Sunday, July 27, 2014

Common Usage



Bob Dylan once sang, “The times, they are a-changin'”. For my money, the times are a-changin' a lot more now than when Dylan sang his song. For the better? Maybe.

I brought my car to a mechanic to have the transmission fluid changed. While I sat in the waiting room, watching TV, another guy, 30-something, came in and sat down. We struck up a conversation, during which he mentioned he was new to the area. I asked if he moved here for business reasons. He said, "Yes, my HUSBAND is the new librarian at such-and-such college."

I didn't jump out of my seat aghast, red-faced and sputtering, quoting bible verses and condemning him to hell. On the other hand, my brain twisted a bit. It was the first time I had ever heard a member of my own sex refer to his wedded partner as “husband”.

I'm not cloistered. I have gay friends. I have gay relatives. I've been part of the wedding party at a gay marriage. This was the first time, however, that I'd ever heard that usage in casual conversation. I'd heard "spouse" many times, and the ubiquitous “partner”, but never "husband" from another guy.

I posted about it on Facebook. Some younger (and obviously hipper) folks told me it's fairly common usage now. I opined, half-jokingly, that it certainly makes the situation clear. Not only have you been told the person you're with is gay, but also that he's happily married and won't be hitting on you.

(I say that not because I expect gay men to be inexplicably attracted to my semi-ancient self, but because it truly makes life easier to know such things. I now realize I could have done the same sort of favor for him by saying something along the lines of “My WIFE has always wanted to be a librarian, too!”, but in reality she hasn't. She says she's always wanted to be dead – at least since we've been married - and saying that probably would have confused matters rather than clarifying them.)

Seriously, though, the first thought for me was pride that I didn't automatically go gape-mouthed and slack-jawed. Then, after leaving the garage, I reflected further. What a condescending son of a bitch I am. Even if I wasn't visibly fazed, who am I to be proud of that? I'm far from perfect. I smoke cigarettes, I admit to owning the entire recorded output of Grand Funk Railroad and I vote for Libertarians. These days, many people consider all of those things to be psychological aberrations more than they do homosexuality. Meanwhile, this guy was just casually stating, during the course of friendly conversation, that he was in a committed monogamous relationship with another human being. Does he need me to sanctify that in some way? Hell, no.

I'm a Christian, and something of a fundamentalist at that, so religiously I'm not comfortable with it. But the libertarian part of me doesn't believe in forcing my beliefs on others. And there's that whole “love thy neighbor” thing, too. Live and let live. And, oh yeah, same sex marriage is legal in my state, so, uh... I think next time maybe I'll change my own transmission fluid. It requires less thought.

Soon, with more better halves.