Friday, December 02, 2005

City Hall Marriages

Starting off the day with a wedding does something good for the mood especially when you see twenty various couples file in and out of the city hall with their various interpretations of how a celebration of love should appear. It's fun to witness a day so many people will never forget whether or not the marriage turns out okay. From white suits, to teal satin dresses, to 60-somethings tying the knot, diversity abounded, although the only group that lacked was a homosexual couple. That's not to say gay marriage is illegal in Germany. *A form* of gay marriage is legal, which grants some but not all rights as heterosexual couples. Gay couples have no adoption rights, peculiar for a country whose birth rate is so low that the government will actually pay a monthly allowance to heterosexual couples for each child they bear. Gay partners also lack tax or welfare benefits, though they benefit from same inheritance and tenants' rights and a foreign partner can gain the right to German citizenship. It's a step, anyway...because an uncharacteristically optimistic side of me likes to believe that the money "rights" of any marriage plays a smaller role than the declaration and celebration of love for those who desire to do so. Why *is* there a tax break for married couples anyway? Because the government is so happy over your newfound love? Oh-ho no! Let's just be clear that the government will reward heterosexual couples capable of producing children, aka future consumers and workers who will sustain the economy.

City hall marriages are interesting because there is a notable percentage of people specifically going through the motions *for* the privileges. I can say with confidence that about 70% of the married people in my class married in a city hall because staying with the person they loved in Germany depended on it--Ryan and I included. It might have been nicer to have done it more on our own terms, *if* we would have chosen to marry, but admittedly getting married did do something for me, at least, in terms of solidifying a trust and putting me in a frame of mind to do anything and everything in making our relationship work. It turned out to be a more emotional stamp for me than anything. Rationally I understand how a piece of paper and tax breaks have no way of validating a couple's love, but going through this bizarre process really isolated us in an emotional, intimate moment to confirm the abstract in a concrete way. Not to mention it was in front of people we knew and didn't know who will rightly or wrongly hold us responsible for making this work out. We stood there and said, I'm sure I'll be with this person the rest of my life, which is hard because part of being human is being uncertain so we can learn. I can honestly say that I've only ever seen people 100% sure about what they want when it comes to choosing what cereal they want to eat in the morning. Emotionally, though, I feel relieved and glad to be *married* to Ryan.

This morning's wedding was Irmi's, an Israeli friend in my German class. She was weirded out all week because she was confident enough in her relationship, but didn't like this feeling of being forced by the government to go through this. Then her sister sent her a white dress she didn't feel comfortable wearing. Weddings are funny because they have the potential to take you out of your comfort zone in so many ways, which winds up serving as a spectacle for an audience to see how well you face it. Irmi did fine despite her lack of comfortable atmosphere: different country, different language, being Jewish in a Christian country that slaughtered your people (note the 10 commandments in the picture taken at Heidelberg's City Hall), dress, prom hair, lack of family. She was clearly nervous, but I think that's better than an Academy Award winning act.

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