Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy No-alcohol-vember!

As a part of my ongoing quest to improve myself, I have decided to abstain from alcohol completely this month. Why have I decided to do this?

1. A glass or two of wine in the evening has become the primary way I "de-stress" from the day or deal with immediate stress (difficult child, crabby partner, etc.). This strikes me as a borderline unhealthy coping mechanism, and I'd like to explore other ways to calm myself.
2. When I quit smoking, I gained about 10 pounds. I've also been drinking more, and I'm sure those two things are connected.
3. Drinking in the evening causes me to be sleepy earlier. The time after my daughter goes to bed is the only time my husbutch and I have alone together, and I feel like I'm cheating us out of that when I am ready to crash at 9:30pm.
4. Alcohol is expensive, and we have been exceeding our alcohol budget by about 35% every month for the past six months.

So it's making me fatter, sleepier, and more broke. Allegedly. I'm not certain that abstaining for a month will make me feel thinner, more energized, and richer, but hey, isn't that what experiments are all about? The biggest and most important motivator, for me, is reason #1. Drinking has just become too much of a crutch, I fear. Especially since quitting smoking, I find myself craving chemical therapy, something, anything. I've also been drinking more coffee, I've found. If I had pot, I'd probably smoke it. Why? To take the edge off, I guess. To help me relax and calm down from any stress I'm feeling. To adjust my attitude, to give me a break, to make me feel better.

It's that act of looking outside of myself for something to make my inside feel better that gives me pause. I know, we all know, that happiness and contentment can't come from things outside you. These are things you cultivate within yourself. We all know this, yet we subsidize our existences with alcohol, drugs, excess food, shopping. I know what it feels like to be trying to fill that hole. That's how addiction works, and most of us are addicted to something. It doesn't matter that I'm not an alcoholic. I've become dependent on alcohol to smooth out the rough edges, and that ain't right.

So, the logical solution is to re-learn how to regulate myself without the numbing effect of alcohol. I'm honestly not sure what I'll learn by doing this, but I am curious. Will I feel the need to eat more? Will the urge to smoke increase? Will I be more stressed out? Will I still enjoy the company of friends without being socially lubricated by alcohol?

I guess we'll find out!

Now that gay marriage is legal, mine doesn't feel real anymore.

On August 20, 2011, my partner and I were married.

It was a gorgeous event, held at the Peace Gardens in South Minneapolis. We had a group of about 50 friends and family in attendance, arranged in a circle enclosing us. We had a full ceremony, complete with readings, musical performance, handfasting, vows, and a family promise. We exchanged rings, had professional photography, and held a reception afterward where we got so drunk we missed our early honeymoon flight the next morning. We got married.

Sure, not everybody viewed it as a "real" marriage. Sometimes we told people we were married, and they would say, "Oh, where did you get married?"... the implication being that it must have been in another state where gay marriage is legal. "Right here in Minneapolis," we'd reply, and if a little more clarification was needed, we'd explain that though it wasn't "legal," it was most certainly "real." What is a marriage, if it's not about making a public declaration of our love and lifelong commitment to each other? Most of the time, people understood the logic, and that was that.

Gay marriage became legal in Minnesota last May, and the first gay marriages started to happen on August 1. It was an exciting moment in Minnesota, where we pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve on social issues. Minneapolis was recently deemed the "gayest city in America," after all. Newly legal gay marriage was made even more exciting by the Supreme Court's rulings against DOMA and Prop 8. Suddenly, shit was getting REAL in Minnesota, and the rest of the country seems to be, slowly, following in step.

Yay! Gay marriage is finally legal! Yes, there are more important issues, but as Macklemore said, "it's a damn good place to start." Suddenly, all my coupled gay friends who have been together for years were planning their long-overdue weddings, and my single gay friends were half-jokingly posting Facebook statuses about how they were looking for their future spouse. It was a part of the human narrative that was now part of our narrative too.

Except I wasn't ready to celebrate just yet. All this meant that I could be legally married now, too, but after discussing it with my husbutch, that didn't seem like the wisest choice. For one thing, when we married two years ago, we got all the legal paperwork secured that we could, to afford to us as many rights as possible that are automatically granted to straight married couples. We got living wills, health care directives, and powers of attorney. As far as the supposed tax benefit afforded to married couples, this turns out to be low or nonexistent when both parties earn roughly the same amount of money, which is the case for us.

Perhaps most impactful is the fact that if married, my husbutch would have to include my income when reporting her household income for her income-based repayment student loans. You see, her parents are highly conservative, evangelical Tea Party republichristians with lots of money, and didn't help out my husbutch with her post-secondary education at all (due to both her gayness and the fact that she refused to go to a Christian college). So, my husbutch put herself through both college and law school on loans alone, and as you can probably imagine, the total is now gargantuan. She's a solo practice attorney to nonprofits now, not a particularly lucrative area of law, and if she were to report my income as part of hers, her payments would soar to an amount that would put us in the poorhouse.

Just about the only benefits we can see to getting married now are related to the always-present possibility that one of us could die at any moment. If that happened, the other wouldn't have access to the deceased's social security, and would have to pay taxes on the value of our jointly owned house. Yes, those things would be cumbersome and unjust, but neither of us is planning to die soon.

So, it doesn't really make sense to get married, at least not yet. Some day I'm certain we will make it "official." In the meantime, I've had to struggle with suddenly feeling like my marriage isn't a "real" marriage anymore. Before gay marriage is legal, my marriage felt completely real. I wasn't expecting that to change, but our decision not to get legally married right now has made me insecure, like our relationship isn't as committed or loving or permanent as those of our married friends.

Of course I know this isn't true, and  I need only use the logic I've used in the past to "explain" my marriage to people. My husbutch and I have made public vows to each other, and more importantly, we are privately committed to keeping love present in our hearts and home. So when our (usually straight, gay-positive) friends ask us, "when are you getting married?" we can continue to respond with: "we are already married."