Sunday, 27 April 2008

A fine and beautiful wedding

About five years ago my children – who are imbued with a deep streak of sadism, inherited from their father’s side – persuaded me to go on The Cobra rollercoaster at Ratanga Junction in Cape Town. I’ve never been so scared in all my life, and I cried like a baby for about an hour afterwards.

Other than that, though, I’m not a big weeper. Physical pain makes me curse, not cry; movies that try to tweak my tearducts irritate me; and it takes a serious emotional hammer to smack a few snuffles out of me.

So you can imagine my consternation when, at a wedding on Friday afternoon, I found myself not just shedding one or two modest tears, but actually blubbing – the kind of crying that makes your nose run and smudges your mascara all over your cheeks.


Perhaps part of the reason is that weddings aren’t common occurrences in our circle of friends. Divorces and separations, yes (depressingly common, in fact); but not weddings.

Also, one of the partners was getting married for the first time – at 40 years old. This wasn’t a kiddie commitment: it was the real deal.

To put this into perspective, the last wedding I went to, last year, was between a 20-year-old groom and his equally youthful bride. I suppose I’m not the sort of person you really want to invite to your wedding, under normal circumstances – I’m far too cynical about marriage and always feel like snorting when it comes to the ‘till death us do part’ bit. I feel dishonest bearing witness to a union that statistics show has only a 33% chance of going the distance. And really, what does anyone know about anything at 20? It’s almost criminal to make a lifelong vow at that age and think you’re going to be able to keep it.

But back to Friday’s wedding: the other partner is older (53) and this was his second attempt at marriage – but the wonderful thing was that his entire ‘previous’ family was there: not only his ex-wife and two grandchildren, but also his grownup son and daughter, who were the ring bearers, and various other relatives. And they didn’t just pop across from down the road; they came all the way from England. So this was a genuine show of love and support, very much from the heart.

Also, the people who got married on Friday – and who have already been partners for over a decade – are both men. What a long way we’ve come, from the days when I would be prevailed upon to pretend to be my gay friends’ girlfriend at their company do’s and family get-togethers (the better to deflect rude and unwelcome enquiries), and queerdom was a maligned and misunderstood subculture that involved assignations in public toilets and invited late-night bashings – the love, as Lord Alfred Douglas wrote in his poem ‘Two Loves’ in 1896, that ‘dare not speak its name’.

Douglas was the lover of Oscar Wilde during a time when homosexuality was a criminal offence in England, punishable by imprisonment and hard labour. During Wilde’s first appearance in court on a charge of ‘gross indecency’, he was asked by the court what this unmentionable love was. Knowing what awaited him should he admit his sexual orientation, he did some typically nifty wordwork around the answer, saying (I’ve shortened it slightly), ‘It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect… It dictates and pervades great works of art like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo… It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection... That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.’

That’s why Friday’s wedding was so heartening. It was so gorgeous, this lovely and loving public declaration of an enduring private love affair, so beautiful and fine, that … well, it made me cry.

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1 comment:

Juno said...

Lovely post.

Goodness knows that Muriel loves a wedding.

If you're not a long-term fan of this blog, you may be interested to know why Muriel is called Muriel (and why she calls ME Muriel too).

Click here: