The Truth, Mainly - 03/15/2004

Trying to defend Defense of Marriage
by Leon Satterfield

"Man the barricades!" I yell to my wife. "Batten down the hatches!"

"Since when," she yawns, her eyes still on her crossword puzzle, "have we had any barricades to man? Any hatches to batten down? And what's a five-letter word for oafish over-reaction?"

"Oh, sure," I say. "Scoff at impending disaster! Giggle girlishly at the approach of the end of civilization as we know it!"

"OK," she says, putting down her puzzle. "What is it? Gasoline up two more cents? Another football coach fired? Dodgers leaving Brooklyn again?"

I take a deep breath and squinch up my eyes the way I always do when I'm about to say something of astonishing gravitas.

"Our marriage," I say, my voice quivering slightly, "is under attack."

She ponders that for a minute, goes to the front window, then to the back.

"There's no one out there attacking us," she says. "I believe you're suffering from delusional paranoia. It's the strain of retirement, isnt it?"

"No," I say. "It's the news. It's reality. It's what's happening."

"And what," she says, "might that be?"

"SSMs!" I whisper hoarsely.

"Silly Satterfield Misperceptions?" she says. "Yet again?"

"Same-Sex Marriages!" I yell. "Don't you pay attention to anything? It's same-sex marriages and they're happening everywhere—San Francisco and Portland and New Paltz, N.Y., and God only knows where else."

"There, there," she says, patting my head. "And what's happening in those places threatens our marriage? Is that it?"

"Of course that's it," I say. "Even though we passed the Defense of Marriage Amendment four years ago, our marriage is still being threatened."

"You know," she says, "that always puzzled me. How can same-sex marriages threaten our marriage?"

"Everyone knows the answer to that," I say.

"Tell me," she says.

"Well, for one thing," I say, "the mere existence of only one same-sex marriage saps and impurifies our precious bodily fluids."

"That," she says, "is what General Jack D. Ripper said communism does in 'Dr. Strangelove.' You're confusing movies and reality again. So one more time: How do same-sex marriages threaten different-sex marriages?"

"OK," I say. "I don't like talking about this, but here it is: conventional wisdom implies that there's an unlimited amount of marital bliss available to all heterosexual couples who want it. But the little-known truth is that there's only a finite supply of marital bliss in our galaxy."

She rolls her eyes.

"That," she says, "is about the dumbest thing I've ever heard you say."

"It's a zero-sum game, as we say in Hard Reality Studies," I say. "Marital bliss, once used, is gone forever. The supply is limited. So if same-sex marriage gets more, different-sex marriage gets less. Hence, the threat."

"You're serious," she says, "aren't you?"

"Serious as a radio evangelist," I say. "Serious as an ATM machine."

"Neither of which has hardly anything to do with marital bliss," she says.

"Think of it this way," I say. "Making whoopee is like making pie: you've got to have the ingredients. If someone else uses up the ingredients before you do, it severely restricts the amount of pie you can make. And if someone else uses your share of ingredients for making whoopee, it threatens your marriage."

She gives me a look.

"So," she says, "that's what the defense of marriage is all about?"

"That's it," I say. "I explained it rather well—even delicately—for a retired English teacher, don't you think?"

"But," she says, "isn't that like saying holding hands in moonlight uses up the moonlight so others can't hold hands in it? Like saying smelling the roses uses up their odor so no one else can smell them?"

"Hah?" I say.

"And," she says, "aren't you trying to measure the immeasurable when you imply that you can weigh out a pound of marital bliss like it's sausage?"

"Hah?" I say.

"And," she says, just before she bonks me on the head with the cast-iron skillet, "aren't you making a mockery of love and marriage whether it's same-sex or different-sex? And finally, aren't you playing hell with the American notion of equal rights for everyone?"

"Ow," I say. But that bonk clarifies my thinking considerably, her argument, as usual, being a bit weightier than mine.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

©Copyright Lincoln Journal Star