Living by Example

As marriage becomes a real part of gay lives, we should remember to live our lives for ourselves

I am an early-adopting technophile in many ways — iPad, iPhone, Xbox, Playstation, ad infinitum — so much of my life revolves around various devices. But even though the electronic doo-dads have changed my day-to-day life, it’s not completely the devices themselves that have changed it — it’s simply about all the stuff I can do or, honestly, consume.

So while I love my computers and tablets, what I love even more is what comes through them. And, looking at that, one of my absolute favorite things in the brave new Internet world is streaming movies to any one of my many screens. This was, of course, a long-hyped but much delayed promise of the Internet, even from back in the days when we were flooded with AOL offers on floppy disks. Now that it’s here, though, it’s opened up new worlds for me.

Or, more specifically, opened up old worlds that I’d never had the time to explore, cultural touchstones that I simply had never gotten around to experiencing. Case in point: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? My husband and I finally settled down on the couch together one evening for a low-key evening of relaxation.

Obviously, if you’ve seen it, the evening ended up neither low-key nor relaxing.

We both enjoyed it, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing the current Steppenwolf production at Arena Stage. But it was kind of funny and disturbing to watch a performance that so mercilessly dissects marriage as a trap. It’s hard not to watch it and think, ”That’s what we want?” (In fact, if you read this week’s cover interview with famed Woolf playwright Edward Albee, you’ll find he actually ponders that question.)

But marriage isn’t some perfect institution of romantic ideals, merging families and ongoing procreation, no matter how often Maggie Gallagher tries to say it is so. Marriage is, in many ways, what we make it, whether gay or straight. Every couple, every marriage is going to be different, and no marriage can truly stand up as the representative for all marriages.

It’s important to remember that as the District is celebrating one full year of marriage equality — a year in which, contrary to the doom-and-gloom predictions of anti-gay activists, the number of marriage licenses issued grew by leaps and bounds — Maryland continues its march toward what we all hope will be the equal treatment of gay and lesbian couples.

Our marriages will be mixtures of good intentions and bad habits, just like straight marriages are. Some of our marriages will fail; some will endure decades. Sometimes the ”best little boy-or-girl in the world” syndrome kicks in and we will feel the pressure to be the good example — at least it does for me. It’s an impulse to resist, because no one can actually embody the ideal, in part because an ideal is by definition impossible to reach, in part because each of us have different conceptions of what the ideal actually is.

And that’s okay. We should strive for our own ideals and not worry about setting examples — the world has an ample enough supply of examples, good and bad, just waiting to be streamed in at the touch of a screen.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

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