(Names in this post have been changed)
In the past few days, we have been on an amazing ride in Missoula – we’ve gotten to sing “Our Love Is What We Make of It” with people ages six to ninety-two, and everyone in between!
Last Thursday afternoon, we played some songs at lunch time at the Missoula Senior Center. Since we weren’t in an actual living room, we didn’t do the whole show. We just joined a group of four people for lunch and sang and talked a bit with them. There was a couple, Joe and Carol, in their seventies, who had been married for over fifty years and shared with us that they had fallen in love all over again about seventeen years into their marriage. Joe also shared the seemingly contradictory strong statements: “if our son wants to sleep with some broad, it won’t happen under my roof!” and “but we had sex before we were married, you know.” Carol talked about how much shame and guilt she had felt when she got pregnant before getting married, and how disappointed her family was in her.
There was also 92-year-old Annie, who I think I want to be when I grow up, by virtue of her beautifully feisty spirit! Annie has been married three times, and in her words, she had “two good ones, one bad”, and she had first gotten married “young and dumb”. Annie’s close friend Evelyn, wise and kind and cranky, had also been married and divorced three times.
Joe asked us why we didn’t want to be married, and we got to talk a little about how we are both hugely in favor of longterm commitment and building chosen family and of celebrating love, but that we have complex feelings about the cultural institution of marriage (and the civil rights that are bundled with it, and the unfortunate history on which is is built).
In the presence of humans with such long and varied experience, I often feel like I don’t know a damn thing. I shared that feeling with them, and we shared a laugh. But I think, in that relatively brief encounter, we all learned a lot from one another.
Later that evening, we did a full concert/conversation at the home of a long-term/committed/unmarried couple: Jacklyn and Zach. The audience included Jacklyn and Zach’s two young children, friends, and the children of those friends. Two women there had recently been divorced. Jacklyn said she cried from joy when she first heard “Our Love Is What We Make of It”, because it is so rare to encounter cultural examples that affirm their choice to not be married, and she was passionate about her six-year-old daughter Sloan hearing our song.
Here’s a recent dialogue that Jacklyn reported between her and Sloan:
S: I LOVE marriage!
S: Marriage means you have babies!
J: But we have babies, don’t we?
S: Because that means you love each other!
J: But your dad and I love each other very much.
Much to our delight, Sloan danced exuberantly for much of the concert/conversation! Jacklyn and Sloan danced together and sang along with “Our Love is What We Make of It.” When we asked everyone to take a few minutes and reflect on their feelings about marriage, Sloan drew a bride and groom and expressed “marriage is when two people celebrate their friendship”. The other young girls there also drew a picture of a wedding. The one six-year-old boy there drew a picture of a man under lightning-filled clouds and wrote “I don’t know how to draw pants”. I find it interesting to note that weddings were very much on the girls’ minds and that the one little guy happened to draw a non-sequitur, albeit a hilarious one.
Sometimes it seems even more significant to get to engage with people who have values and perspectives further from our own. But in the case of Jacklyn and Zach, it was such a rich experience to share in and celebrate each others’ shared values. And it warms our hearts like crazy to think of the ways in which Jacklyn was grateful to encounter our anthem.