The Colonial Theatre Tea Garden

The beauty spot of downtown Richmond was, in 1921, the Tea Garden of the brand-new Colonial Theatre. Herein, we recreate the essence of elegance, joy and hauteur that was once found in Virginia's first real picture palace. Bathtub gin is available at the top of the grand ramps.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

It is with no small amount of misgiving and apprehension that I have lately decided that I am against the legalization of gay marriage.

Morals? Oh, please. Anyone who has read a couple of entries’ worth of this blog knows that I have the personal morals of an alley cat. An EASY alley cat. Now, I’m quite concerned with propriety, but let’s face it — as long as you spell and pronounce everything correctly, keep your silver polished and remember a few basic social niceties, I’m fairly easy to please.

This said, I wish to emphasize that I didn’t, nor will I, support the incipient imperial regime of those trashy Yankees trying to pass themselves off as Texans. (Texas doesn’t buy a lot of yardage with me anyway; I cast a dim view on the western counties of Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas so all of that Lone Star business just makes me think Bad Shopping Mall. And, as you all know by now, I’m all about empire, but if you’re going to run one of them your last name had better be Habsburg or Hohenzollern.

I am opposed to gay marriage for one very plain reason: If it’s legalized, I’ll never know how to address invitations again.

Invitations have always followed a few plain rules. The wording is sometimes esoteric depending on the level of formality: if one is having, for instance, a formal ball, the invitation reads:

Mr. Daniel P. Gibbs/At Home/Saturday, October 12, 1921/723 East Broad Street/Richmond

Well, fine, but you’ve got to stick the stupid thing in an envelope and get it delivered somehow. This was pretty easy when everybody’s sister had a couple of maids and butlers running about, but the War (insert the war of your preference here) is over and we have to rely on the mail now.

Public acceptance of divorce was bad enough. At one point, a woman was Miss Anne Calvert until she married, then she became Mrs. Charles Leonard. If they divorced she remained Mrs. Leonard unless Charlie remarried; in which case, she became Mrs. Anne Leonard. Mildly confusing, but it followed a rule.

Now, ideally, if I were to marry the jarhead of my dreams, things would be a bit simpler, but not much. Let’s say I’m swept away by Sgt. John Blank, USMC. Obviously, HIS calling card will read exactly that. Mine should then theoretically read Mr. John Blank. Except that isn’t really my name, and my “maiden” calling cards already read “Mr. Daniel P. Gibbs.” I can’t be MRS. John Blank, because that implies a woman, which I’m not. If I used “Mr. Daniel Blank” it would imply, under the traditional form, a divorce — I’d married Sgt. Blank and then ditched him but, being a traditionalist, kept his last name, and… Blah. If I simply continued to use my own calling cards (and hence, kept my name on invitation lists as such), what would be the point of marrying? He’s still Sgt. Blank and I’m still Mr. Gibbs. Great, we got a party and lots of people gave us toasters which we’ll have to return en masse to Strawbridge’s, unless we plan on opening a Toast-It-Yourself restaurant.

The promise of a military man at least affords the benefit of a rank title. Imagine the stationery nightmare of two men, both with the courtesy title of “Mr.” Who takes whose last name? Who doesn’t? The convention in Baltimore (now that Baltimore has reluctantly admitted that such relationships exist) is that the elder of the two parties is always addressed first. Oh, great, let’s just take the risk of offending some queen beyond repair by implying that he’s the elder when in fact he’s just not so well preserved as his boyfriend (oops, husband).

What about Lesbians? Men in the U.S. are always Mr., unless granted another title by the military. Women, however, can be Miss or Mrs. Do both women then become “Mrs.”? If so, do they take the name of one partner, or maintain their own? How then does the outsider differentiate between them? If both partners continue to use “Miss” and their maiden names, it’s just like the two men using “Mr.” — no indication of a marriage at all. If they use “Miss” and one name, everyone will think they’re sisters. If they use “Mrs.” and one name, they’ll become the bereaved widows of two brothers dead before their time.

I have always prized ancestry and the glorious past of the Old Dominion and the Maryland Free State and so for years have derided the Danish for eschewing, until about 1850, last names. In that pastoral little kingdom one simply went by one’s own given name; the “last” name was the paternal name with -sen or -dottir tacked on appropriately — hence, I would be Daniel Johnsen; my father would be John Donaldsen, my grandfather would have been Donald Wilhelmsen, and so on ad nauseam.

Perhaps if we progress to the point of legalizing gay marriage, we should adopt the ancient Danish mode: thus, everyone will have his own very specific last name and the ideas of familial names won’t be important anymore.

Unfortunately, I can’t see anybody in this part of the country really adopting that method.

Every cloud must have a silver lining and mine is this: if we do legalize gay marriage, another form of etiquette will need to develop. This will give me something new and different about which I can always be snippily correct.