I used to despise the word "wife". Not only did I never think I'd be one, but the word itself conjured up images of servitude and patriarchy. The word "wife" made my feminist bones quake.
I used to tell people that the word "wife" sounded like a venereal disease.
"Oh, I have a bad case of wife"...
The word sounded harsh to me. You almost have to spit it to say it. "Wwwwiiiiiifffffe."
I had many a conversation with other gays and lesbians. Nothing encensed me more than a gay or lesbian calling their partner husband or wife. I'd ask them why they'd use spousal/marital vocabulary when everyone knows gays and lesbians can't get married. Even if they were lucky enough to marry in a state where same-sex marriage was legal, our federal government doesn't recognize such marriages. Why would we adopt heterosexual terminology for our unions when we are refused equal rights?
I used to believe "partner" was a more respectful and acceptable term for our relationships. What better word for your lover, for the person you depend on for everything, for the one who captures your heart, for the one who you share your life with, for the one you build a family with...than partner? Partner sounded better to me than "wife".
Even after UncleR and I were engaged, we had conversations about this. What should we call each other after we marry? (Partners, of course.) What will we have our officiant pronounce us at the end of our vows? (Legally married!)
We even asked other same-sex couples their opinions. They varied as well, however, the overwhelming trend seems to be the use of old standards, husband or wife.
Then Ed came into our lives. Ed is our gay priest/wedding officiant.
The first time I spoke to him by phone, this topic came up. When I asked if we could customize our own ceremony and vows in order to use terminology both familiar and appropriate to us, he gave his opinion. He said, "I feel the terms husband or wife are the most respectful terms you can use because that is what you will be. To me, partner is less respectful. But the words you use are up to you."
He said it in a nonjudgmental way. He said it matter-of-fact. And nothing else was said.
After the phone call, I told UncleR what Ed had said. Our ensuing conversations were less deeply personal and meaningful, and more, "DUH!"
And here we are today.
We are 2 1/2 months away from our ceremony. Although we haven't finalized our vows, once we are married, we will be wives. I'm sending a big thank you to Ed, who with his matter-of-fact opinion, has changed my world and my entire thought process.
UncleR will be my wife. Ed is right. The most respectful term for what and who she will be to me, is "wife". We have chosen to marry. Our marriage WILL result in a legal union. We have chosen to enter into a union while fully aware of the fact that our federal government will not recognize our marriage as either legal or valid.
And yet, we have decided it is fundamentally important to our relationship to marry. It is so important that we will travel across the country to exchange vows in one of the only locations where it is legal for us to do so.
Yes, we are sending a message to all of those that say we can't, that yes, indeed, we can marry. But, it's not about them. It's about us. It's about our relationship. It's about our want to marry.
"Wife" no longer conjures up those negative images. Instead, I think only of UncleR. I think of how much I love her. And I think about Ed, and how right he was. I have realized that "wife" is a deeply personal term, individually tied to each and every person who is a "wife".
When we exchange vows in a few short months, I'm thinking maybe we should be declared "legally wedded wives". How does that sound?