Dispatches | April 26, 2009

Good news this week for the English language, which welcomes into usage the term opposite marriage, courtesy of Miss California 2009, Carrie Prejean.

Political affiliation and current events knowledge aside, Prejean should be commended for having achieved accidentally through some miracle of ineloquence what many of us strive to do each waking hour: invent and advance a new term. Let’s face it. That’s no easy feat.

No? Go ahead, then. Come up with something and get it to catch on. I dare you.

While the embattled former Miss USA contestant has drawn criticism for her opinions on gay marriage, I, for one, welcome opposite marriage into the lexicon. This could be because I’m alarmed at the number of English words and phrases that are falling out of use — more, it seems, than are entering — and, at this point, I’ll take what I can get.

It could also be that I admire the unintentionally subversive element in the term opposite marriage. It defines itself (or tries to define itself, as best it can, with the awkward omission of the word sex) through opposition to the term same-sex marriage, which has had to define itself in relation to the term marriage. So Prejean used opposite marriage to mean marriage, and in doing so privileged the term gay marriage, and marginalized marriage by presenting it as a term that requires definition through that which it is not.

As a nonfiction writer, I’m all for getting a rhetorical piece of that linguistical action. The day is nigh, my friends, when we will wander our local bookstores in search of some inspiring new poetry, nonfiction, or opposite nonfiction.

I will remember you on that proud day, Miss California ’09.

What I like most about opposite marriage is that the term seems to skip over any meaningful commentary on gender, sexual preference, or state law to precisely describe a much more mysterious social phenomenon:
the pairing of one person, who is attractive, smart, graceful, charming, and dazzling in every possible way, with another person, who is really just some big, stumbling goob. Consider this recent engagement photograph. Note how my fiancée remains poised and elegant even while beach wrangling what looks to be a pigmy tyrannosaur that just ransacked a Banana Republic.

Opposite marriage, ladies and gentlemen. It may not mean what Prejean would have liked for it to mean, but it’ll come in handy, nonetheless. My only regret is that the Miss America Pageant at which it was uttered was held after we had the wedding invitations printed up. Imagine: “Please join us in celebrating the beginning of our life together in opposite marriage.”

Has a nice ring to it, right?

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