“Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family” by Joel Derfner

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c.2013, University of Wisconsin Press

$26.95 / higher in Canada

235 pages

It came as such a surprise.

You knew that you were in love, and the feeling was reciprocated. You knew you and your beloved had a future together, but marriage?  Maybe, maybe not.

And then a little black box showed up, someone said “yes,” and it’s all good.

Well, maybe not all.  In the new book “Lawfully Wedded Husband” by Joel Derfner, you’ll see how marriage can change more than just two people.

Joel Derfner didn’t initially think of his partner, Mike, as marriage material.

Marriage wasn’t even up for consideration when they started dating. It wasn’t dating, really, it was more like hanging out, usually in bed. Those first years were rocky, with splits and reconciliations aplenty, until they got engaged in 2007.

And their seemingly ever-present relationship problems intensified.

Illness in Mike’s family forced them to become caretakers, resulting in lack of privacy in their Brooklyn home. Derfner had grass-is-greener thoughts on his mind. Mike became stressed, Derfner was rattled, and there were things he just couldn’t get over.

One of them was the loss of couplehood that he and Mike once shared. They almost split yet again.

But thanks to couples’ therapy, time, and a chance to “regain… equilibrium,” Derfner and Mike haltingly began anew to plan a wedding. Derfner ordered bridal books, they argued over trifles, and they waited - because few states then allowed marriage between “same-sexers,” and a “civil union” was not good enough.

So when reality TV came calling and Mike said the only way he’d go through with that was if the ceremony occurred in Iowa (his home state), Derfner struggled with politics, proverbial cold feet, and the meaningfulness of marriage. Does a civil union undermine marriage for both straight couples and same-sexers? What if Mike wasn’t “Mr. The One”? Would a quick TV ceremony make Derfner feel just as married as he’d feel after a full-out, friends-and-family legal-in-all-fifty-states wedding?

Hm. That “might be a while.”

But true love, of course, always prevails. There is such a thing as Happily Ever After. And in the end, a man can be sure that “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”

Are you a crier at weddings, a blubbering mess long before “I do”?  Then “Lawfully Wedded Husband” will make you cry – and laugh.

Author Joel Derfner is delightfully snarky here, but it’s mixed with love, patience, passion for altar equality, and a deep look at the politics of marriage and how it all fits in with the history of civil rights. He’s serious, but lightly so – although the word “angry” does show up a lot, used both at the inanity of “gay marriage” and, most startlingly, between Derfner and his partner.

Despite the overabundance of dictionary-worthy words, this is an enjoyable, thoughtful look at marriage, wrapped in wry humor with a few eyebrow-raisers to make things interesting. If you’re a softie for a boy-meets-boy story, a lover of how-we-met tales, a twitterpated romantic, you’ll want it now. For you, “Lawfully Wedded Husband” will be a nice surprise.Terri Schlichenmeyer


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