Last week, in the midst of celebrating our 61th month anniversary I went to the bathroom. Our song, “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds started playing, and when I came out of the bathroom she started dancing with me. This is not out of the normal because we often do weird things like dance with each other in the middle of the day with no apparent reason, but I noticed a wrapped package on the sofa.
A couple of months ago she asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I said I wanted a surprise. Since then she has been gifting me multiple surprises, so another wrapped package was also not out of the ordinary. But this time, the package contained:
How can I begin to describe the layers of these images? Within, there is a pair of rings, a ring holder, and a card. She crocheted the ring holder as a my favourite cake the strawberry shortcake, ordered the handcrafted wooden rings off etsy, and drew the card depicting one of our favourite activities together – having afternoon tea. The photos are staged and taken by her.
Our life is so intertwined with her nature as an artist. The art is part of the act. The act is the art. I cannot help but admire the art while I am part of the ongoing act.
She asked if I would marry her – she doesn’t have a serious demeanour for almost anything except when in the process of doing her art, so in that moment it was difficult for me to take her seriously. It felt as though we were like two kids playacting as grown ups. But her intention was evident in the way everything was put together so thoughtfully.
I didn’t exclaim a loud yes!, I let her put on the ring on my ring finger without a word, like an emotionally constipated Asian person.
We cannot get legally married here in Singapore, where it actually matters. Our country will not recognise our marriage even if we got married elsewhere. So what is the point?
I think the fact that we cannot get married legally here in Singapore sort of acted like a shield for both of our commitment phobia. Since we cannot get married, there is no need to talk or think about it. It is easy to say, oh if marriage became legal tomorrow, we’ll get married – but will we?
In many ways we are practically married. We own a house together, we plan our future and financial decisions together. We are probably a lot more married than many legally married couples, especially when it comes to the depth of our emotional and psychological bond. But it is one thing to say that we’re practically married and other thing to be actually married.
For me, the symbolism matters. Yes for now we cannot get married here, and I’m highly skeptical that it’ll ever be legal in our lifetimes. But there is a huge gap between a legal marriage and a dating relationship. We’ll probably get married overseas once we can, and at the very least it is not on us if our government (and some groups of people) remains discriminatory towards us. That is on them, that they are holding on to their archaic views.
We can only demonstrate we have done everything in our power to take our couplehood seriously. If the government is not willing to recognise our status, we should recognise it ourselves. Our marriage will at least be recognised in the laws of other countries. Should we one day decide to pursue immigration to these countries (we won’t for now, because we’re attached to our families here, but one day when it is just us who knows), she will be seen as my legal spouse. To me, that is better than simply resigning to the status quo passively.
Today while exercising, I started wondering if she would be able to collect my body for a funeral should anything happen to me. If I lay dying in a isolated ward, would they call her for our last words even if she’s not my next-of-kin?
It seems like an injustice that my supposed next-of-kin would not be the person actually closest to me. The only person who is truly with me through all my ups and downs, who have seen the best and worst of me, who validated my concerns and took actual steps to address them, who has loved me fiercely and steadily for years – this person in the eyes of the law, would just be a mere acquaintance.
When people say marriage is just a piece of paper, do they know what it is like that the law would rather recognise a relative that you meet once a year as your next-of-kin than the person you love the most in your life?
on the value of legal recognition