Two things I decided early on: I would not own a car or get married. The car thing was not only an environmental idealists’ stance, it was practical and easy--I don’t drive and have never earned enough money for such a large item. However, this vehicular rebellion was drastically tweaked by Boyfriend when we acquired a 1994 Lincoln eight years ago. Granted, my name is not on the registration, and I still do not drive—yet, somehow, being chauffeured about in our gasoline-hungry car doesn’t quite qualify me for Environmentalist of the Year. This left me with my other remaining non-conformist position—singledom.
I am an incurable romantic, and, despite having been around the block more often than my Catholic upbringing approves, I believe in a committed relationship, loyalty, and monogamy. But I never felt the need to make a commitment to a legal document that, for a fee, is witnessed and certified by people I do not even know, much less care to have involved in what should be a personal and romantic affair of the heart. And my feminist nature felt at odds with the patriarchal leanings of matrimony. Besides, whose business is it with whom I set up housekeeping? Heck, for much of my adult life, I didn’t even want to live with anyone—single meant single.
Then along came Boyfriend, and all bets were off.
For nineteen years we have shared our lives, our apartments, many beloved dogs and cats, vacations, gossip, too many beers, Katrina, two motorized vehicles, friends, sorrows, hurt, misdeeds, heroics, a business—and then combined our apartments into one big rambling home. From there we nearly bought a house, nearly lost a business, lost our rambling house, moved a business, moved our home, and through all this, through sickness and health, for better, for worse, in fun and laughter, we didn’t need a judge to take our money to pronounce that we were a couple. Nevertheless, Boyfriend began asking me to marry him.
He tried to appeal to my pragmatic nature with the unavoidable fact that after ten years of wedded bliss, I would be eligible for his social security in the event that I became his widow—not the most romantic pitch or one that I am comfortable thinking about (it gives me the willies in my lower intestines and causes me to clench my decades-old dental work). But his social security would elevate me from living on cat food—my cats would never share theirs with me. Sadly, one’s future is determined by money.
He then changed tactics and got down on his knee one day in the shop’s storage room next to the trash can that hadn’t been emptied for some time, and I thought, “What the hell are you doing? That floor is filthy—don’t expect me to be able to help you up!” Before I could ruin his sweet moment, he said, “Debbie, will you marry me—not for the security, but because I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you.” I must have said yes because I called my friend Dawn and told her, and she offered to give us a wedding reception. Unsure about having a big party, still feeling hinky about all the legal ramifications, and with little knowledge of the laws and rights of single versus married, I kinda put it off.
The sweetness of his on-the-knee romantic proposal was taken to heart, but it was constantly put on the back burner because of my indecision and tendency to over-think something. Nearly three years passed. Then one day when Boyfriend was flush with extra cash and heading off to buy me wine, he said, “You can marry me for my money you know!” and I said, “Okay, sure. I’ll marry you.” He gave me a double-take, a broad smile, and asked, “For real?”
We decided then that something kinda quirky involving just us, no party, no hassle, stress, would be our preferred wedding plan. The Piccadilly Cafeteria on Jefferson Highway would be our wedding day luncheon for two! Yep, the Piccadilly—where I could have two desserts and all the sweet tea I could drink, and he could have liver ‘n onions, his cafeteria go-to favorite. When we heard that they might soon be closing that location, we got into high gear, only to be unexpectedly delayed (and evicted) by termites. Wedding bells gave way to moving bills.
Then one Wednesday morning, both exhausted from a particularly long work schedule that week, we decided to make a pass at the License Bureau to see if we were even close to having all our paperwork and documents in order. We were tired, grumpy, and rushing to catch the bus, with me in a dress I've worn for three days in-a-row and earrings, deodorant forgotten (temperatures hitting a record 97); he managed to accidentally forgo brushing his teeth. We were a hot mess. And, of course, that meant we were destined to wed that day.
All our ducks were in a row, and the license was obtained. “Is there anyone that can marry us today?” we asked.
“Yes, here’s a list of judges at Civil Court that can officiate . . . for a fee, $80.00, cash only.”
Boyfriend held a bouquet of plastic flowers from the judge’s office, I had a blue Sharpie that we used to ink our wedding bands, and during the vows he inserted with pride “and she will not obey!” Yep, we were the last couple to pay the illegal fee that should have been $5. (Google Lee Zurick’s investigative coverage and see our judge! Only in New Orleans!) We didn’t get to the Piccadilly, but we enjoyed an hour soaking in some A/C in a fancy hotel lobby (which was, in effect, our honeymoon), ate great Thai near the court house, and flashed our blue Sharpie wedding bands over champagne during our reception “for two” at our local bar.