The other week I saw that someone had started a thread on LinkedIn, asking ‘what is your fairy tale wedding’? To be honest, my first thought was to be highly critical. Equal marriage rights is so completely not about fairy tales, but about real people and real lives. The whole institution of Marriage can seem pretty screwed up and partly because many hold this fairy tale image of what Marriage is and should be.
And every time I get a LinkedIn update, there that question is, and I think about it. Two television shows this past week however prompted me to have a very different perspective. Both Modern Family and Glee had same-sex marriage proposals and both shows, I watched multiple times, with teary eyes thinking about the beauty and romance- in other words, the fairy tale aspect of marriage.
My partner admitted to me one day that a part of his resistance to marriage was that he had convinced himself that he would never be able to get married because he was gay. So, being open to marriage and have dreams of what it ought to be like was foreign territory. I can relate, although for me it isn’t so much a matter of self imposed restrictions. Rather, my childhood was full of unsuccessful family dynamics and two failed marriages by my mother. I never saw Marriage as a good thing. It always fell short in reality. Fell short to the point of being miserable and horrific. I can buy into being partners and being committed to each other, but why devote any time and energy to a fairly tale image? I can buy into the practical reasons to be married. Financial security, emotional commitment and all 0f that fun stuff seem so logical and meaningful. No need for romance, and after being with my partner for 16 years, well, let’s just say, we are settled into what works for us. Don’t let anyone fool you. There is a different spark and electricity when a relationship is new. That doesn’t mean we don’t love each other- quite the contrary. After love deepens, romance looks and feels different.
I saw the Glee episode first. This is a show I really love because it is so campy and over the top, and Blaine’s proposal to Kurt was totally that- over the top. As choirs sang and rose petals fell, it dawned on me that younger generations wouldn’t be like my partner. They will receive messages on TV and in the media that tell them that marriage is possible, exciting, and romantic. If I have any complaint it is more about the fallacy of their story line. The “never going to cheat” stuff is a bit much. Brian and Justin from Queer as Folk was a much more realistic couple and their love was deep, romantic and full of fairy tale. Glee plays to a different audience to be sure, but I’m not so sure that the hetero-normalization of queer love is that positive of a message. I also have a problem with the idea that a kid in high school proposing to a kid just out of high school sounds very reasonable. Wasn’t everyone against it when Rachel and Finnb were going to get married because they were too young? Still for what it was, I loved it, and I will watch this episode again and again.
On Modern Family, Cam and Mitchell also decide to propose to each other, and like the rest of the show, it was much more real than the Glee story line. Could anything have been more perfect than the “yes” each utter spontaneously? Modern Family is a comedy, but the reactions of all the family members seemed diverse and real. The scene where Jay and Manny are in front of the courthouse- that’s the perfect example of the use of humor while poking fun at the reality of lots off couples lining up to get their licenses. Yet, there under the stars, spare tire in hand, my eyes teared up as they both came to realize the perfection of the moment.
Perhaps the fairy tale-ness isn’t about how perfect you set it up or plan it. It doesn’t matter how beautiful, unique, surprising , or memorable it may be. That fairy tale quality is all about how totally certain and unequivocal the connection between two people is experienced. That’s what makes it so perfect and therefor, romantic.