Post-DOMA-ruling chaos, mayhem, slippery slopes, Bert and Ernie on the New Yorker cover

New Yorker cover
Bert, Ernie . . . and domestic bliss? (The New Yorker)

Well, you were right, everyone. The world ended.

All the horrible things you feared have come to pass. Moments after the Supreme Court handed down its DOMA ruling, every marriage contract signed between a man and a woman began to shiver and shake, and the ink faded away like a spell gone wrong. People on the Internet knew the end was near and began posting ill-advised Vines and comparing each other to Hitler.

The New Yorker did put this on its cover, which I guess is similar to having a giant, wrathful Sharktopus surge up from the ocean and swallow Seattle — but not really.

The sky fell, the waters rose, and everything that everyone always feared would happen, happened.

In all the confusion of joy surrounding the ruling, I slid down a slippery slope and entered a polygamous compact with a cat. Justice Scalia was wed, against his will, to a cyborg dog. It was awful.

I am kidding, of course. There wasn’t even a tiny eclipse. Weevils did not rise up and seize all the crops and start to devour them. Paula Deen did open her mouth a few times, but this seems to be one of the woes that were due to us anyhow. The most negative outcome was that dozens more people found themselves added to wedding registries for $100 toilet brushes — which is a lot to ask for something that you will definitely put in the toilet.

And a perfect time for this ruling was the month of June, when all people in a certain bracket of their 20s were growing fatigued with weddings and wondering what the point of it is — must I really trek all the way THERE to see you do THAT? Can’t you just commission a giant statue of yourself doing something really quirky in good lighting, post it on Pinterest and call it a day? It would cost less money, and achieve roughly the same ends.

This is why.

But the difference between this whole thing being just another party with an open bar is what happens afterward and what it all signifies.

Which is to say — weddings are silly. (Not all of them; I was just in one, and it was lovely!) Something borrowed, something blue? Bridesmaids? Groomsmen? Garters?

But marriages are in no way silly. Much has changed since the days when a traditional marriage was one where you gave your daughter to someone in exchange for eight cows and then everyone at the reception perished of smallpox. And that’s why it still matters. Marriage has grown up with us. It is one of those rituals we refuse to let go of. People move cities and form their own villages of friends and acquaintances to swap tips on child-rearing and turning houses into homes. And weddings are occasions to gather that village to witness what you are about to make.

It’s all weird and outdated until the moment that it isn’t. There’s a reason there are all those benefits associated with it. It works. Marriages are still a base unit on which we build lives together. There is something powerful in the celebration of two individuals joining in commitment to form the basis of a family — that’s the fundamental root from which we get all these bridezillas. The only thing sillier than the concept of the wedding is the fact that the battle for equality is not over yet. There are states to go before we sleep. But the generational die has been cast. If 20-somethings, the ones being dragged to everyone’s beach nuptials and forced to buy expensive plungers, are still gung-ho for gay marriage, then surely the octogenarians, whose presence is seldom required, should stop putting up such a fuss.

We’ve come awfully far in the past 25 years. There are still 37 more states whose approval is needed — although, as Charles Krauthammer points out, the rationale for further expansion may already be embedded in the court’s DOMA decision.

Like most weddings, this isn’t the end of the world, just the end of the courtship. Now, bring on the marriage.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.
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Alexandra Petri | June 28, 2013