Whenever I hear or read about people arguing the pros and cons of same sex marriage, the first thing that pops into my head is Charlie Brooker, many years ago, arguing that all marriage was same sex marriage because you ended up having the same sex for the rest of your life.
But I digress.
I am back home, and not a moment too soon. Nature is as delightful as a Margarita cocktail, but lining up Margaritas like a string of pearls or even a daisy-chain is generally not a good idea. Unless they are human with names like Margarita or Pearl or Daisy and happen to be serving as a daisy-chain centre-piece decoration for a large party of intimate friends.
But the party-planner in me is trying to distract us all. We will save the daisy-chain yarn for another time.
Artifice vs. Artlessness
More to the point is that I am back from the forrested mountain peaks. And after several days of Nature-induced relaxation, I am currently nursing a Nature-hangover. Bring me my Freddo out into the garden darling, and please for the love of all that is artificial, put some music on.
It is so easy to forget that music does not occur naturally. Yes, waves splashing against the shore, brooks babbling and birds singing are relaxing, charming and utterly enchanting sounds. Sounds that often inspire music and other art forms. But the complexity of Mozart’s Jupiter is entirely the magnificent result of human artifice and civilisation.
And no, given a choice, I would rather not fall asleep to a Sounds of Nature Compilation, that includes brilliant calming conceptions such as the rhythm of the ocean surf or waterfalls splashing into a plunge pool. While polyamory can be life-enhancing, polyuria definitely is not.
Same sex marriages don’t grow on trees, you know!
My favourite argument against homosexuality in general and same sex marriage in particular is, of course, that it is not natural. Presumably, those who oppose same sex marriage on the grounds that it does not naturally occur, forego the use of anything so artificial as shoes and eat food in the manner of hungry Rottweilers who cannot see the point in such ersatz contrivances as knives, forks and plates. Do they also sleep in trees?
If they do, they might be in for a shock. They may have to acknowledge that the primates on the neighbouring tree branch are Japanese macaque. The female macaque regularly form consortships and engage in affectionate and sexual behaviour with one another. Males also enjoy same-sex relations but prefer multiple partners. Ha! That’s all I’m going to say to that!
The Japanese macaque are also known as the snow monkeys. This is because when the time comes for them to formalise these playful relations and one-night stands in the presence of all their macaque friends, they show a propensity to slip into a wedding gown symbolically white as virgin snow.
No, of course I’m not serious.
All life forms mate. Some species like hit-and-run sex, other species mate for life (which is a bit like what human marriage aspires to be, but presumably with higher fidelity built into the specs). However, as far as I know (and please correct me in the comments if I am wrong), no other animal has an equivalent to a wedding, that is the ceremony with which humans mark their commitment and half-panicked promise to have the same sex with the same person for the rest of their lives.
Weddings do not grow on trees, they don’t swim in rivers and they don’t spontaneously form when two tectonic plates rub against each other. The reason they vary in their particulars so greatly from culture to culture is because weddings are not natural phenomena; they are social constructs. And as social constructs wouldn’t one expect them to be available to all members of society? I’m inclined to say: Naturally.
Another example of a social construct, of course, is ballet, which as we all know, unlike weddings, is just like totally only for gays.
I am old enough to remember when Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake was first staged in London in 1995. It is now wildly popular and the longest running ballet in both London’s West End and on Broadway, with successful performances all over the world. The story of Bourne’s Swan Lake is almost identical to the classic Russian ballet Swan Lake, with the same musical score by Tchaikovsky. However, Bourne’s version was considered groundbreaking when it first came out because the traditionally female parts of the swans are danced by men.
Which makes the Prince in the story gay, as well as Tchaikovsky.
Of course, it’s just ballet, which, being so like totally only for gays anyway, is ripe for the grand cultural assimilation currently underway by the advancing army of gays sweeping through the globe.
That sort of thing doesn’t happen in real life.
Same sex marriage in real life
In real life, an estimated one-quarter of all real male black swans engage in homosexual couplings. What’s more, they form temporary three-way relationships with females to obtain eggs and then raise the cygnets to adulthood alone without any help from their mothers, sisters, friendly female neighbours or even the female egg donor herself. Which bears an uncanny resemblance to the arrangement between two gay men and a lesbian friend I tangentially know. All of whom, also exist in real life.
And just for the record, statistically, when both swan parents are male, the cygnets have a measurably improved chance of surviving to adulthood.
Of course, we don’t know whether these male swans consider themselves married. And we can’t ask them. There are so very many things that we just don’t know for sure; and possibly never will. But this lack of definite knowledge should make us more open to new possibilities rather than be used as a gagging order.
And I say this as a person who adores gags in many other contexts
I remember many years ago, in the first year of my studies, I used to frequent a second-hand Oxfam bookshop that had been conveniently placed on the way to a lecture theatre for a class I disliked. It was the perfect reduced-guilt hiding place and I spent hours in there, investing my hard-earned cash on books that were not textbooks; but also reading books that were not textbooks and chatting to people who were not other students.
Both the books and the people I was exposed to in that second-hand bookshop were mixed and unpredictable, enriching my experience and broadening my horizons. I credit my second-hand bookshop addiction for a lot of my random, bitty but wide-ranging encyclopaedic knowledge about some of the stuff. And many of the things.
One day an older gentleman walked into the bookshop. He looked amazing! Like he had travelled forward in time from 1972, sporting an outfit that these days would only really be seen on Howard Walowitz, of Big Bang fame. My suspicions that he had just stepped out of an excellent phone booth or a DeLorean DMC-12 were confirmed when he introduced himself as a physicist.
We got talking about quantum physics because this sort of thing just happens to me. If there is a geek within scenting distance, they will find me and start teaching me about some of the stuff. And many of the things. Neither stuff nor things that Nature had originally intended me know, I might add, as in Her Sexist Wisdom she has endowed me with linguistic and communication skills aplenty and all the Maths and Physics prowess of a snail suffering from sunstroke.
But you know, a long time ago I figured, why not just listen to an alternative perspective anyway?
And that’s why I have a slightly vague but unresevedly enthusiastic appreciation of how a snail’s shell follows the Fibonacci sequence; and of how a snail has both male and female parts, making the battle of the sexes and the question of who gets to take on the burden of pregnancy even more exciting than usual –it literally comes down to which of the two amorous snails gets to stab the other first with their special love dagger. And I do mean dagger in the Macbeth sense; rather than the more euphemistic Mills & Boon implication. If you follow my thrust.
No, I’m not joking. Just some good ol,’ all-natural, dual-sex, same-sex sex, in real life. It’s probably happening in your garden right now.
My physicist bff for that afternoon, was soon explaining to me that according to the laws of quantum physics it is possible for the same subatomic particle to be in two places at the same time. I was having none of it! On the strength of three months of the first year of my degree in Linguistics, I argued that this couldn’t possibly be true. How could anything have a dual nature, in some respects a wave and in others a particle? I simply could not get my head around it.
A couple of rounds later, it was time for my physics friend to go. But his parting words stayed with me and I think adjusted my attitude to the world more than any of the hundreds of books I have read over the years. He said:
“My dear, you have to allow for the fact that there are natural phenomena beyond your understanding or experience.”
Why have the same sex marriage at all?
Anyway, back to that same sex (for the rest of your life) marriage.
One of the most random books I ever picked up and read whilst hanging out in that Oxfam bookshop was a guide to entertaining by the fabulous style and lifestyle icon Ethel Margaret Campbell, Scottish heiress and, later, Duchess of Argyll, who lost her virginity at 15 to David Niven and broke off an engagement to the 7th Earl of Warwick to marry Charles Sweeney the American golfer. Her second marriage was to the 11th Duke of Argyll and ended in a sensational divorce after he accused her of cheating on him with at least 88 men.
Clearly, the Duchess did not believe in a same sex (for the rest of your life) marriage at all. The enraged Duke produced Polaroid photos of her fellating at least some of these 88 alternative sex options; dressed in nothing but the string of pearls that she never, ever took off. The lady knew the value of accessorizing.
I hasten to add here that, unfortunately, her Guide to Entertaining focused on such hostess dilemmas as whether or not the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to be seated before or after the salt, a concept so alien to modern etiquette, you cannot even Google it. It offered no hostess tips on the correct way to provide fellatio for your dinner guests as an alternative to pudding. And it did not clarify whether, if one is hosting a Nyotaimori themed party, one should arrange the daisy-chain of living sushi platters before or after the soy sauce.
A missed opportunity, I feel. Though given the incredibly sexist backlash she had to survive in the aftermath of her second divorce, this might not be surprising.
One thing did strike me as as a particularly useful guideline though. The Duchess of Argyll is very definite that when the host or hostess decides to throw a party, it is entirely up to them to decide on the theme and on who gets invited. It is impossible to invite the wrong person – you can invite anyone you want, from Prince William to the Prince of Darkness. It is up to them to accept, decline or ignore the invitation.
As a guest to the party, however, you don’t get to dictate terms about what you may or may not disapprove of.
Your only prerogative is to stay away from the party.
And you certainly cannot demand the host or hostess cancel the party just because you don’t want to attend.
These are the formal rules of etiquette even the Queen of England abides by. In other words, the presumption to tell people what to celebrate, how to celebrate and whom to celebrate with, is simply dreadful bad manners.
Same sex marriage analogies
Same sex marriage has suffered some hysterically funny but mostly hysterical analogies. It has been compared to anything from vegetarian bacon, to dry water, to incest, to bestiality. To a maternity bra fetish? Really, now. It gets so bad that I dread drawing up any analogy of my own for fear I will accidentally slip and fall into this murky pool of panic-mode absurdity. But I will try.
I have two belts that are completely identical. One is made of leather. The other is made of latex. I can’t tell them apart unless I get close enough to touch them or sniff them. Sometimes I feel an outfit works better with one; sometimes an outfit works better with the other. Many outfits don’t require a belt and forcing one onto them ruins them a bit. I like both belts equally. In fact I don’t understand how anyone can dislike a belt – it’s in part functional and in part symbolic. Mainly a belt is a matter of personal choice. I cannot imagine walking up to a random stranger enraged because their decision to wear a belt offends me – not even Howard Wolowitz with his wacky buckles!
How do you like my analogy?
It’s a bit weak, isn’t it? And more than a little contrived.
This is the problem with analogies. Whether they are used in favour or against an idea, they can only help up to a point, and then they collapse. They are meant to provide us with a simple model that will help us understand the more complex real-life equivalent. And therein lies the problem. You can’t come up with a simplified model for the feelings, emotions, motivations, fears and passions that flood through the passages of a human mind. The vegetarian bacon analogy won’t work; the look-alike belts analogy won’t work. We should probably hold on to the maternity-bra analogy – it doesn’t work either – but I daren’t put it down in case someone picks it up runs with it.
Gays and lesbians are just people. People who have decided that they love their partner so much they want to formally commit to being with them in a same sex (for the rest of their lives) marriage. Whether to have a wedding that marks and celebrates this commitment is entirely up to them. And though some might choose not to join, nobody can seriously demand that they cancel the celebration of their love for each other. For anyone to misguidedly presume they are within their rights to make such demands is to show themselves up as uncouth, plebeian oafs.
Do you know what I think? I think we should follow the example of two of the greatest intellectual giants of our epoch. As Bill and Ted so eloquently put it, we should all just:
“Be excellent to each other.” and
“Party on, dudes.”
Responses to last week’s QotW
Last time I hinted at a question was a couple of weeks ago regarding how many bottles of wine was reasonable to drink after a whole day of being exposed to Nature. I received some very enthusiastic encouragement from many of you to always go for the second bottle. On this one occasion, while I was on holiday and all, I did as I was told.
Question of the Week
This week’s question is a lot less complex than might first appeared. so, hand-on-heart:
- How do you feel about same sex marriage?
I would love to hear from all of you, even the opposite camp – though I realise that in retrospect that might be the wrong word to use.
Until next time…
I have to run now darling. Now that I am back in civilised artificiality, I have a list of unnatural indulgences to fulfill. Such as a beautician appointment for a gel nail manicure – did you think my nails looked bright, shiny, red naturally?
Stay well, darling, till next time.