The Dilemna, and the Wedding
How I got Married at the at Glam-o-rama in Fremont
Sandra J. Stowell, 2/28/96
I got married at 7:30pm last Saturday at the Glam-o-rama in Fremont. This was, indeed still is, a source of shock and wonder to me. I am not really a creature of impulse, and have no especial fondness for kitsch, or, when it comes right down to it, for marriage. There lies the heart of it.
For anyone not intimately familiar with Fremont, I must set the stage. Fremont is one of the funkier established Seattle neighborhoods. It is known for its artsy character, characterised by the famous Fremont troll, a figure with a 12 foot high head, which lurks beneath the Fremont bridge grasping its prize; a cement covered Volkswagen Beetle. Much of the character of Fremont is concentrated in the three square blocks of its commercial district. This area is full of quirky stores, crafts shops, galleries, pubs and eateries. One of these Fremont stores, full of campy fifties and sixties memorabilia, miscellaneous rayon clothing, and the odd dentist’s rig, is the Glam-o-rama.
The Glam-o-rama is staffed primarily by young aspiring artists, who all also happen to be ordained ministers in the Universal Life Church. A particularly outstanding feature of the store’s decor is a huge cardboard wedding cake replica, decorated with many plastic miniatures, and suspended upside down from the ceiling.
The scene is now set, but you need some background to fully appreciate the inconguity of the situation. After all, other couples do get married at the Glam-o-rama in Fremont. Apparently some seventeen couples were wed there, just last Valentine’s Day, in fact.
However, I am a well paid, overweight, 40 year old, Boeing computer professional. I drive a dark grey four door Honda Accord, wear sensible shoes with my attractive, low maintenance work clothes, and have lived, unmarried, with my current partner for sixteen years.
So what happened? How did I end up arriving at the Glam-o-rama last Saturday, forty-five minutes before closing, wedding license in hand? An when I have always expressed my clear intention to remain unmarried forever? Somehow I could never see the point. I relished that statement of independence and, best of all, that sense of rebellion, as I declared my unmarried state. It truly hurts to give this up.
This is not to say that I lack commitment, or love for my partner. Michael and I share a determined, and hopefully healthy, codependence. We sleep best at night curled up together, and grow fretful when sparated. But why marry? Children were not an issue. My partner had two children from a previous relationship (well, marriage then!), and I wanted none. Organized religion is not part of either of our lives, and there is no family or peer pressure to marry.
What about romance? Did some slight warped, but heady enthusiasm bring us here? Hardly. Truly Michael and I find ourselves the most unromantic of couples. A pair of "commitment" rings have collected dust for years, and candles and roses do not often appear in our house. Our attempts to establish some sort of anniversary of our relationship have been quite without success.
No, what brought us ultimately to the Glam-o-rama was the almighty dollar, and nothing more. True, we had discussed marriage previously, on and off over the past year. We considered a more conventional, socially acceptable setting, discussing an outdoor ceremony with friends present, but these discussions quickly bogged down in debates about caterers vs. a potluck dinner. And then what about music? Surely there has to be some entertainment value if you lure friends and family to the event. And then the truly unanswerable question, who would perform the ceremony? These issues were overwhelming, and the tentative plans were quickly laid aside.
But I have omitted a key to the mystery. My partner, long a full time computer professional also, has been voluntarily unemployed for two years now. That has become two years without a doctor’s visit, and two long years with no dental checkup. At age 54, with marginal high blood pressure, and some aging bridgework, he was overdue for medical attention. I urged him to call and make appointments, but at the same time I found myself bemoaning my checkbook balance, and the depletions that home improvements had made to our savings accounts. We were at an impasse, when the straw broke.
While biting into a soft and tasty garlic lovers Essential Sandwich, Michael lost a section his front bridgework. This piece of a four tooth dental bridge provoked visions of dollar signs into our heads. The spectre of a five hundred dollars worth of bridgework, accompanied by bills for X-rays, checkup and cleaning, would be just the start. Next would be a full physical, with lab workups, to the tune of another $300. And what if something else went wrong?
All this could be covered by the simple act of marriage. Our costs were $30 for the license, $5 for the notarized signatures, and $29.95 for the wedding, complete with a bottle of cheap champagne and eight wedding photographs, taken in the store’s corner photo booth (the kind you feed quarters into). The temptation was too great; I did not have the willpower to resist. Tacky though it seemed, I shed my principles, and married for money. Somehow doing it at the Glam-o-rama seemed just right!
And truly I commend the fine minister who officiated. She kept her cool as she navigated the legal paperwork alone for the first time, summoned her boyfriend and an itinerant customer as witnesses, and carried the whole thing off with grace and charm.
My partner and I celebrated with a slightly self indulgent weekend, complete with a champagne and caviar dinner. Then we put away those old, ill-fitting "commitment" rings (now wedding rings), and went on with our lives. We filled out the insurance paperwork, made a dental appointment, and resumed our routine. But we have not told anyone we know yet!
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Follow up: it took six months before we confessed to anyone other than the insurance company, and about a year before family were told. I still shudder when using or hearing the words "wife" or "husband", but do get some pleasure from telling the tale these days!