The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family by Dan Savage is not a book I thought I would like. It’s hard to say exactly why I picked it up in the first place, except that I was in the 300’s section of the library as part of the Dewey Decimal Challenge and I already had an armful of books when I saw it on the shelf. Why not check it out too–it’s free? I used to be an occasional reader of Mr. Savage’s advice column, I’ve more-or-less enjoyed his contributions to NPR’s This American Life and I do read The Slog, where he blogs regularly. Just after the passing of California’s Proposition 8 he emerged as a spokesman for same-sex marriage and held his own very nicely against the usual anti-gay people in several television spots I saw. So, I gave his book about his own marriage, The Commitment, a try.
And I enjoyed it very much.
The memoir takes place during 2004, when George Bush was running for re-election and the forces in Mr. Savage’s life aligned themselves in such a way as to force him and his partner, Terry, to consider marriage much more seriously than they ever had before. They had been together for almost a decade, bought a home, raised a son who was six at the time, weren’t getting any younger and, most importantly, Mr. Savage’s mother was fighting a battle against an illness that she was sure to eventually lose. So there was some family pressure, which was a bit unusual since Mr. Savage’s family is Irish Catholic, though his mother and one sibling are divorced. Dan and Terry’s son, on the other hand, was forcefully opposed to the idea. Boys do not marry boys, he said. If you get married I won’t go.
The road to marriage is a rocky one as most anyone who has ever been married can probably tell you. C.J. and I had a very simple ceremony with just 80 or so guests and a low-key reception afterwards with just salads and sandwich platters that we made ourselves. It was very nice but the whole thing ended up costing several thousand dollars more than we planned and what we had to endure the day before and the morning of nearly brought about one nervous breakdown. It was totally worth it, by the way. I bet that’s what always happens. It’s basically what happens to Mr. Savage in The Commitment.
Mr. Savage’s account of the back and forth debate whether or not to get married between himself, his mother, his partner and his son, and how they eventually planned the wedding and what happened there make for entertaining and often touching reading. I expected he would provide a few laughs along the way, and he did, but I did not expect he would bring a few tears as well. Maybe I should just publicly admit that I always cry at weddings, even if I’m just reading about them. Maybe I should also admit that the next time I see one of Mr. Savage’s books on the library shelf, or his latest in the bookstore, it will probably be coming home with me.
I first posted this review on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B., back in 2009. As far as I know, Mr. Savage and his partner Terry are still married. Most of the same-sex marriages, so far, have done fairly well. We have a very low divorce rate. C.J. says this is probably because most of us had already been together for ages before we could get married. C.J. and I are still married, too, by the way. 🙂