Ditching the veil
How a girl and her bride sealed their second-tiered legal union with a kiss and her checked Vans.
Pat Head Summitt
Pic by Kim Lee
If someone told me three years ago that I would fall madly in love with a French girl, move to France and proceed to get PACS (or pacte civil de solidarité, the French version of civil unions), I would have told them that they were crazy. Further, I never thought that I would find myself fighting that female socially constructed idea of the “most important day of your life.” So, when my girlfriend and I made the decision to take the plunge, I fought my hardest not to succumb to any preconceived fairy tale and ride the wave.
A bit of legal background: PACS is the French government’s way to allow homosexuals, and heterosexuals alike, to legally unite. In fact, the latest figures show that 75% of straight couples, for one reason or another, decide to get PACS rather than to marry. It does bring many of the same rights and responsibilities of marriage, except for notable adoption rights and the (unfortunate for me, an American) guarantee of residency for foreign partners.
I have to say that it took months to gather, sort and organize the necessary paperwork from both the U.S. and from France, i.e., current notarized birth certificates, documentation of celibacy, proof of cohabitation, attestation of honor, drawn up PACS contracts and certifications of noninscription, which were then all to be translated in French and then to be stamped by the Tribunal in Paris. The ebb and flow of paperwork was excruciatingly endless. And, if that was not enough, as a foreign partner I was required to secure a translator. This entire exhaustive process finally steered us in the direction to lock in our appointment at the Marie of Bordeaux, which then tacked on an additional month of waiting time.
Just as I could not foresee the difficulties with the French administration process, I could not predict what would happen next. Clearly, the days and months leading up to this “most important day” was combed with frustration and fatigue. Yep, all of these unanticipated technicalities assisted me in dissolving any socially constructed notion of my “most important day.”
The morning prior to our afternoon appointment, we found ourselves scrambling around our house and stressing about what we should wear (apparently we work best under pressure). Do we wear traditional white? Do we wear semi-formal attire? Do I attempt to put myself in a dress disregarding the fact that I haven’t worn a dress in approximately ten years?
After a morning of stress, I pulled the reins when I realized one simple and painful fact: because we are gay, we are forced to claim a secondary recognized tier of marriage. I felt a certain sense of irony couched within this fact, which led me to channel my inner California self and totally disregard any notion of “traditional” attire. I put on a t-shirt, jean shorts and my black and gray-checkered Vans, grabbed my skateboard and said, “Let’s do this.”
When we arrived at the Marie of Bordeaux, we ran through all of the scenarios to which we could be denied our legal union. I could feel my heart pulse with the fear of rejection. We walked through security, sat down in the small plastic chairs dotting the waiting room and anxiously stared at our watches. In almost simultaneous action, the translator arrived just as the Officer Du Trubunal guided us into her tiny office.
We then sat in another pair of plastic chairs opposite of the oversized black desk while the overpaid interpreter hovered over me to simply translate “sign here.” We wiped the nervous fear off of our faces once we learned that yes, our paperwork was in order. We sighed in relief once the officer officially stamped our mountain of documents.
Indeed, after approximately 15 minutes, we were PACS and we left the concrete building to seal our second-tiered legal union with a kiss.
So, although I ditched the veil and opted for my checkered Vans, I am happy to know that my new wife accepts me for just that. Not only did I realize that my “big day” was far from any fantasy that was falsely created in my head, but instead it was better. It was better because I never imagined finding someone who is so absolutely perfect for me.