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  • I'm sitting on a chipped concrete bench at a truck stop in central Pennsylvania and I want more than anything for someone to notice my tattoos.

    I have a heart on each shoulder and a Canadian flag on my forearm.

    A large man and a woman with long blonde hair walk by carrying a bag of chips and an oversized beverage. They keep walking.

    The sun is hot. The air is still. Trucks roar by.

    They aren't real tattoos. They are the kind that kids get at birthday parties, the kind that you use a sponge to apply and peel away, and presto! It doesn't matter to me, though. I feel tough and strong and proud the way I imagine ones does in the weeks following getting a real tattoo. I feel committed.

    The tattoos were given out at a wedding I just attended. The wedding was the fourth wedding of my closest friend from college but -- as I have told many -- it is not what you think. She and her female partner (who happens to be Canadian) have been married three other times, all in jurisdictions that weren't exactly 100% legally recognized. In Maine. In San Francisco. In Ontario. Not until this past June when it became legal in this country for any couple to marry -- regardless of gender -- have they been able to be fully official in the U.S.

    In a playful gesture, they had tattoos available -- you got one heart for each wedding you attended, and a Canadian flag if you'd ever been to Canada.

    Their celebration took part at their big family home in Washington. It was unusual in that it combined a celebration of their enduring love as well as a celebration of marriage equality. It was beautiful and triumphant.

    My friends' life hasn't only been about trying to get married. It has been about having careers and a family -- they each gave birth to a beautiful boy -- both now in middle school. They also worked through daunting challenges to adopt each other’s birth-child. Copious amounts of paperwork, social work visits, denials, appeals, and finally success. Even more, one of the couple spent years dealing with immigration issues and visas and finally getting a green card, all so that she could live and work in the same country as her family. As she pointed out in the service, if she had been a man, there would have been no adoption trials, and it would have been a couple months and she would have had that green card. Citizenship would have been just around the corner.

    It wasn't lost on me that if she had been a man, none of us would have been there celebrating their love-filled life and the incredible journey of our country.

    Among the crowd of friends and relatives of friends (some of whom I've know for 30 years), there were a handful of young people. My own 18-year-old daughter. A 13-year-old girl. A boisterous tribe of boy-tied boys. Yes, I am happy for my friends, but I am most happy for these kids who are learning by example about how to support love, how to be open, and honest, and non-threatened, and celebratory. How to know that the opposite of love is not hate but fear, and how to be not afraid. How to live in a world where love doesn't have to lie in the shadows. This is their normal, I say to myself in wonder, this is their normal.

    As Rev. Rob Hardies said at the service, our political struggles will expand as our love expands, and as how we define our family grows. For these boys we have given them a different world. A world with more love. More justice. And yes, more struggle. They will have challenges but they are backed by this. How immense. How powerful.

    I so want someone to ask me about my tattoos. I want to tell them this story. But no one does. Maybe I look too road weary, or maybe people are just intent on getting their snacks or cigarettes, or coffee or whatever. But I'll take solace in this: I just look too regular sitting here with my three tattoos. Sitting here thinking about love, and the past and the future, and the solid hope of a better world. Sitting here thinking about and smiling at the memory of those boisterous boy-tied boys.

    September 2015
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