Review: Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family by Joel Derfner

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Lalwfully Wedded Husband coverIn 2007, Joel Derfner’s boyfriend stuns him with a Christmas time proposal.  It was a time when gay marriage was struggling for equality and there were few places where Joel and Mike could legally wed.   As the couple sets out on the path to a legal marriage, Joel and Mike encounter a multitude of obstacles, including ones that Joel creates himself, before they can say “I do”  legally before family and friends.  It includes ailing parents that move in, a reality show that has little to do with reality, wedding planning nightmares to make Bridezilla cringe, arguments, Ouija boards, and the very definition of marriage itself.

When I picked up Lawfully Wedded Husband, I realized I was already familiar with Joel Derfner.  No, it wasn’t from his previous books (Gay Haiku and Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever) but from the cringe inducing reality show he mentions in his story, starting with the Introduction.  Yes, I watched that show he and his best friend were a part of, Girls Who LIke Boys Who Like Boys, filmed in 2010 for the Sundance Channel.  The author had, along with his best friend Sarah, and his then fiance Mike, appeared on the show which filmed their marriage in Iowa. It had that stilted, painful feel to it that low budget reality shows can have.  And I ended up feeling bad for everyone who appeared on it, including Joel, Mike and Sarah, who later bore the brunt of vicious comments due to the editing by the director who seemed to have her own agenda.

I  admit I like Joel Derfner’s version far better than the scripted, awkward one that managed to make its way to cable.  And its not just because the behind the scenes manipulations and headache pounding repetition that Derfner reveals as standard operating procedure but the unique, dramatic, hilarious voice that Joel Derfner brings to the proceedings and beyond.

Joel Derfner muses, rants, and hilariously relates his path to the alter and wedded bliss with his husband Mike in Lawfully Wedded Husband.  He is alternately introspective, musing upon the institution of marriage, its history and redefining it in today’s cultural reality.  He takes on his colorful, and somewhat alarming ancestry and stacks it along side Mike’s in order to make observations about the differences in upbringing and their ideas of family.  But while he is doing that, there are momentary asides into gay shopping venues,  couple counseling, and Joel’s past sex life.  Lawfully Wedded Husband is a veritable explosion of clever quips, thoughtful introspection, and hilarious soliloquies on living in Brooklyn mixed with meaningful forays into gay history and the meaning of marriage.  And I suspect how you relate to Joel Derfner and his outlook on life will temper your feelings about this book and its author.

High maintenance.  Those are just two of the words I would use to describe the narrator.  I would also throw in clever, intelligent, manipulative and at times throughly exhausting.  I really came away feeling for Mike at times, especially when Joel is blind siding him with his participation in this reality show or decreeing that morning clothes with the de rigueur gray top hat (of which the clothier only has one and it’s the wrong size) is the way to go for their wedding apparel or even at the beginning, stopping Mike’s proposal to run and check on his (Joel’s) horoscope for the day before saying “yes”.  But there is also a balance here, each side, warts and all, is revealed.  Joel Derfner doesn’t hide the bad times, the lack of communication that almost derails the couple, its there too.  In fact the whole relationship sink is thrown into this story, along with gay history, wedding planning, Jewish marriage rituals and the search for the perfect Ketubah.  Talk about the proverbial box busting at the seams!

I suspect that the author has no inner editor, no real gates between the brain and the mouth. I kind of appreciate that.  This books sounds like the way I imagine he talks in real life.  If he thinks it, out it comes, whether in person or on the page, except of course when he is deciding not to tell Mike about the portable dishwasher he just bought or something similar.  The pages are full of Z Gallerie, the “gayest online store ever”, as well as the fact that Joel decides that he is going to win their new home via the HGTV’s Urban Oasis Giveaway for that ultimate condo in Manhattan. OK, I admit to doing that too but definitely not on the scale Derfner did. I am talking about 5000 handwritten entries!  I am not sure anyone does anything on the scale Derfner does. That is both part of his charm and part of his annoyance factor.

It’s this “overstuffed” aspect that kept Lawfully Wedded Husband from a perfect five, there is just too much here to take in.  But take it in you should, as it’s marvelous in so many ways.  It flows with the rhythm of a man who loves words and knows how to use them.  The history lessons that go along with the histrionic scenes, the quiet reflection to go along with the manic maneuverings of a man intent on getting married his way, the legal way and making it feel as it should for both him and Mike.  A right that should have been theirs all along.

Consider Lawfully Wedded Husband highly recommended.  And now I am off to find Gay Haiku, and Swish to see how the romance started.  Don’t let this author and his book get away!

This is how the Introduction starts:

What are you guys wearing tomorrow?” asked the assistant director of Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, the reality show my fiancé, Mike, and I were being filmed for in May of 2010.

“I’m wearing jeans and a nice vest,” I said, “and Mike will be in shorts and a T-shirt.”

There was a brief silence on the other end of the line. “Joel,” the assistant director said, “this Iowa wedding is the culmination of your story arc.”

“Right.”

“If you’re not dressed up, people will think you’re not taking it seriously.”

“Look,” I said. “I promised Mike that this would be as low-key an event as we could possibly manage, and I’ve already broken that promise in more ways than I can count. Not dressing up is the one shred of evidence left that I actually care about his feelings.”

“This is bad,” the assistant director said, and waited.

“Okay,” I said finally. “I’ll talk to him about it.”

“Great,” said the assistant director. “It’ll really help the audience understand what a special thing you’re doing.”

I put my cell phone in my pocket, went back to the table at the restaurant where Mike and I were having lunch with his cousin DJ and DJ’s boyfriend, Kevin, and promptly did not talk to him about it, because Mike’s fury was already just shy of the boiling point, and the last thing I needed was for it to get any hotter less than twenty-four hours before our nuptials.

Book Details:

Hardcover, 248 pages
Published September 19th 2013 by University of Wisconsin Press (first published January 1st 2013)
ISBN 0299294900 (ISBN13: 9780299294908)

edition language English
Buy Links  Amazon,
Other Books by Joel Derfner:
Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean
Gay Haiku
Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever

Winner Announcements, Blog Tour Contests and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Oh, What A Week It Is…..

ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords wants to thank everyone who participated and commented on Tal Valante’s Mindscape Book Tour and Contest as well as Reesa Herberth’s In Discretion Book Tour.  I thought these books were amazing and have linked my reviews to each below.

Here are the Winners for each contest.  Congratulations to all the winners. All contest winners have been notified :

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Tal Valante’s Mindscape Contest Winners are:

Christine – lacombejc@suddenlink.net
Lisa – lgrant1@san.rr.com
Jen – jen.f@mac.com

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InDiscretion_150x300Reesa Herberth’s In Discretion ContestWinner Is:

Colette Miranda

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The upcoming week is full of stellar books in a variety of genres, including LGBTQ non fiction, m/m espionage, and the wild west. Among those books reviewed is a truly remarkable story by LA Witt titled Static which examines gender identity with a different type of shifter.  Then ScatteredThoughts finishes up the week doing the deed with SE Jakes on her Dirty Deeds Blog Tour and Contest.  Readers, it will be a great week.  Join us, won’t you?

This is how the week shakes out:

Monday, Jan. 20.:   Lawfully Wedded Husband by Joel Derfner

Tuesday, Jan. 21:     Dime Novel by Dale Chase

Wed., Jan. 22:          Static by LA Witt

Thur., Jan 23:          Catch A Ghost by SE Jakes

Friday, Jan. 24:       Dirty Deeds by SE Jakes

Sat., Jan. 25:             Author Spotlight: SE Jakes’s Dirty Deeds Book Tour and Contest