Sunday, November 8, 2009

what marriage means in texas

On our flight back from Cancun we went through Houston. Custom forms in one hand, Gabe and I waited in line. We were enjoying our recent designation as family, and I made some silly comments about changing the cats' last names, too.

As we got to the counter we each handed the man our forms. He asked if we were married, and we said yes, very recently. He immediately tore up a form into pieces, threw it in the trash, marked a "2" on the other and handed it back to Gabe. He spoke to him the rest of the time and then we said our goodbyes and headed to our luggage.

What had just happened? It took a minute to sink in. Apparently I no longer counted as an individual. I felt shock at the pureness of the metaphor. My name, my form, torn up and discarded. I now was the "2", the second party, on Gabriel's form. I wasn't so much angry as in awe. The man is head of the household, I was told, on my return to America.

At first I tried to blame it on Texas. (I've been in a Texas airport four times in the past year, and have always heard at least one conversation that includes a man talking about his gun collection.) But then again, I couldn't imagine any customs department anywhere in America that would tear up the man's form and hand the information to the woman.

What a little incident, one that needs no feminist uprising, one that could have been easily disregarded, but one that says so much about gender dynamics in our culture. I am happy to be a wife, happy to change my last name even, happy to make a little family with the man I love. I just wrongly assumed that there would be an acknowledgment of equality in a two-person household.


  1. Man I love that feeling. I had to fill out a few forms during my honeymoon as well, and had the same kind of gush.

    As far as gender roles, I look at it this way...I mean, I'm not very chivalrous (I never understood it...didn't chivalry come from a time we didn't let women be equals, and patronized them as being weak?), but having said that, I'm glad my wife took my last name, and in return, I'll get between her and a mugger, let her have the last spot in the lifeboat, etc.

  2. This happened to us once. Well not the rip it apart way. On the way home from our honeymoon we were just told that we only needed one.

    Look at it this way. If you are sound asleep on the plane you can leave Gabe 100% in charge of the forms. There is no need to wake you up from your peaceful airplane slumber.



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