When Tom and I told our closest friend that we were getting married, she immediately asked, “Are you going on a honeymoon?”
We were caught off guard, so we quickly changed the subject. Tom and I later talked about our friend’s question, and we agreed that it had caused both of us think something along the lines of, “A honeymoon is fine for 20-year-olds, but not for people like us who’d already been a couple for 28 years.”
But after several more friends and family members asked us the same question, we had a change of heart. We generally take a vacation every summer, so why not do the same thing this year and make it a honeymoon?
Anyway, by the time we told the last of our friends about our wedding plans, we were also adding that we were going on a honeymoon to . . . Rome and the Amalfi Coast.
This got me thinking about exactly how a honeymoon is different from a regular vacation. (Yes, yes, I know there’s an expectation of more sex—how stupid do you think I am? But how else?) Tom and I had already taken dozens of trips, so what could we do to make this one special?
My answer jumped out of my mouth within seconds after we got in the taxi to take us to the airport and I announced to the driver, “We’re on our honeymoon.”
Tom fell out of his seat.
(Well, no, he didn’t literally fall out of his seat. We were in a taxi, remember, so where could he have fallen, onto the floor? No, no, I’m using a little literary license here. Get used to it!)
The reason Tom was taken aback, I knew, had to do with the particular driver and cab we’d ended up with. The woman was African American, and she’d decorated the inside of her taxi by placing either a cross or a saying—“God Is My Co-Pilot,” “Honk if You Love Jesus”—on every available surface. (READ: Chances were slim that our driver supported same-sex marriage.)
“Two men getting married,” she said immediately after my announcement, “that’s not legal.”
“Yes it is,” I said, in a cheerful tone. “The D.C. City Council approved same-sex marriage last year. Now it’s perfectly legal.”
By this point, we could almost hear the debate going on inside the driver’s head. On the one hand, the trip to Dulles Airport was a long one, which meant she had the potential for getting a hefty tip. On the other hand, going along with two men getting married was also a lengthy trip—one way beyond this woman’s comfort zone.
So I set about winning her over, pulling a photo out of my wallet and leaning forward to show it to her.
“Here’s a photo of our family on our wedding day,” I chirped. “Standing there on the left, that’s our son, Matt. And seated in front of Matt is his wife, Melanie. And on her lap is our youngest grandson, Liam. And . . . .”
Tom then joined in. “His full name is Liam Thomas—he’s named after me.”
“So anyway,” I continued, giving Tom a quick smile, “next to Melanie and Liam, sitting on the little footstool, are our twin grandsons, Elijah and Noah . . . .”
The driver was very taken by the photo—I knew she’d love that the twins had names straight out of the Bible. And so, by the time we reached the airport, she was all rah-rah about same-sex marriage. As we parted, she smiled broadly and called out, “You guys have a great honeymoon!”
I can’t say exactly how much credit should go to our convincing her of the fairness of this latest advancement in human rights and how much should go to the way-bigger-than-made-sense tip we gave her, but, hey, one more supporter is one more supporter, right?
That was the first of a long list of similar chats we had with all sorts of people during our two-week honeymoon. From cab drivers to tour guides to folks who had the good fortune to sit beside us in restaurants, we did our best to recruit people into the “pro camp” on marriage equality.
Rather than go through all the conversations, I’ve decided to describe just two more—the best one and the worst one.
Our most positive chat came when we visited Trevi Fountain, the spot in Rome that rose to iconic status thanks to the film Three Coins in the Fountain. Tom, in particular, is a big fan of syrupy romance flicks, and that one’s a classic of the genre.
It’s a beautiful fountain and also one of the largest in the world, stretching all along the side of a block-long building. After looking at the fountain for several minutes, we felt compelled to have our photo taken in front of it. Of course that meant we ran into the problem every honeymooning couple faces: Who’s going to take the picture?
I quickly surveyed the crowd and settled on two middle-aged American women who looked like they’d be up to the task.
“Excuse me, ma’m,” I said sweetly to one of them. “My husband and I are on our honeymoon, and I’m wondering if you’d be willing to take a quick photo of us in front of the fountain.”
She exploded with joy. “Absolutely!” she screeched. “We’re from Boston!”
I silently congratulated myself for picking out two people from one of the handful of states that have legalized gay marriage, and Tom and I then chatted amiably with them for several minutes.
“It’s so wonderful that your great state took the lead on this important issue,” Tom said. (My husband became an Eagle Scout back in the day, and he’s been adding to his collection of merit badges ever since. He already has about a zillion of the things, and apparently he was now hoping to add one that rewarded him for Sucking Up on Foreign Soil.)
The two women couldn’t have been more delightful. “We’ve gone to lots of gay weddings. They’re the best parties ever!”
Our encounter on that summer afternoon was brief but memorable, and we’ll always treasure the photo that captured that once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Now to the dark side.
The most negative conversation on our Global Tour for Marriage Equality came while we were having dinner in a restaurant just down the street from the Coliseum. We were chomping away on our margherita pizza when the couple next to us decided to get all friendly on us.
First they told us they’d come to Italy to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. We smiled politely and asked where they were from (Wisconsin, they told us), what they did for a living (both worked in human resources), and how long they’d been in Rome (two days).
When there was a lull in the conversation, which should have been their cue to ask us about where we were from, they just sat there. So I said, “Tom and I are here on our honeymoon.”
As I looked at them, their jaws now tightened and their eyes steely, a map of Wisconsin flashed into my mind. For whatever reason, the image was of the political variety with the entire state covered in red, except for a single patch of blue in the south-central area.
So I said, “I guess you guys aren’t from Madison, huh?”
The man and woman’s heads then nodded in unison, making them look like a pair of bobble-head dolls, except that the movement wasn’t up and down but from side to side, signaling a big fat “N-O.”
I looked at Tom and saw that he was about to spring into action. I instantly knew he was getting ready to ask another polite question—“Is this your first trip to Italy?” was my guess—in hopes of earning a merit badge for Conversing with Homophobes.
(After 28 years, we’re experts at reading each other’s mind.)
He saw my look/glare/threat and knew exactly what I was thinking, though I didn’t say a word: If you ask these Neanderthals even one more question, don’t even think about having sex tonight.
Tom remained silent.
We didn’t say another word to the couple, and they didn’t say anything to us either. Tom and I finished our meal first, and, as we got up from the table, we made sure not to make eye contact.
And so, yes, we failed in that one effort to recruit supporters into the “pro camp” on same-sex marriage. Even so, by the time we got home, we’d racked up way more wins than losses.
Not counting the women from Boston, who clearly were already supporters before we met them, we could claim the taxi driver who took us to the airport, the folks who ran the hotel in Rome, the Irish couple we met on our tour of the Vatican, the guy who took us on a boat trip to Capri, the four women from California we met on the boat to Positano, the two Australian couples who offered to share a pizza with us . . . OK, I know I’m bragging too much.
Speaking of bragging, did I mention how we got over the bad mood we were in after our unpleasant encounter with the Wisconsin homophobes?
Yep, you guessed it. We went back to our hotel and had some glorious, man-on-man, toe-curling . . . YOU KNOW WHAT! After that, the bobble-head dolls were nothing but a distant memory.
By Rodger Streitmatter
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