Eleven months together – love’s blossom was still fresh when Valentine’s Day came round. And we succumbed to kitsch. Two huge cards swamped our little flat. Not to mention the tacky trinkets…
But it was a first for both of us. A cultural novelty for you and my initiation into a custom I’d previously ignored. On 14th February, I’d always been glad to be the schoolgirl swot without a social life. Who craves a letter-box full of unoriginal dirty verse? I didn’t miss the scrawls of spotty boys desperate for a snog after the national anthem at the local disco.
At college it scarcely mattered. Couples did their smoochy thing, singles got peloothered. Meanwhile, my idea of perfect bliss was a date with Percy Bysshe Shelley – Nirvana in the background trashing the ambience. OK, so I was weird. Sometimes I even questioned my orientation. Or started to wonder if I had one. Would bibliophile count? Until… a conscientious romantic objector became a devotee of Aphrodite.
Three years later we got married. I was twenty-five. ‘Far too young,’ I warn my daughters. Our wedding was very small and untraditional. Apart from the interfaith issues, we’d hardly a pre-euro penny or Bosnian convertible mark to our names. But, while fin de siècle attitudes weren’t quite as open as we’d thought, there weren’t any legal barriers. No need for a referendum for us to tie the knot.
In Ireland, many lovers are striving for this basic right to marriage. He who seeks to pledge himself as husband to the man who holds his heart, she who wants to wed the woman of her dreams. There’s something beautiful in saying with them, ‘yes to love’. It’s an antidote to despair in a hate-filled world.
I remember, in our early days, when joint struggles made us stronger. How equality used to be at the core of our relationship. From dividing the daily chores to understanding each other’s talents and vulnerabilities. We were complementary. More cynical now, I’ve begun to ask if marriage – in its current definition – stifles this spirit, if it pigeonholes people into gendered roles. Especially when kids arrive… as the responsibilities of childcare tend to fall disproportionately on ‘mum’. Perhaps Hamlet wasn’t entirely mad when he ranted against the marital institution. In May, we’ll vote to reshape and reinvigorate it with justice.
Though, whether you’re straight or gay, no wave of a magic wand can guarantee ‘happily ever after’. Occasionally, I think it would’ve been less complicated if I’d stuck with Kurt Cobain and Ozymandias. Or even gone my way to a nunnery. Yet love… it deserves to be acknowledged, celebrated. And, in tough times, it’s still worth trying to save. So through tears and years, here’s a message to my Valentine. Life might be messed up, as back to front as the syllables of šatrovački. All hope may seem to have eloped. But, somewhere in this darkness, yes – ‘livo te!’
With love… and Ex-YU rock nostalgia: