Celebrating the Love in Our Lives

Photo courtesy of Mark Segal.

I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day, and for those romantics out there, I think you’ll appreciate this column. To all others, be warned you’re about to read a column that should be described as full of saccharine.

Growing up and knowing who I was (I was born in 1951. I’m ancient, I know.), I felt guilty about the idea that I wanted to fall in love and have a romance with another guy. Heaven forbid I actually thought about spending my life with someone. At that time, society didn’t even consider such a thing, but it didn’t stop me from those thoughts. It was obvious to me that while there was no marriage in my future, there could still be romance. While my parents wanted many things for their children they had one rule that stood out to me, and that was “you can be anything you want when you grow up, just be happy.” To me, having a man in my life is what would make me happy. So even though society at the time thought less of people like us, I was guided by that rule of being happy.

When I realized who I was and how it would restrict me, in some ways I fought back. But marriage was a battle that I felt should be on the back-burner until we gained some basic rights.

That thinking led me, like many my age, to use a line which many of you will know well: “marriage is only a piece of paper.” I really believed it until marriage became legal. And it literally took until the day Jason and I married to realize its full meaning. It hit me like a thunderbolt, and to anyone who was at our wedding, they witnessed my emotional meltdown when it struck. 

I now believe that the day marriage equality was made legal across the land should be made into a national holiday. Okay, that’s going a little far, but then again, I look at the many ways it has changed my life and realize its tremendous impact it has had on so many in our community.

Now mind you Jason and I are like many married couples. We have our differences and idiosyncrasies, but we’ve learned through all our experiences that a marriage takes work. My favorite way to illustrate this is Steven Sondheim’s song “Being Alive,” from the show “Company.” But if you do the work, the rewards are wondrous. 

When I was young and thinking about romance, I didn’t think of a house with a white picket fence, but I did think about simply sitting together with a family. That translates to me, Jason, and our dog Zola sitting in the living room by the fireplace.

When I look back on our relationship, the hard times bring a smile. After all, we became a couple long before marriage equality was even a possibility. Parts of each of our families thought the other was the wrong person, and our differences were too many to list here. Should we even start with that I’m high-maintenance? 

Here we are 19 years later and we both like to recall our first date. And yes we now have that living room, with a fireplace. At times I think I’m in a Norman Rockwell family portrait. Joyful, together, without a care in the world.

Mark Segal is an American journalist. He is the founder and publisher of Philadelphia Gay News and has won numerous journalism awards for his column "Mark My Words," including best column by The National Newspaper Association, Suburban Newspaper Association and The Society of Professional Journalists.