On moving, relationships and marriage

For five months, I’m moving back to Chicago.

Which has a nice symmetry about it.

I first moved to Chicago in 1994, the year I graduated from college. I had been seeing Kristina for two years and, after our domestic-partnership ceremony on the shores of our college lake, we packed up a Ryder truck and drove across country so that she could go to grad school.

Five years later she moved on, but I stayed for another eight. I love Chicago. Love the close gay community engendered by the tiny nation of Andersonville, a lesbian/Swedish/Middle Eastern and now stroller neighborhood on the North Side. Love how in Chicago, anyone you want to meet is just a few small networking steps away.

Chicago is a place that’s large enough to provide anything you want to do, and small enough that anything you want to do or start or be is possible — because you’re competing with fewer people than in my current home of New York City, because it’s easy to get around, because it always feels like there’s enough space for you.

So I’m happy to go back for a while. I’m happy to see old friends; I’m happy to take a last class at the Old Town School of Folk Music. I’m happy to race with my old sailing team and spend Sunday afternoons reading the paper by the lake.

I’m thrilled to go back for the summer — I just never thought I’d be doing it for a girl. Again.

In high school, I was adamant about this. “I am never going to move for a man,” I said. My mother had lost herself in marriage with my father; when it broke, it took her years to find her own voice again. I didn’t want to be one of those women whose career, dreams or life took a back seat to her husband or spouse.

I didn’t know that gay relationships are completely different.

One of the most precious aspects of our relationships is that we are not bound by conventional gender roles. There is not the same centuries of baggage — the man drives, the woman does dishes — that are so hard to fight, even for the most progressive of straight couples. Instead, as my girlfriend Jenny says, “we do different tasks not because it is expected of us because of our gender, but because it suits us because of who we are.”

That is right, I think. And it makes a difference.

I am moving to Chicago not because it is expected, not because I am female and so my career is less important/more likely to be interrupted anyway if I have children, but because Jenny and I are both tired of loving each other long distance. My job is flexible (thank you, Internet!) — her schooling is not.

Therefore, I’m the one who moves.

And I can’t wait.

One of the benefits of adding gays and lesbians to the institution of marriage is that we model different ways of coupling. We show straight couples that things can be done in a different, sometimes better, way — for example, dividing responsibilities between partners based on preference and ability instead of gender.

Sometimes, in all the clamor about rights and the ways in which the lack of marriage victimizes us, we forget that we also bring a different and welcome perspective, one that marriage may need in order to survive the contemporary age.

We are just as valuable to marriage as marriage is to us.

So, in April, I’m moving back to Chicago. And in August, we will move together back to New York.

And, despite my feelings in high school, I couldn’t be happier.

Jennifer Vanasco is an award-winning syndicated columnist. Follow her at twitter.com/JenniferVanasco; e-mail her at [email protected].

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