Tuesday, May 1, 2007

MARKING OUR TIME TOGETHER: Reflections on Lesbian Anniversaries

The perennial question in response to lesbian couples celebrating anniversaries is, What are you celebrating? This question refers not to the number of years that the couple is celebrating together, though certainly that is of interest, but rather it asks, what milestone is being celebrated?

We have a variety of milestones that we celebrate in our relationships. First meeting. First date. First sex. And now in the new world of increasing relationship recognition by governmental units, additional questions are appended: domestic partnership? civil union? or in Massachusetts and select countries around the world, marriage?

I think it is good and right that we celebrate our anniversaries in whatever ways we want to construct them. In the absence of formal government, religious, or community recognition, we put together a patchwork of anniversary milestones that recognize our relationships and define them on our own terms.

My partner and I celebrate the first day that we consummated our relationship – though, to be honest, the entire week surrounding the anniversary is a series of remembrances. This is the day you told me that you were in love with me. This is the night of the fundraising party. This is the first night that you slept at my house. The milestones, burned into our memory are numerous. We celebrate each in small ways as we recall and retell the story of falling in love with one another.

In spite of my fondness for our celebrations together, I’m always struck that anniversaries, no matter what their basis, are an arbitrary construction to recognize our relationships. We create them to recognize and mark our relationships, but ultimately the significance of our relationships is not found in these anniversary dates, whatever the stories behind them. The significance of our relationships is not in our annual milestones; the significance of our relationships is in the daily milestones of our lives together.

Relationships endure not from the stories of their creation, though we may revel in these. The stories of first glances, first dates, and falling in love are the stories of love and romance. Love and romance captures the popular imagination in the dominant heterosexual culture, and, indeed, they are the stories that we love in our own lesbian cultures. We tell them again and again to friends, new and old.

The stories of love and romance, the initial stories of a relationship, however, are moments driven by lust and those delicious chemicals called pheromones. Certainly, individually and as a community we parse out moments that define our creation as a couple. While these moments define our relationships publicly as they draw us together individually, they are not the moments that write the future anniversaries which we celebrate.

The moments that write anniversaries are everyday moments. They are moments that may be remembered fondly minutes later, but not years. Everyday moments are the ones that sustain a relationship – shared responsibilities, shared interests. Everyday moments are small in their scope in a relationship and in a life. They are the moments when wet towels are hung carefully on a towel rack. They are the moments of bringing popping corn to the beloved during a scary movie. They are the moments of bringing home flowers for no reason or dinner after a long week at work. Everyday moments are the moments that provide the sustenance to keep a relationship together.

In the retrospective of a life, people rarely recall every play or concert that they have seen together, but they know that they like to do such things together. Thinking back over a relationship, people rarely remember the smallest of kindnesses and the most meaningful of thoughts, but they know that they have shared a life with another person on a daily basis that was characterized by kindness and thoughtfulness.

Celebrating anniversaries is something that we’ll all continue to do. I hope that in the face of increasing governmental recognition we don’t lose our own community definitions of anniversaries. I also hope that we’ll acknowledge – and celebrate – the everyday moments in our lives together.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #1 dated May 1, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 677

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