Can you remember what it was like to fall in love? Before reading beyond this first paragraph, take a minute and close your eyes and bring those moments back and re-live them. Where were you? Who was it? What attracted you to your beloved? Think back to the first time you dared to speak those precious, all-or-nothing words “I love you” and heard them come right back, flooding you with relief and changing your life forever. Remember the first kiss. You just knew in those moments the world was absolutely magical, because it could make such a love happen.
Go ahead. I was serious. Stop reading and take a minute or two to savor the memory. No hurry. This column will still be here when you get back.
Okay, so now we’re all on the same page so to speak. We remember what being in love feels like. The touch that makes the skin tingle and glow. The aroma of hair so close. The sudden deep catch of breath. The mind drifting off when we two are parted, to sneak a look at a photo and feel that surge of love well up all over again, yearning to be close once more.
There’s no formula for how love happens. However it happens seems to work out right. For Patti and me, it took a form we’d have been aghast to hear any of our children report. Recent college graduates, we encountered each other one evening and immediately fell into deep conversation about the meaning of life. Next thing we knew it was dawn. We stumbled off to work, only to resume the conversation that next night until the wee hours. And the next. And the next. On the eighth consecutive night, after continually melding our souls and enjoying some relatively chaste “making out” (it was the ‘50s, after all), I said to her, “You know we’re going to get married, don’t you?” She replied, “Of course.” Three months later we wed. We’re celebrating our 49th anniversary this year.
At the other end of the courtship spectrum, I think of the couples who, during World War II, fell in love and agreed to marry without ever having met each other face to face. During the war, young single women flocked to USO centers to write letters of support to unknown single soldiers engaged in battles all across the globe. Many wrote back, and out of the increasingly heartfelt correspondence back and forth, love blossomed, proposals went forth, and acceptances flew in return. Many such romances evolved over two, three, even four years of exquisitely intimate letters. Then, at war’s end, these long-distance romances burst alive in real life. The newsreels in 1945 showed soldiers galloping down gangways off troopships and into ecstatic embraces in the arms of beloved fiancées they had never before seen in person.
Lately, the octogenarian father of a good friend fell in love with a ninety-something companion in the assisted living home where they live. The tenderness between them would bring tears to your eyes. They are planning a spring wedding.
Clearly, there is no one way to fall in love, no right way, no wrong way. The only “right” is surely that, once love happens, the lovers have the right to express it and enjoy it for the rest of their lives, as a reciprocal blessing.
That is why we must celebrate and make the most of New Jersey’s current, historic chance to ensure that the right to love is extended to every single consenting adult in the state. Including gay men. Including lesbian women. Including transgendered persons.
The New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission has recently concluded that anything short of true marriage is tantamount to “separate but equal”, the pernicious canard that delayed full citizenship to persons of color for generations. So now it is up to us to declare to our state legislators and to Governor Corzine that we are unwilling to be co-conspirators in such a deprivation for those whose falling in love expressed sexual preferences different from the majority. It is high time for a new law that will put this shameful prejudice behind us once and for all.
You can express your support for such a law by writing to Governor Jon Corzine, Senate President Richard Codey, Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, and your own N.J. state representatives. (If you are unsure about who the latter is, or how to make contact, you can get some help. Just log onto “gardenstateequality.org” where you’ll find both a link to your representative and a sample letter you can send with just a click.)
Speaking out is more than an expression of political opinion. When you write that letter or make that click, you yourself will be engaged in an act of love, one that reflects my favorite definition of the word: To love is to yearn for the fulfillment of another person on their own terms.