My Girlfriend Paula Wants to Get Married on The Today Show
By Judith Katz
My girlfriend Paula wants to get married on The Today Show. I said okay, our friends Jo E and Diane made our video entry with us, Paula wrote the essay, and while I don’t think we’ll even make the finals, there is a possibility that we might.
We are two zaftig Jewish dykes in our 60’s– Paula early, me late, and although Paula is the mother of a 23 year old daughter and was involved with a partner for a quarter of a century and I, a committed serial monogamist, have been through my share of girlfriends, neither one of us has ever been married. For Paula it’s because until the early 21st Century it wasn’t legal for same sex couples to marry. For me, it’s because up until I got together with Paula, I didn’t believe in it. Okay– wait– I believed in it for other people, especially when we collectively voted out an anti-same sex marriage amendment in Minnesota in 2011. I believed in it for our pals Leslie and Shevvy when they had a spectacular wedding with over a hundred guests in a beautiful Vietnamese restaurant in Saint Paul. I believed in it for my pals Annie and Jeanne when they got married in front of a small group of family and friends in an art gallery in the North Loop in downtown Minneapolis. Finally I began to believe in it for myself and Paula right before our traditional Yom Kippur lunch with our friend the rabbi’s son, David, eaten annually during the break between the morning service and mincha.
Paula had already proposed in earnest a few months before– she got down on one knee in our living room and asked me to marry her while presenting me with a ring made of her mother Chelly’s melted down gold jewelry and her Great Aunt Lillian’s diamond (she has a matching one that features her Grandma Nina’s slightly bigger stone). I agreed in spirit. But the idea of actual marriage, though now legal and possible, still seemed abstract and in accordance with my 1970’s lesbian ethics, a little counter revolutionary. We lived together, after all, and isn’t that what queer bohemians did? Live openly with their lovers?
Of course, there was the issue of intimacy. Hadn’t I spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on therapy appointments trying to figure out why none of my dozens of “relationships” (at least three of those actual capital R relationships) never worked out? It seemed that ever since I was a little girl and my mother held up the shrunken wedding dress she had washed herself instead of sending to the laundry, marriage had always scared me.
Until Paula. Not only was I crazy in love and hot for her. For two people who had been together for just over five years, we had been through a lot: A few months into our relationship, Paula was hit by a drunk driver and after multiple surgeries moved in to my small (bohemian) apartment so I could tend to her with the help of friends. A few months after her recovery, I was diagnosed with follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Paula (again with the help of friends) nursed me through. I sold my house and moved with my cat into Paula’s aforementioned bungalow and not long after that was diagnosed with a different, more dangerous lymphoma which required a more strenuous chemo and in addition to exhausting me, precipitated the loss of my hair (which I hated almost more than being sick).
Paula was a brick.
Suddenly, reflecting on all of that at a traffic light at the intersection of Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street at about 12:30 PM on Saturday, September 30, 2017, after a very moving davar Torah by a leading Minneapolis political activist that had very little to do with gay rights and everything to do with challenging racism as Jews, the idea of actually marrying Paula seemed absolutely right.
I looked ahead across the intersection and burst into tears.
“We need to get married for real,” I snuffled.
Paula didn’t disagree.
We met our friend, David, we ate our rice bowls, we went back to shul, mincha happened, then ma’ariv, shofars blew, those who fasted broke their fasts communally in the basement of the church that had once been a synagogue and for the high holy days became a synagogue again.
Months passed, my hair grew back, and one day about a week before Christmas, Paula said, “I think we should try to get married on The Today Show.”
“Ah,” I answered. “ Sure.”
Because if you think about it, two adorably chubby Jewish dykes in their 60’s getting married on TV would not only be kind of hilarious. It could actually be pretty rad.
Juditz Katz is the author of the novels The Escape Artist and Running Fiercely Towards a High Thin Sound, the latter which won a Lambda Literary Award for best lesbian fiction.