"I HAVE a peculiar memory which must date to when I was 10 or 11 years old. I am sitting at the piano daydreaming one afternoon, and it occurs to me that I will never get married. Simultaneously with this realization comes the recognition that I have always understood that marriage was unlikely for me, and that today is merely the first time I have said so, to myself, "aloud." So baldly clear is this realization that I might as well be acknowledging that I will never have eight legs and spin a web.
Even so, the revelation strikes me as peculiar. Almost all of the adults I know are married, and so, for that matter, are most of the grown‑ups I have ever heard of. Everyone gets married. Why, then, do I know that the world of married adults has no connection to me, and that I will go off in some different direction?"
So opens Denial: My Twenty-Five Years Without a Soul, a memoir excerpted today in the Huffington Post. The author, Jonathan Rauch, is one of my oldest friends: we have known each other since the fall of 1978. The story he tells is at once harrowing and inspiring.
As he writes in an introductory blog on the HuffPost site:
Not just for a year, not even even for a decade, but for 25 years, I lived in an inverted world where love was hate, attraction was envy, and childhood could never end. I thought I had been inexplicably stripped of the capability to love. And what is a soul without even the possibility of love? I felt soulless. In a way, I was soulless.
Jonathan's is not just a gay story. Probably every over-intellectual teenager has an analogous autobiography of self-puzzlement before the most basic facts of human biology and desire. Yet for young people like the Jonathan Rauch I met all those years ago, the way of escape is more snarled and painful than it is for the equivalent nerd whose desires align with the sexual majority. The good news is that he did find it. He and Michael Lai, his partner in that escape, were married in the District of Columbia in 2010; my wife Danielle & I were honored to host the reception in our backyard a few days later with dozens of Jonathan's and Michael's friends and family.
Jonathan's personal experience and testimony was a profound shaping force for Danielle & me in our thinking about love and marriage for all people. "Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?" E.M. Forster asks in his short story, "A Room With a View." The older I get, the more I appreciate what a rare and precious thing is lasting happiness. People have so little, nobody should be denied his or her best chance at it.
I'm so proud of Jonathan's great personal and now literary achievement. His short e-book is beautiful and well worth your time and attention.