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Lions Roar : May 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN MAy 2009 23 On a hazY auGuST aFTernOOn In 2001, I knelt on one knee and asked my beloved, “Will you marry me?” We were stand- ing on a breakwater in front of a weathered house on Cape Cod that my family had been renting for nearly forty years. Keith looked tenderly at me with his big blue eyes. “Of course I will,” he said, and we both burst into tears. Though we didn’t know it, my mother, father, and sister were watching this drama un- fold with their faces pressed against the window. after being my best friend for seven years, Keith—a blond, soft-spoken young science teacher from the Midwest—was already treasured as a welcome addition to my hyperverbal east Coast Jewish family. The next morning, my mother filled a flowery hatbox lid with sand from “our” beach and spelled out happiness is Steve and keith! on top in plastic letters, like a pre-wedding cake. We figured we would host a ceremony for our friends and families in San Francisco, where we live, the following summer. We knew we wouldn’t have any of the rights and benefits of other wedded couples, because marriage between same-sex partners wasn’t yet legal. But we wanted to celebrate the truth of what we had found together in the presence of everyone we knew. Keith and I weren’t planning on starting a gay marriage revo- lution, outraging the religious right, or even committing a noble act of civil disobedience. We just loved each other a lot. We grew up in the same culture as everyone else, in which the fairy tales of childhood end with the phrase “and they lived happily ever after.” Trying to live happily ever after just seemed like the next step of our deepening commitment to one another. even my future father-in-law Kent, who was a church-going republican mayor of a small town in Illinois, seemed to under- stand. The first time I met him, he took me aside and said, “I know you are very special to Keith, so that means you are very special to us.” There was such simple, human, Midwestern forth- rightness in that statement. no banner-waving, no Biblical injunctions, no soap-boxing. Just a clear and compassionate message: We love our son, and we trust his ability to make the most personal decision of all. a month after our engagement, our plans changed unex- pectedly when my mother looked across the hudson river one morning and saw an airplane explode into the World Trade Cen- ter. Suddenly asking all our friends to fly out to the West Coast didn’t seem like a good idea. We decided to wait another year. KeITh anD I haD Our CereMOnY In 2003 at Greens res- taurant, where I had waited tables as a zen student in the ’80s. Our officiant was a gnostic Jewish Buddhist cancer survivor named Judith, and our recessional music was Frank zappa’s “peaches en regalia.” We vowed to love, honor, and cherish one another, and exchanged rings inscribed with a line by Walt Whitman: “every phOTOBYMaTTheWMOrrISSeY Happily Ever After A gay couple’s decision to wed threw them into the heart of an American culture war. But Steve SilberMan says that for himself and his partner, embracing the word “marriage” was like unlocking the door to a secret garden. Steve SilBeRMan is a writer based in San Francisco. he writes about science, creativity, technology, and the brain for Wired magazine. keith and Steve exchange vows.