There isn’t much I can write about the SCOTUS Decision on marriage equality that hasn’t already been written better by someone else. In the last few weeks I’ve had some pretty intense Facebook discussions about everything from the bible to state rights to slippery slopes to the fall of our democracy. All of the hand wringing and blargle shouting and doomsday calling has honestly been a real downer surrounding what, for my family, is a pretty awesome thing. So I am not going to write about it again. I know where I stand. You know me, you know where I stand. Instead, I am going to write about my friend Ken, and about a conversation with my daughter.
Ken is my oldest friend. We met in preschool when my parents first brought me to Utah in 1985. My first memory of him is eating cereal with him at our preschool. We all sat at tiny tables at our daycare, and before we were allowed to start in on our Sugar Pops (that was an actual cereal that existed when we were kids) we would be required to say a prayer. It went like this:
“God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.”
If I close my eyes, I can still hear a room full of toddlers saying those words in tiny voiced unison. The day I met Kenny (he was called Kenny back then, and I was called Johnny) instead of saying “Amen” Kenny said “A Frog” and I laughed so hard it hurt my face. After that, every morning before Sugar Pops we would try to outdo each other by picking a new noun to say at the end of the prayer. “Let us thank him for our food. A chair! A dog! A turtle!” And we’d laugh and laugh and laugh. One day after breakfast he wrote his phone number down in blue crayon on a piece of paper so we could tell our parents to let us have a sleep over. It was ***-***-0082. I still remember it because he had the same number until we graduated high school 16 years later.
Ken and I grew up best friends. We built countless club houses in the gully by my house. We stayed up all night beating the original Zelda. We stayed up all night beating Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. We stayed up all night beating Zelda – A Link to the Past. We played a lot of Zelda.
We were also very lonely kids. For a long time Ken and our friend Chuck were my only friends. We were three non-Mormon kids growing up in a very Mormon town and we felt very isolated. For me, I converted that angsty isolation into anger. I remember being very angry for a lot of my early teens, and every time I found myself feeling consumed by that anger, I would call Ken.
When my parents divorced, I called Ken. When my girlfriend broke up with me, I called Ken. Ken was always there, no matter what. One time, shortly after my parents’ divorce, my dad was in an apartment that didn’t allow dogs and my mom could no longer take care of Beau, our lab that I had raised from a puppy. The thought of losing him in the wake of everything that had just happened was too much for me to handle. I took all the anger I had bottled up from the separation and the divorce, all the sadness I'd felt every night as the hope my parents getting back together got further and further out of reach, and rage vomited it over everyone who would listen. My poor mom bore the brunt of my wrath with grace. And when I was done screaming and punching walls and saying every curse word I knew how to say, I called Ken. Ken called his mom, and they took my dog in until my dad could get a place that allowed dogs.
Ken saved my dog.
Why am I telling you all this? What does this have to do with the SCOTUS decision? Maybe you've already figured it out, but in case you haven’t, Ken is gay. Ken came out to me during our freshman year of college, and it was the most natural thing in the world. There was no big reveal. There was no disappointment. I never looked back on our life and tried to see things in a different light. He was still Kenny. He was the person, besides my parents, that I had known the longest in this world. That was it. End of story.
Another decade went by. Our lives took us in different directions. Sometimes, when things got great or things got rough, we would still call each other. I met Stevie and he met Jason. They became the people we called. They became our family.
|Ken and Jason|
|Ken and Jeff at my wedding|
Of course, there was a difference. Stevie was legally my family. When Stevie and I got married I included her on my health insurance. When Stevie had an issue with her heart and was in the emergency room, I was waived in because I was her husband. Kenny and Jason have been together for nearly a decade now, and they, unfortunately, had not been afforded the same rights.
But this isn’t a political post. This is a post about my friend Ken, and a conversation with my daughter.
On the Sunday after the SCOTUS decision I woke up, put on a pair of slacks and a maroon collared shirt, and, like I do most mornings, went down stairs to find my daughter watching the cartoon Justice League.
“Yo dude.” Sometimes I call her dude. It makes me a cool dad. (Just let me have this.)
“Yo.” She says yo back, because we’re cool like that. (Seriously, just let me have this.)
“Go grab your purple dress. We’re going to a wedding party.” She calls them wedding parties, so I
call them wedding parties.
“OOOH Whose wedding party is it Daddy?”
“My friends Ken and Jason are getting married.”
“Oh! Are Kenny and Jason boys?”
“Yes. You have met them before. They came to my birthday.”
“They are boys and they are getting married?” This was framed as a normal 4-year-old question, not the way I would have asked it when I was her age. There was no ewww in her voice. I smiled.
“Yep. Sometimes boys marry boys. And sometimes girls marry girls.” And sometimes you realize in the middle of saying something that it is the first time you are able to say it. And sometimes you realize that moment is different than all the moments before it. Something big has changed and you got to see it, and this is the first time the change has worked its way into your life in a real way. And it is beautiful.
“So they are a family now?” We’ve always told her that mommy and daddy got married to make a family.
“Yep! They are a family!”
“OK. Can I wear my pink dress?”
And that was it. She bounced off into her room to put on her pink dress. Stevie woke up the boy and got him dressed in his tiny pants, tiny button up, and tiny clip on tie, and the four of us went to a wedding. Not a gay wedding. A wedding.
There were no politics. There was no arguing about state’s rights. God did not smite us, and our country did not collapse beneath our feet. I watched as my life-long friend married his best friend, the person he loves. Stevie and I sat together, our kids in our lap, and watched the creation of another family. In that quiet moment I found clarity. I knew that long after all the internet fights and blargling have subsided, this is what will remain. Families. Partners. A team. A way to face the world together.
I always cry at weddings. Always.
Love you all!
P.S. Thanks, Ken and Jason, for letting us be a part of your day, and thanks for letting me write about it. Congratulations on your family. You deserve it.
And Ken, thanks for being such an amazing friend… and thanks for saving my dog. OK, I’m crying again.
Be sure to come say hi on the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page; we have a lot of fun there.