"Max," my landlord once said to me, "don't marry someone you love -- marry someone you can buy real estate with."
It's not bad advice.
Not that I can speak from experience, but I've always assumed that marriage isn't about the roar of passion -- it's about the long slog. (Three day affairs are about roars of passion.)
Lisa Cholodenko's movie The Kids Are All Right is one of the more lovely depictions of the slog I've seen in quite some time.
The basic premise of The Kids are All Right is that Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play a lesbian couple with two teenage kids -- both from the same anonymous sperm donor. When the kids seek their father out it rocks their relationship with their mothers -- and leads to a meltdown between Moore and Bening.
And the thing that I found sort of amazing is that with very little editing the script could have been about a straight couple, and probably would have been equally successful.
Does being a lesbian make a mother any less afraid when her daughter jumps on the back of a motorcycle with a virtual stranger? Or any less angry when said daughter spent the night drinking and clearly drove herself home?
Does being a lesbian mean that you don't sit your son down and have the same uncomfortable talks when you suspect he's starting to think about sex? Or when you don't like his delinquent friends?
The jealousies, the anger, the tension is all there -- as is the tenderness and sweetness.
When Ruffalo shows up, you can tell that he (a single man) is touched by the life that his children and their mothers have built together. He wants to be a part of it. He yearns for it. And the reason is because this is a movie about marriage -- not gay or straight marriage.
"I have nothing against gays," goes the old trope, "I just think that marriage is between a man and a woman."
There's part of me that can no longer get angry when I hear such nonsense. I'm simply too bored and weary to argue. My response upon hearing that sort of line from one of my conservative acquaintances is taken directly from Cher Horowitz:
But if a liberal like me can't convince anti-gay marriage advocates to reconsider their position, I wonder if The Kids Are All Right can do the trick.
The Kids steers clear of making any windy manifestoes on the issue. I'm not sure I remember the words "gay marriage" even being uttered. Or even if Bening and Moore are officially married or not.
But you can't watch that movie and feel that the relationship is anything less than a marriage. Or that this couple does anything but honor to the institution. In the end, to paraphrase from Tolstoy, all happy marriages are essentially the same.