The evening after our wedding Kevin and I sat on my — I mean our — vintage mauve velvet sofa and ate Kentucky Fried Chicken. This was before I was a vegetarian, before I knew the horrors of factory farming or had seen PETA protesting out in front of our local KFC. It was before I knew about a lot of things, before I thought things through, which is good, because if Kevin and I had thought long and hard about it, we never would have married. I was 35 and he 33, but neither of us had any grasp on adulthood. Our lives revolved around poetry readings and hanging out at bars talking about poetry. He was mostly gay, promiscuous, drank too much, and had never been in a long-term relationship. I was needy, unfaithful, demanding to the point of histrionic. I wanted to fuse with anything that moved. We were incompatible; we were both bad news. But we loved one another with a frenzy, and we could talk all night long. I fretted to my therapist, "What if we run out of things to say!" She shrugged her shoulders and said that some couples never ran out of things to say. We pledged that we would forever remain together, crossing our fingers that we would never run out of whatever it was that fueled our crazy coupling.
We were married at San Francisco's City Hall, June 3, 1986. City Hall was magnificent even then, years before Willie Brown's gilded renovations. It was a site I associated with queerness and unrest, having moved to San Francisco in 1978, the month before Dan White shot and killed Mayor Moscone and gay supervisor Harvey Milk. A year later, I got caught in the White Night riots, when thousands of gays went ballistic over White's manslaughter conviction. I was just walking home down Van Ness, and as I approached City Hall, suddenly cars were in flames, people were screaming, and I was facing a row of cops in riot gear. But the day of our wedding, as we stood in the rotunda looking up at the vast Beaux Arts marble staircase, Kevin declared, "This is where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio got married. Isn't it fantastic!"
We chose City Hall because we wanted the wedding to be intimate, to be about us, not about throwing a huge party. We invited two guests each — Kevin's sister Maureen and brother David and our writer friends Evangeline and Bruce. I wore a two-piece dress I found on sale at Macy's. It looked like something Joan Collins would wear on Dynasty, with its huge shoulder pads and flounce at the waist. Its skirt was a knee-length black sheath with large, irregular white dots, its white top a reverse print with black dots. I accessorized with a gauzy white straw hat, ceramic earrings shaped like large white dots, and a simple corsage of two unadorned roses, one yellow and one white. In the photos I look clownish with my black-and-white Holstein splotches, but to my credit I knew that when I bought it. I wanted to be extravagant, fun.
Waiting for our judge, we were surrounded by people of all nationalities and ethnicities. Some were dressed to the nines, some in tees and shorts. I remember a woman in a bright red Thai wedding dress, another in a white satin dress with a matching headband. It was a long line, and the fluorescent-lit hall was hot and stuffy, but everybody looked hopeful, eager. We joked that we felt like immigrants at Ellis Island. To pass the time we snapped a zillion pictures. In photo after photo the six of us are smiling so wide it looks as if our mouths will cramp. Kevin's wearing a thrift-store jacket with a yellow rose pinned to the lapel, his shoulder-length hair recently cropped military short. I thought the haircut made him look like a geek, but I loved him anyway. Looking at him now, I'm struck by his handsomeness.
The one photo where we're not smiling, where we've stopped camping it up and laughing, is when Kevin is slipping the ring on my finger. He's looking over at the judge, who's out of the frame, and I'm looking down at my finger. On the wall behind us is a calendar that reads CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO. Both of us are solemn, serious, as if the enormity of what we're taking on has hit us -- or as if, like Garbo at the end of Queen Christina, we had been directed to think of absolutely nothing.
In keeping with the historic landmark theme, we took our wedding party out to lunch at the Cliff House. Back then, the Cliff House was a funky tourist trap that locals tended to avoid, but its food was cheap (important) and its ocean view was spectacular. The ruins of the Sutro Bath, which it overlooks, were still treacherous to climb around, rather than the railed walkways of today. The ruins were ceaselessly romantic to me. I imagined Kevin and me roaming among them, primal and passionate as Catherine and Heathcliff roaming about the moors of Wuthering Heights. But with a happier ending, we hoped. We ate omelets and gazed out at the predictably sublime ocean, holding hands.