Friday, April 29th, 2011...7:29 pm

Desultory Philippic on Trite Farragoes of Heterosexual Privilege

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This is my first and last comment on The Wedding. Like any queen, I am Anglophile. And I wish anyone well who makes public promises, especially given the recent connubial track record of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (as they were known before tidily Anglicizing the name of “the firm” to “Windsor” during World War I), but please spare me the trite farrago of heterosexual privilege, which as frequently as not ends up at the doorstep of a divorce attorney. 

Not that I don’t envy fidelity or even some measure of romance. Twenty-five years ago, accompanied by The Man (for me, he will always be The Man, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, or Watson on Holmes) I saw Les Misérables on Broadway. All the rage at the time. But it left me cold. The image that came to my mind was someone’s singing on tip-toes at the loudest top of one’s voice as substitute for depth and nuance. Trite. Even “Bring Him Home.” Especially “Bring Him Home.”

When Bill Pfeiffer, RN, laid to rest his partner of many years, Mike Peppler, MD, “Bring Him Home” was played at the funeral. Then Bill died a year or so later. I had attended their simulacrum of a wedding (all that is allowed queers in most of the Lower Forty-Eight); the ritual was sham, only the sentiments were real.

In the current issue of the London Times Literary Supplement, Judith Flanders observes of Les Misérables:

. . . the complexities of a narrative were no longer necessary for success, a realization that leads to Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Misérables, which substitutes music-cued generic emotions for the (complicated) original story of Javert and Jean Valjean. . . . Here, via their circular return to melodrama, language was no longer a barrier to understanding . . . relying on musical cues rather than narrative to produce their emotional effects: spectacle replaces narrative and character.

Manufactured, pre-package emotion. So, too, The Wedding: Two photogenic inconsequentialities plight their troth, spectacularly. Cue anthems. Cue tears. Cue change ringing.

Weddings should be private affairs, with public celebrations for the 25th and 50th anniversaries (if at all). I prefer love’s alchemy, especially now, having misplaced my Philosopher’s Stone. So my romantic hero is John Donne: marrying a woman against her father’s and his patron’s wishes, landing him in jail, and costing him a diplomatic career. Reluctantly he became a priest. After the death of his wife, Anne More, he did not remarry. Surviving is the celebration of that most frail of loves, the marital, in the poem “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”:

Dull sublunary lovers’ love

(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit

Absence, because it doth remove

Those things which elemented it.

But we by’a love so much refined

That our selves know not what it is,

Inter-assuréd of the mind,

Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,

Though I must go, endure not yet

A breach, but an expansion,

Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so

As stiff twin compasses are two;

Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show

To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

And though it in the center sit,

Yet when the other far doth roam,

It leans and hearkens after it,

And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must

Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;

Thy firmness makes my circle just,

And makes me end where I begun.

I wish the young Windsor couple banked fires.

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