Twenty-One Questions Again

by eatonhamilton

I found this essay while noodling around.  It’s by a J. Banga here.  I often read essays on this piece I wrote in the mid-90s, some years before I entered Canada’s same-sex marriage case as a litigant.  It is still, I feel, a challenge, for queers to shape a unique wedding (and marriage) in Canada, but we’ve had the right to do so for nearly ten years now.  I think the topic and discussion is still pertinent in the U.S., and we’ve been losing ground fast in Uganda.

“Twenty One Questions” By Jane Eaton Hamilton

  • Mar. 3rd, 2009 at 10:45 PM

I chose to do my blogging on “Twenty-One Questions” by Jane Eaton Hamilton. This essay is a uncongenial checklist of some sort, well that’s what I would categorize it as. It goes through 21 questions that two lesbian women analyze while preparing for their wedding. It discusses everything from “What is the best month for a wedding?” to “Will they register a china pattern?”. You may think, well these are questions that every couple thinks of when contemplating marriage, however their answers to the questions were very different!

At first I was drawn to this essay because of the format of the essay, I thought the way Hamilton had set up her questions where much more attractive then reading something that was straight text. Also, I thought Hamilton did an excellent job on getting her point across with dialogue. I think it takes a great writer to educate a person while writing in a conversation point of view, and on top of that, takes a talented writer to keep the reader engaged, and Hamilton definitely kept me engaged.

I learned lot of from this essay, I always knew that same sex marriages where controversial in the media and public, but I never gave a second though on how they actually felt. I mean, who says that sexual preference defines who we are? When I was reading the question “Is Queer Marriage Even Safe?” The second bride wanted a wedding outdoors, but her partner’s mother is scared that someone who is not accepting of gay marriages might come and riot. I mean, it just got me thinking, If I wanted to get married outdoors to my boyfriend, I would never have to think of anyone not accepting it, then why should they? The only difference between me and them is they are two girls, and us not? But our goal is the same isn’t it? To recognize the bond between two people, in a ceremony with our friends and family. Then why do they have to worry about if someone will come and protest against them? It saddens me. The rest of the questions were kind of humorous at times, such as wondering if they should carry flowers or not, one of the brides didn’t want to because it seemed like the “straight” thing to do. I think it was kind of ironic how gays and lesbians get mad at the fact that there are stereotypes about them, yet throughout this essay they seemed opposed to doing anything a straight women and man might do at their wedding, like walking down an aisle, holding bouquets, wearing a wedding dress or tuxedo. I feel that just as much people stereotype them, they also stereotype us. That just leaves us with the question, do two rights make a wrong? Do they think its okay to cast us with a stereotype just because we do it to them? I feel that’s another point Hamilton was trying to share with us, that straight people get cast too.

Overall, I thought this essay was a great read, and I suggest if you haven’t read it yet, to take a look at it, Hamilton has a great approach by mixing satire, humour, reality, and fantasy together in a dialogue between two lesbians trying to plan their wedding, and it keeps you intrigued throughout the essay. Just for your reading pleasure, they did get married, there were protesters, and one of them wore a dress while the other a tux J .. However troubles continued when they went on their honeymoon, and the lady at the desk gave them an awkward look while they checked into the Honeymoon Suite…I guess the judging doesn’t even stop after your married……..and the questions will never stop either.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

asmit wrote:

Mar. 6th, 2009 06:43 am (UTC)
I also loved the format of this essay. It was really interesting to read and I actually found it very humorous. Most of these questions are things that ever couple getting married ask, but I would never have thought about it from a lesbian perspective. I agree that Hamilton’s format of the essay (her use of questions) made for a much more interesting read, as straight text would have not had the same effect. I agree with what you said at the end of your blog, that the questions will never stop, well at least not any time in the near future!

mgerbrecht wrote:

Mar. 9th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)

Great analysis!

I also noticed the evidence of dual stereotyping in the essay. A couple times one or the other said “we’re not heterosexuals, so why should we do that?” or something along those lines. That made me stop and think “Is that what you think all heterosexuals do for their weddings?” There are countless wedding themes and techniques that keep growing with innovation; one size most certainly does not fit all. That’s why I was a little uneasy about the focus on following the main tradition. It should be whatever the couple wants. It also reminded me of Bissoondath’s reading from last week “I’m Not Racist but…” where he says ‘what is racism for one is racism for another.’ I think stereotyping takes similar effect.

lchenery wrote:

Mar. 9th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)
Feedback on “Twenty One Questions” By Jane Eaton Hamilton

I enjoyed your explanation of the layout of the essay as an uncongenial checklist of questions posed by a same-sex couple preparing for their wedding. As you previously stated, although the questions are all the same for all couples organizing a wedding, same sex-couples answers to these questions are far more complex. Much like you I was drawn to the unique format of the essay, I thought it was quite creative of Hamilton to layout the essay in consecutive innocent questions leading from the proposal of the couple to the honeymoon. I too felt, that Hamilton was able to easily get her message across to her readers through the intriguing and clever dialogue.

I was also able to learn a tremendous amount from Hamilton’s essay. I felt as if I was included in the conversation and bickering between the couple, and the hardships faced over the simplest tasks for a heterosexual couple. I was shocked that on their wedding day, protesters and the media surrounded the ceremony and dared to interrupt or even attempt to ruin their day as if it had anything to do with them. I thought your comparison between your own relationship and that of the characters in the essay was great. It seemed to put everything in perspective that yes, in fact the goal of both couples is the same, to recognize the bond between two people in a ceremony with friends and family. Although, I appreciate your argument towards the stereotypes of heterosexual couples, I don’t know if I can completely agree with it. I feel that same-sex couples are backed into a corner, pushed to make decisions just because it is what they are “supposed” to do. I feel that they are left with no way to make everyone happy, either they portray the typical homosexual stereotypes or they go against it and are seen as tying to live a heterosexual lie. I do agree, however, that Hamilton does take into account both sides of the argument and does see straight couples stereotyped as well. I just do not feel that the stereotypes are as damaging or destructive to couples and do not interfere with the governments recognition of the couples status as a couple.

Thanks for your insights on Hamilton’s essay; I too really enjoyed the integration of satire and humour into real life situations and decisions. I don’t know how they are able to endure the scrutiny of their love, every single day of their lives. It takes a strong couple, and individual to overcome these barriers, perhaps one day understanding and acceptance will come.

debbie_g wrote:

Apr. 16th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
A very thoughtful post, as evidenced by the quality of the responses! (I thought this was a very interesting article, too)