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Eugene Weekly : Living Out : 1.25.07

Playing With Fire

Avoiding the heartache of same-sex divorce

BY SALLY SHEKLOW

Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your heart or burn down your house, you can never tell. —Joan Crawford

My friend Carrie climbed the bleachers and slid into the seat next to me. We like to show up early for women's basketball games — Lesboland's social hotbed. "I'm getting married!" My old pal sizzled with excitement.

I offered her some popcorn. "Really? Who's the lucky woman?" I've known Carrie since way before this country showed lesbians on TV (not counting Wimbledon). Back in the day she rocked this town by asserting her out-and-proud self in high school. She's been like a kid sister to me and I feel protective.

I want to see her happy, and I also want to do my part to raise respect for same-sex marriages. Must our struggle for equal rights lead to equality with heterosexual marriage's miserable 50 percent divorce rate? I hope not.

If my friends want to date, carouse and otherwise enjoy sexual liberation, fine with me. But matrimony is different.

If you're going to get married — make solemn vows and a serious commitment — shouldn't you give your flame the best odds of becoming eternal? It's not like these two women will have any legal recognition of their union (we're working on that). The local daily newspaper won't even run their wedding picture or include their babies in the birth announcements (we're working on that, too).

Without the automatic celebration and support One Man/One Woman couples get — not to mention the 1,049 state and federal rights that come with a marriage license (same-sex couples need not apply) — commitments like Carrie's and Mandy's have to be sturdy enough to hold up on their own. I take it as my personal duty to help my lesbian friends avoid the disappointment of a bad match, the heartache of divorce and those long lonely nights listening to Ain't Life a Brook (no offense to Ferron).

A half hour until tip-off gave us plenty of time for Q&A. What are your intentions? What does marriage mean to you? How do you know this relationship is The One?

Our team trotted onto the court — Title IX in action. Their boat-sized high-tops pummeled the court, rubber soles screeched against polished alder planks. Fans cheered. The players worked through their warm-up routine while I grilled my buddy about her beloved — What's she like? Why don't I ever see you together at games? If not women's basketball, what could you possibly have in common?

Naturally, I wanted all the details of my friend's betrothal, but part of my focus stayed with the tall, muscular student athletes, their yard-long thighs and awesome lay-ups. Luckily I can multi-task.

Carrie beamed, her ardor not at all doused by my inquiry. Basketballs thudded and echoed in the old gymnasium. I learned that the two lovebirds actually have a lot in common, including homophobic parents. Sadly, no mothers or fathers of the bride will come to the wedding or bless their union. Even so, these two are family-oriented and want to start one of their own. They both like a lot of space.

Unlike my marriage. Wifey and I are cozy — we floss together, monitor every biological detail, even mate each other's socks (sorry for this shocking exposé of so-called "gay" marriage). Living up close and personal works for us, but maybe our kind of intimacy isn't for everyone. I suppose other couples might prefer different boundaries.

I guess everyone gets to choose what kind of relationship they want. If my friends want to jump into marriage after only a few months I can't stop them.

More people crowded onto the bleachers. Carrie scooted closer. "We're waiting until September," she said.

I strained to hear her over the band's almost-on-key rendition of Louie Louie. Both teams were on the court now. Big sweaty women ran, passed, jumped, shot and rebounded. Carrie gave my knee a not-to-worry pat. "We want a respectable engagement."

Our school's fight song started up. Go team go.

Award-winning lesbian humor columnist Sally Sheklow passes judgment on other peoples' relationships in Eugene.