This author event was particularly great for Boo and me. As gay men who grew up in the pre-Ellen world, there’s a special place in our hearts for the It Gets Better Project. I wish it had been around for me when I was a confused, scared kid who unwittingly served as a punching bag in my junior high.
Joel and I are both very aware of the scars that come from being afraid of who you are. I could spend days musing on all the reasons, so suffice to say we think It Gets Better is an integral part of helping kids in the same situation grow up (relatively) unscathed. When we got engaged last year we very quickly decided that we didn’t need a wedding registry, so we asked our family and friends to make a donation to It Gets Better instead. With the wedding now 37 days away (!), meeting Dan Savage (who co-founded the initiative with his partner, Terry) feels a little bit like cutting the ribbon on the festivities.
Anyway. Dan Savage met up with Andrew Sullivan in the gorgeous Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library to discuss his new book, American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics. What was so great about this event is that Sullivan stepped up beyond the role of moderator in a way I haven’t really seen in any other author event I’ve attended. Savage and Sullivan were truly having a conversation–frequently, even, a debate. That made things a lot more lively. Both men had to stay on their toes. It was exciting–so much better than the usual author discussion, which carefully segues from talking point to talking point.
It was also hilarious. Bawdy jokes abounded, which I happen to appreciate very much indeed. Savage and Sullivan were evenly matched in terms of wit and candor.
In the end, I think it’s the latter that will stick with me the most. The personal stories of the hardships they have faced, the lives they have built, and the hopes they have for the future. Sullivan, in particular, seemed a bit emotional toward the end when he questioned what we may be losing if we give up the ‘ideal’ of lasting, monogamous relationships. Personally, I agree with Savage that the modern way of looking at marriages as “opt-in” rather than “do it and stay with it for life” is a good change. It requires you to acknowledge the person you’re with–it requires that you not take them for granted and that you work with them to constantly build a relationship that will last (because, remember, opting-in always includes the option to opt-out). I also agree with Savage that we need to stop measuring the success of a marriage by “til death do us part.” I do think that success is subjective, meaning that it is possible to have a successful marriage even if it doesn’t last forever. But I also agree with Sullivan: there is something beautiful, to me, about a couple remaining true to one another to the end.
Love him or hate him, agree or disagree with his ideas, Savage is remarkable among public figures for his willingness to put it all out there.
I haven’t been able to read the book yet, but I can’t wait to dive in and explore these ideas further. In the meantime, Joel and I have the first souvenir from our wedding: a signed copy of the It Gets Better book. It’s going to be a hard one to top.
To learn more about It Gets Better (or to donate), check out its website. It’s a fantastic organization doing vital work that is worth supporting, in my most humble opinion.