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The Commitment by Dan Savage

By Marra Alane | Books | July 13, 2009 |

By Marra Alane | Books | July 13, 2009 |

I was listening to an excerpt of The Commitment on “This American Life,” where Savage, comforting his sick child DJ and lamenting the passage of time that separates fathers and sons, finally hears DJ say that if Savage and his boyfriend get married, it will be all right with him. It was poignant, and wonderful, and all the other things pseudo-hipsters like me are supposed to find essays on NPR to be, so I picked up a copy.

The Commitment, written in 2006, discusses all aspects of gay marriage - from it’s place in the political landscape in the US to Savage’s mom’s opinion to how America’s Hat seems to have gotten their act together much more quickly. Also, an awkward fetish fulfillment involving sheetcake and a bathtub — this is, after all, Dan Savage. The excerpt was easily the best part of the book; Savage is a capable writer, he’s funny and even occasionally witty and clearly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the issue at hand. He tackles gay marriage from every possible angle, but it’s the personal discussions — where he and his boyfriend Terry are deciding whether or not they should get married — that are the most effective, because it makes it a decision that isn’t political but personal; its a question every straight couple asks themselves, so why should it be any different with gay couples?

There are a few issues standing in their way, obviously; for one thing, it’s 2005 and gay marriage isn’t recognized in Seattle (or anywhere else bar Massachusetts*), they’re not even sure they want to get married, and even if they did their own son wouldn’t want to go to the ceremony because, as he puts it, only a girl and a boy can get married. Why? Because.

It’s one thing to hear such an argument from a child — after all, small children live in worlds where all things are black and white and logic and progress and objectivity may well be meaningless in the face of such stalwart parental reasoning as “because I said so.” But it’s a different kettle of fish altogether to hear the same thing coming from the mouths of adults. There may very well be valid arguments against gay marriage, but I have yet to hear one; and every ridiculous ‘that’s the way it’s always been’ or ‘won’t somebody think of the children?!’ is neatly taken apart, and those espousing them rightfully taken to task.

But Fears and Queers no longer dominates the political landscape, and (clusterfuck in Cali aside), this no longer seems to be that country; rather, we are (very) slowly yet inevitably marching along to a future where gay marriage, if not commonplace or widely accepted, will at the very least be legal. I’m not saying the book feels dated, because it’s not; just because there are fewer marriage amendment advocates now doesn’t mean they’re any less visible. But there is a certain level of ‘I know this already’ going through my mind when reading the political parts of the book, which is a good thing I guess. You could probably skip over that stuff if political stuff bores you; but it’s definitely worth reading if only for the personal discussions and revelations about what it is to be a part of a gay family struggling with this issue.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Marra Alane’s reviews, check her blog.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.