Take my hand, and we shall commit a sin irreversible...

Jan 17, 2011 • Karen

Another song post.

(photo by Ingrid Tayler, CC-BY)

Ever since I first laid eyes on it, I have been in love with San Francisco's city hall building. There aren't many other places in the world that I've been to that would rank as more romantic. Ever since I saw all the pictures of gays and lesbians marrying their partners when gay marriage was newly legalized in California (prior to Prop 8), I've felt this way. Seeing "Milk" and watching Harvey dance up the big atrium staircase to his new office after being elected to the city council only further reinforced it in my mind: the association between this building and people who fight for love. I don't think I'll ever get hitched here, but still: when I bike past it I kind of have to fight the urge to grab a random dude or lady and elope.

(this is relevant, I swear)

There is a song on my computer that is practically ungoogleable. The lyrics aren't listed anywhere; I've only ever found one mention evidencing that it does, in fact, exist. I'm not even sure how it got on my hard drive. But when it came up on shuffle last year, I actually noticed what the words were saying and I fell in deep. The song is "Halfway There" by West of Eden, and if I ever get married, gosh darnit, this song will be at the wedding.

Go listen. Here's the chorus (hand-transcribed, thanks to previously-mentioned googlefail):

So take my hand, and we shall commit a sin irreversible
Baby I'm tellin' you, we're halfway there to be labeled socially unapproachable
Oh, let 'em roll, 'cause I'd rather have you than be clean, cool, and respectable
So we're goin' to hell, but tell me baby, who cares--we're already halfway there.

The vocal parts move from whispery and sweet to sassy and snarling and back again throughout. It's only two ladies and an acoustic guitar, yet it's not just soft and folky -- there's real passion in the later choruses. And I love the harmony.

The lyrics aren't a be-all and end-all -- while spontaneous road trips and "sleep[ing] till noon" and telling haters to screw off are certainly things I want in a relationship, I do too want to be a responsible adult sometimes. I want a solid, ridiculously joy-filled "world of two" but I still want to be part of the wider world; as much as I am in love with being in love, having other friends and other goals is very important to me. Everything in moderation, excepting moderation, amirite?

But the song does get at something key. The couple in the song exists outside of other people's expectations and norms for what their relationship should look like. Given the chorus, and the two women singing, I like to think it's about two lesbians in love, but it doesn't have to be for the point to be the same. The idea of deliberately, powerfully passionately choosing one another outside of anybody else's narrative, and defining for each other what that choice means--what does it mean to be a wife? to have a wife, when you are yourself a woman?--these are all ideas that the increased visibility of queer relationships and the advent of gay marriage have brought to the fore. Even straight couples ought to ask, and are asking, these kinds of questions. Just as Western gender roles have changed and expanded, there are fewer and fewer set expectations for how romantic partnerships are going to work anymore–or at least there should be. Even if you want a stereotypical white middle-class 1950s relationship, you sure as hell had better make that clear from the get-go!

If I get married, I want a marriage that very explicitly doesn't happen by default, which relies on inertia as little as possible. Where nothing is assumed up front, roles are discussed and negotiated and baggage is examined and at the end of it all we yell "Fuck yeah I do! I choose you, Pikachu!" and start making out wildly in front of everybody. And I want this song there.