My Boston Marriage

Gazing across the river, Emma and I decide on a future house (and boat) in Maine.

“Boston marriage as a term is said to have been in use in New England in the decades spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries to describe two women living together, independent of financial support from a man.”

-Wikipedia entry for “Boston Marriage”


In college, my friend Emma and I would talk very earnestly and excitedly, when we got on the topic of living in Vancouver together one day. “We’ll ski, go to hockey games, cook dinner, read books, see the occasional movie, and go to bed early like an old married couple.” We describe our selves as such, because this is the life we led together one winter term in her family’s home in Jackson, Wyoming. We borrowed foreign movies from the public library, and rooted for the local hockey team: the Jackson Hole Moose.

We’re joking, of course, when we say we’ll do all this. But sometimes it can be difficult to tell. Hearing us say that we would bring Emma’s sister along to Vancouver to pretend she was our daughter while house-hunting, my boyfriend at the time looked at us earnestly, and asked, “you two are going to live in Vancouver?” Emma and I laughed and said, “No, no, it’s a joke. Well, kind of a joke.”

It’s a joke that stays alive because we both like to plan and takes flights of fancy.

The other weekend, I took a Chinatown bus to Boston to see Emma, and my friend Laura, whose birthday it was. On Sunday, we drove up to Portsmouth, NH to spend the day, enjoying fall in a classic New England town. No sooner had we finished our brunch, and a tasting of wine, did Emma and I start musing on our future in Portsmouth.

Looking across the river to Maine (pictured above), Emma said, “we could live in Maine, and have a boat and commute across to Portsmouth everyday.” Emma would work at the local theater company, and I initially in the food/retail/hospitality industry to supplement my writing and volunteer work at the local, non-profit yoga studio. When we passed a real estate agent’s office, we stopped to look at house prices. “Only $300,000 to go!”

From houses and jobs, we started thinking about the community organizations we could infiltrate and stock with our friends. Never mind that they are scattered across the country:”Holly could work at the newspaper!” “Emily could be a pastor at the church, and Desirae a rabbi.”

Emma and I would also be substantial supporters of the local economy–from the local wine and ice cream shops, to our favorite French bistro, to decorating our house with candles from the candle shop, and lanterns from the town’s 1,000 villages.

I would even forgo meat, cooking vegetarian food for Emma’s sake; I’ve done this before for other vegetarian friends and housemates. I would, however, eat meat and seafood at restaurants. We are in New England after all, and there are a variety of oysters from the region that I must try!

I think I could be quite happy in Portsmouth, NH.

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