before sleep--and that we kiss

standing in the kitchen not fighting

gravity so much as embodying


its sweet force, and I hope we kiss

like we do today knowing so much<

good is said in this primitive tongue


from the wild first surprising ones

to the lower dizzy ten thousand

infinitely slower ones--and I hope


while we stand there in the kitchen

making tea and kissing, the whistle

of the teapot wakes the neighbors.


CP and Poor George have many devoted friends from every era of their lives. And as we’ve watched them come together in the last 11 years, we’ve seen two individuals who found happiness in each other. With Poor George’s culinary talents and CP’s cocktail skills and general hospitality theirs is the most coveted dinner invitation in town. They are honest and open with each other and don’t gloss over the pain and struggles, but they maintain a sense of humor and find joy even when you wonder how they can.

They bicker like fishwives, and have since the day they met – Just ask Cousin Michael, who introduced them. This is especially true in the kitchen, but they always reconcile because they know what things actually matter. And if any of us express concern, they answer, “Oh, we do that all the time. Not to worry.” So we don’t. Because, as their friend VC put it, we see a strong, healthy and loving partnership that allows them to be themselves and love that about the other.

CP and Poor George, as you enter into this formal union, remember it is who you are as individuals that brought you to each other. Your friends E&I give you wise advice when they encourage you to keep driving each other nuts with lots of love so you’ll always know the other one is there. Respect each other, and take time to see one another as the person you fell in love with in the first place. And our wish for you is that you wake up tomorrow morning, smile at each other and know that the good thing you’ve had for so long is only going to get better and better.

KAPPA READS IN RUSSIAN

And finally, this poem was sent by HTW, who is a friend of CP’s from high school. It’s a summary of the questions you’ve asked, what you’ve found in each other, and an invitation to share the joy, heartache and love of your futures.

The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer


It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.

I want to know what you ache for

and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.


It doesn’t interest me how old you are.

I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool

for love

for your dream

for the adventure of being alive.


It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...

I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow

if you have been opened by life’s betrayals

or have become shriveled and closed

from fear of further pain.


I want to know if you can sit with pain

mine or your own

without moving to hide it

or fade it

or fix it.


I want to know if you can be with joy

mine or your own

if you can dance with wildness

and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes

without cautioning us

to be careful

to be realistic

to remember the limitations of being human.


It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me

is true.

I want to know if you can

disappoint another

to be true to yourself.

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal

and not betray your own soul.

If you can be faithless

and therefore trustworthy.


I want to know if you can see Beauty

even when it is not pretty

every day.

And if you can source your own life

from its presence.


I want to know if you can live with failure

yours and mine

and still stand at the edge of the lake

and shout to the silver of the full moon,

“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me

to know where you live or how much money you have.

I want to know if you can get up

after the night of grief and despair

weary and bruised to the bone

and do what needs to be done

to feed the children.


It doesn’t interest me who you know

or how you came to be here.

I want to know if you will stand

in the centre of the fire

with me

and not shrink back.


It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom

you have studied.

I want to know what sustains you

from the inside

when all else falls away.


I want to know if you can be alone

with yourself

and if you truly like the company you keep

in the empty moments.


And now, before they exchange vows and rings, Poor George and CP would like to offer a moment of silence to remember their loved ones who are no longer with us in body, but whom we know are with us today in spirit.

(list of loved ones, including Betty the Cat)

(Silence)
(Alex the King sings)

CP and Poor George have separately developed their vows to the other, and have asked that I read them in front of you today.

CP, in his lawyerly way, has approached this like a contract, with promises to Poor George, and reciprocal conditions.

Poor George,

1) CP promises to allow and encourage you to continue to grow as an individual, and he requests that you are equally committed to us growing as a couple.
2) He promises to make sure you are always surrounded by loving friends and family, and asks that you remember that you are never alone as a couple, but one part of a loving community.
3) He will allow you to get a dog, even though he’s not making a firm commitment on breed just yet, and asks you to at least consider a pound puppy who needs a loving home rather than spending $1000 on some smoosh-faced purebred.
4) CP promises to be supportive when you’re feeling discouraged, disgruntled or otherwise unhappy, and in return, he asks that you remember that he loves you even when he’s having a crabalanche.
5) He will try never to go to bed angry at you, and will not force you to always be the first to apologize, and he wants you to know that when HE apologizes, he really means it.
6) He’ll even give 75% to the relationship, expecting only 25% in return. CP asks that you use your accounting skills to get creative with your own math.
7) CP will not make fun of you for being a total 100% goofball, and begs you never to stop being so silly and childlike.
8) CP promises to love you at least as much as he loves the cats, but asks that you never stop doing your cat imitations.
9) CP vows to try to accept your advice and constructive criticism, and asks you to continue to let him make up his own mind about important personal decisions. And to stop yelling at him in the kitchen when you’re teaching him to cook.<
10) CP promises to remember every day how many things he has to appreciate about you, and to remember how lucky he is. But you have to continue to let him dress you.

CP, is this an accurate summary of your vows?

And Poor George, do you agree to his terms?

CP, here are Poor George’s counter terms for you.

1) Poor George promises you the freedom to pursue your freakish fascination with Mormons, but he’s not going to join the Church of Latter Day Saints, no matter how nicely you ask.
2) Poor George will allow you to continue your repetitive viewings of Cheesy Made For TV Movies and other mass market movies, including but not limited to Not Without My Daughter, Muriel’s Wedding, Sybil, Mommie Dearest and other various Female Rage movies, but he can’t always promise he’ll sit through them with you.
3) He will not raise a stink about you single-handedly supporting Proctor and Gamble and various other health, beauty and pharmaceutical companies, but he reserves the right to stay product-free himself.
4) He promises to leave you to your periods of crippling inactivity on the sofa, but if you start sprouting potato buds you’re going on a hike together.
5) Poor George will not make fun of you when you commit culinary blunders, but he will snicker at baked Worcestershire Sauce with a Dollop of Cheesy Grits.
6) He promises to not abandon you during your crabalanches. In fact, he’s inventing a new sport called crab-skiing. It’s extreme, but he’s willing to ride the wave.
7) It’s OK with Poor George that you have an unusual obsession with cats, and he pledges to help take care of your kitties, too.
8) Poor George will happily provide the sweets for that tooth of yours, but he reserves the right to hide things and make sure you swallow between bites.
9) Poor George will not interfere with your blogging activities, even though they reveal his private life to hundreds of people he’s never met – but asks you to remember that you’ll run out of material if all you do is blog.
10) And most importantly, Poor George promises to care for you, comfort you, keep you company, feed you, shelter you, support you and share his life with you. And he promises this with no ifs, ands, buts or reservations.

Poor George, is this an accurate summary of your vows?

And CP, are these terms acceptable to you?

Then may we have the rings, please.

CP, please repeat after me.

I, CP, take you, Poor George, to be my spouse this day and forevermore. With this ring, I gladly marry you and join my life to yours. It is a symbol of my love, my faith in our strength together, and my promise to learn and grow with you.

Poor George, please repeat after me. I, Poor George, take you, CP, to be my spouse this day and forevermore. With this ring, I gladly marry you and join my life to yours. It is a symbol of my love, my faith in our strength together, and my promise to learn and grow with you.

Gentlemen, by the powers vested in me by the Universal Life Church of the World Wide Web, I pronounce you legally wedded spouses. Now give us a kiss!

Fade to Champagne toasts....and from Katie Schwartz, I read this on behalf of the blogging world:

May the world through each of your eyes remain magnificent and plentiful May your greatest pleasure always be the celebration of each other's individuality and the "we" that you create together. May life's hurdles and obstacles be overcome by looking into each other's eyes and knowing unequivocally that you will always be there for the other. May the simplicity of generosity, kindness, sarcasm and laughter inform every day of your life together. Live out loud—let the world know you’re here. Honor the best of who you are together in your commitment to preserving each other's happiness.