On the same-sex marriage survey and what he thinks about marriage
S ome people ask the secret of long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant twice a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays. I go Fridays. Sadly, that’s not my material. It comes from the late New York stand-up comic Henny Youngman. If I could come up with stuff like that I wouldn’t be writing here.
I’ve been revisiting the one-liners of Youngman this week in the light of the horribly earnest, bitter and humourless marriage equality plebiscite. How could anything so inelegantly named not end up nasty and boring? No satirist could ever have come up with a more ludicrous project and title. The word “plebiscite” kind of sums it up. They are asking us “plebs” to say “I do” before enamoured same-sex couples are allowed to repeat those words.
I don’t really want to vote in this awful thing because who you marry has nothing to do with me. It’s entirely your business. Why should couples of any gender ask my permission to wed?
I hate political correctness as much as the next journalist (it has taken half the fun and all the lively discourse out of life) so I might have been expected to warm to Tony Abbott’s injunction that “if you are opposed to political correctness, you should vote no”. Unfortunately, whatever side Abbott takes, I feel compelled to take the opposite.
My other political touchstone is the equally egregious Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon. They are both wreckers, brimful of bile and spleen and not much loved by their respective colleagues. Both represent ideologies from the remote past at a time when most of us are now somewhere in the reasonable centre.
Whenever ideologies are involved in any social debate, I fear it will end badly. Since Rhiannon takes the opposite side to Abbott, the only middle ground for me is not to vote. And that’s in the unlikely event Australia Post is able to locate my letterbox up in High Dudgeon.
Despite what some people think, your columnist is a fairly affable bloke of reasonable disposition, happiest when mildly amused.
I might appear a great supporter of marriage, but I can hardly agree with Malcolm Turnbull that “marriage is the bedrock of our society”. Beyond the harbourside mansion, marriage might more likely be a rocky bed. More than a third of marriages end in divorce and half our kids live in long-term unmarried relationships. Still, I have persevered. I must be a big fan of marriage. How else to explain I have done it three times?
When we ventured into my final attempt to get it right, up at the Signal Station atop High Dudgeon, Donna told our assembled friends: “This is Charlie’s third marriage and it is certainly his last. This is my first marriage but not necessarily my last.”
We had a hilarious time. Like 70 per cent of the declining numbers who now bother to marry, we chose a celebrant. Neither Allah nor Jehovah spoiled the party. What I hadn’t really considered until this present debate was that we had a third person that night in our marriage bed: the state.
Please explain why a bunch of disorganised, opportunistic miscreants in our fractious legislatures in Canberra should have any say in defining the closest human relationship most Australians will have. These people don’t even know what country they are citizens of, let alone what they believe about education, health, coal and climate change. Yet you are prepared to let them order who you may marry. It is beyond me why same-sex couples would want a bunch of self-serving politicians to vouchsafe their relationship.
John Howard caused the problem a few years ago when he bunged into the constitution a clause redefining marriage as a union “between a man and a woman”. He is a decent bloke, but he could never see far beyond the white picket fence.
Incidentally, I think I do an amusing impersonation of our former prime minister and so do my friends. But when the wedding laughter subsided, Donna said, “No sex for you tonight, Charlie”. Could Howard impersonations be grounds for divorce? I want this marriage to last but, to be fair, I can’t do Turnbull because there’s no one there to impersonate.
How will I vote in this unbinding opinion poll on a subject that rightly should be no business of mine? Yes, I expect. But despite my abundant marriage experience, don’t presume I have the answer. How has a debate about love generated so much hatred? A sense of humour has never been so urgently required.
Let’s keep it nice by invoking the spirit of Youngman, whose “take my wife, please” jokes belied a long marriage to his beloved Sadie. “I’ve been in love with the same woman for 49 years,” he said. “If my wife ever finds out, she’ll kill me.”