Write Here, Write Now: I Swore I'd Never Get Married. Then I Had Ten Weddings. By Dane BH
In this episode of Write Here, Write Now: A Vocal Podcast, Erica Wagner and Dane BH delve into the craft of writing, and finding the style to match the emotion.
Dane BH’s essay takes listeners on an unconventional journey of love and community. An interview with Dane BH follows the reading of the essay. Listen in as host Erica Wagner and Dane BH delve into the craft of writing, and finding the style to match the emotion.
ERICA: Write Here, Write Now is sponsored by Scrivener. Used every day by best-selling novelists and aspiring writers alike, Scrivener unites everything needed to write, research and arrange your manuscript in a powerful package. Without Scrivener I could not have written my last two books. Scrivener is available for iOS, macOS and Windows, allowing you to take your manuscript with you, wherever you go. Sign up using the coupon code VOCAL at checkout and receive a 20% discount on the writing tool that seriously changed my life.
DANE BH: I'm not sure if this phrase actually got said between us, but I remember one of us saying, "I think we just got married."
ERICA: This is Write Here, Write Now, a podcast brought to you by Vocal, an online platform for creators of all kinds and all levels of experience. It’s a place to post, to read, to be inspired. I’m your host, Erica Wagner.
This season, we’ll hear eight essays, all posted to Vocal by independent creators. Afterwards, we get to hear from the creators themselves- about what inspired them, what they’re working on, and what keeps them going. If you have any questions that linger after the episode, head to vocal dot media to leave a comment for the authors, right on their essay. Who knows- you might be inspired to write something yourself.
Here’s Write Here, Write Now.
ERICA: It’s hard to imagine a more loving and tender story than the one we have for you today. It’s a sweeping tale of love, and a cross-country tour to celebrate it. The best part? It’s all true. Stay tuned after the essay to listen in on my conversation with the author. Here’s “I Swore I’d Never Get Married. Then I Had Ten Weddings” by Dane BH.
ERICA: That was “I Swore I’d Never Get Married. Then I Had Ten Weddings” by Dane BH. I had a truly delightful conversation with Dane, where we chatted about her favorite of the weddings, the role friendship has played in her marriage, and what items have been crossed out of the book. Here’s Dane.
I want to turn now to the wonderful piece that we're going to be discussing. How far out in time are we from your, I would say from your wedding, but from your weddings, plural.
DANE BH: The wedding tour was in 2013. The first wedding on the tour was in February and the final tour on the wedding was in September. So we've hit that line, I guess, nine years you could say.
ERICA: Why did you decide to write this piece for Vocal?
DANE BH: I had been wanting to write it for a very long time. It is something that comes up when people ask like, "What have you done that's unconventional?" It comes up anytime somebody gets married and talks about their wedding and they ask me about mine and I say, "Oh, which one?" It also comes up in conversations about accessibility and about neurodivergence and about what do you do with these lifecycle events, right? These things for which we gather when you have a principal party involved or multiple principal parties involved who do not do well with crowds, right, for whom that feels like torture, not a celebration. It talks about in the essay how initially there were not supposed to be any weddings, right? We made an announcement. This is it. We're in it for life. There was a swell of demand.
ERICA: You met that demand in a unique way. I want to ask, what was it like to reflect on this experience, not just as a participant, but as a storyteller? Something happens when you decide to tell a story on the page or on the screen, rather than just share it as an anecdote with friends.
DANE BH: So we had a website for our wedding. There was a story on the front of the website, the homepage of the website, that from which I took the beginning of my Vocal story.
So I'd already had this piece that I'd crafted while I was living it, right? It was written before the tour. It gave our origin story. One of my favorite things about it is how it openly calls out the fact that this relationship is not and has never really been a great high stakes dizzying romance, but this slow growing thing that developed really deep roots and that the decision to get married was not climactic. It was part of the process.
ERICA: How did you both decide on the shorthand eloped? Tell me about that conversation.
DANE BH: So we're at the top of this waterfall. We are exhausted. We are sweaty. We are sitting with a notebook between us. We have written this grandiose list of all the things we want to do with our lives and we have agreed. I don't remember who said it. I don't remember that we said I do or okay or let's do this. I don't actually remember the substance of it. I remember the feeling, the feeling of a simultaneous lightness and grounding, a kind of settledness.
So in that moment, it felt like the deal had been sealed. It felt in Judaism, right, which is my tradition, marriage is a contract. It felt as though we had written our own marriage contract and it took the form of multiple to-do lists of the life that we sketched out, the life that we wanted together and then agreed to go for it together. There was a giddiness about us.
I'm not sure if this phrase actually got said between us, but I remember one of us saying, "I think we just got married." So eloped felt like the most resonant way of explaining it to the broader world. We didn't think we were going to have a wedding. We didn't think we were going to say vows in front of people at that point. We had said everything we needed to say to each other. So it felt like an elopement.
ERICA: But that's fascinating, isn't it? Because marriage or a partnership between two people is essentially a very private commitment, yet there is this expectation of a public declaration. What was your original opposition to weddings?
DANE BH: So the original opposition was to marriage, in part because both of us come from the queer community. Both of us had been in relationships that we thought would never be sanctioned by the state, let alone the country. I had accepted the fact that I wouldn't be legally allowed to get married as a fact of my life. By the time I met my partner, he had just changed his name. He had just changed his legal documents.
We could get married in the state that we lived in legally, but that was almost a fluke in some ways, because most of the relationships both of us had had prior to that would not have been legal or sanctioned. This is before nationwide gay marriage. The state that we were living in was on the cusp of passing it. But we still thought, "Nah." Marriage is an institution of the patriarchy that has been used to subjugate women and use them as property. Also, we are queers and we don't need the state in bed with us and we don't need that kind of state sanctioned legitimacy. Two months before the tour, the state we were in legalized gay marriage. Then just to put a cherry on it, the state comptroller announced that the state wasn't counting on all of these additional fees coming in from gay marriage licenses. They said, "We didn't work that into the budget. So we're going to take this windfall that is going to come with these gay marriage license on the day that it becomes legal and we are going to donate all of them, all of the money that comes in from those extra marriage licenses to the queer youth shelter in town." So after that, how could we not?
We did the legal wedding outside. Most people don't know when the date of our legal marriage is. In fact, I think the only people who know are the people who witnessed it, who were our signed witnesses, which were the members of his family. The way we announced it was to say, "Hey, can we come over for dinner tonight? I'll make spaghetti." Then we said, "We need to get my partner on my health insurance. Can you help us sign the paperwork for that?" Then I handed it to his mother who was an internet licensed marriage officiant and she looked down and said, "Yeah, give it to me. Give it to me. Let me take a look at it for you. I'll help you figure it out. I'm good at this kind of paperwork."
She looked down and said, "This is a marriage license." I said, "How else is he going to get my health insurance?"
At each wedding, we had set up sort of pieces, almost like set pieces that we could bring from wedding to wedding so that there was continuity in the ceremony of it while also being really flexible. We opened each wedding by lighting a chalice in his Unitarian tradition and the chalice and candles we brought with us from place to place. We broke a glass at every wedding as part of Jewish tradition.
We had a huppah at every wedding, also in accordance with Jewish tradition. That was one of my favorites because at every wedding, the huppah was different and it meant something. At the biggest wedding, it was my father's tallit. At the smallest wedding, it was my friend's tallit who had come on his lunch break to be with us.
But I had a profound sense of connection that wherever we went there would be people invested enough in us and in our lives to be willing at least to give up a lunch break and to come hold a prayer shell over their heads because of course we didn't bring poles with us to make that easy. No, we tired everyone's arms by making them hold it up above us. The reason you have a wedding canopy, a huppah in Jewish weddings, is to symbolize the hospitality of your future house. It's open on all four sides.
Traditionally, the huppah is held by the people who hold you. In every place, every wedding we had different huppah bears, ones who were willing to get real tired so that we could get married. If there's a better visual for what community support looks like, I don't know what it is.
ERICA: That's really beautiful, Dane.
DANE BH: It always surprised me both then and now how invested other people were in my getting married. It did. People who get excited about weddings as a concept are completely foreign to me. It's one of the reasons why I wasn't sold on having a wedding, right, and why I was so incredibly befuddled when people started clamoring for we want to party, we want to celebrate you. I didn't get it. To some extent, I still don't if I'm being honest. But I love the ways in which telling this particular story has delighted people and excited people and allowed some people to say, "I didn't know you could do it that way."
ERICA: If you could go back and talk to that person walking up towards the top of a waterfall, would you tell her anything? If so, what and why?
DANE BH: It's funny you ask that because one of my favorite writing exercises is write a letter to your younger self. I use it all the time when I teach and it's often a good jumpstart for me when I'm stuck. I've never thought about that moment that way. I think if I could appear as some ghostly apparition at the top of the waterfall, maybe sitting pensively across the stream from these two babies scribbling in a notebook, if my younger self happened to look up and catch the vision of older, wiser, fatter, more smiling me, I would just grin at her and nod.
ERICA: That's great, Dane. Thank you so much. That's terrific.
The visuals Dane is able to conjure- in her writing as well as her words- made me feel almost as if I was at each of the weddings she described, as if my own arms were worn out from holding up a chuppah. It’s a marvelously special thing to be allowed a look into such a meaningful memory.
Next time on Write Here, Write Now we’ll hear about another labor of love, but this one at a different time in life- the end. That will be “The Lonely Funeral Project” by Gabrielle Benna.
Whoever you are, whatever your story, Vocal belongs to you. If you liked the show, come be a part of where it all got started. Join me and the rest of our brilliant Creators on Vocal.media. We hope you'll join our community, where you can post, read and comment.
If you like what you hear, join us for season two of Write Here, Write Now, when we dive into stories from the Vocal plus Fiction Anthology. And of course- be sure to rate, review and subscribe to Write Here, Write Now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Erica Wagner- thanks for listening.
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