Keith and Laraine and Keezel
May 21, 2009
An Open Letter on the State of My Marriage:
Allow me to introduce Keezel, monkey extraordinaire, counselor, friend, cherished son, teacher, and direct descendant of Hanuman.
Keezel arrived in our lives at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz in 2007. Keith's family was having a family reunion in Aptos. We went to the boardwalk and I saw, hanging in strapado from the tent flaps, my beloved Keezel. Alas, my beloved Keith could not win Keezel for me, so Norm, Keith's sister's husband, threw darts at balloons until Keezel could be mine. Keith's dad named him, and because I am who I am, an entire narrative began around the monkey. Keezel has since traveled everywhere with us. He comes to my workshops. He helps people cry. He helps people laugh. He was present at John's death last week. He is sometimes profane. Sometimes sacred. All times our friend.
Neither Keith nor I wanted a wedding. We're not fans of ceremony. We're really not fans of spending a zillion dollars on a single day, and it seems cruel and unusual to subject friends and family to buying a dress they'll wear once (and hate even then.) We're not religious. We don't need anyone else telling us what we are and what we aren't. We don't need, nor require, approval from an outside entity.
Today was John's "Good to Go" party. I was introduced as the daughter-in-law, which prompted many questions from layers of distant family and friends about when the ceremony took place. "I was married by a monkey at Ocean Beach," I said. When prompted, Keith and I couldn't even remember the exact date.
Every once in a while, Keith and I would talk about legally marrying, and both of us cringed. It feels like having to ask permission from some agency to do something. Doesn't sit well. We also have friends who are unable to marry because that same agency that would allow us to marry won't allow them to marry because they are of the same gender. That also doesn't sit too well.
Since you can send away for a clergy license to perform weddings, this seems to further illustrate the randomness and absurdity of who is licensed to perform marriage ceremonies and who isn't. My sister is even clergy. (If you knew her, you'd know how absolutely hilarious that is). So, why can't our monkey do it?
We went to San Francisco. If there's any place in the country where we could get married by a monkey, San Francisco is it. We took a bus to Ocean Beach. It was chilly. We had our monkey. We got off the bus, used the public restroom, and climbed over the sand dune until we saw the gray ocean. We held the monkey between us. We spoke to each other. And then, over the wind and waves, Keezel said, "Poof! You're married!" And we walked back over the sand dune, had a coffee, and took the bus back into San Francisco.
Price for wedding attire, dinner, and facilities fees: zero.
Effort spent deciding who to invite and who to leave out: zero.
Master of ceremonies fees: zero.
Reclaiming and redefining language: priceless.
Are we "really" married? Yes. We reject the state's involvement in our personal lives. We do not need a judge, a priest, a rabbi, a minister, to say it's OK -- to say we are OK. We knew we were OK a long time ago.
The only two people who needed to say it's OK for us to be married were there. And oh yes, our monkey.