After all my crowing about how open I am to everything, here's something that got me: my daughter chose her wedding dress without me! Whaaaat? My little fantasy about a girls' day shopping, including an extravagant lunch, just crashed and burned. My daughter is quite fashionable, and loves to shop; we have enjoyed many, many shopping excursions over her 30 years. Why would we not shop together for the outfit that is one of the most memorable she'll ever wear?
Damn you, internet shopping! I knew we would not be visiting bridal salons and going through that ritual, but I did think we'd do some brick-and-mortar shopping trips. The sad reality is that the type of thing my daughter wanted is likely not easily found in brick-and-mortar stores, even in New York, Philadelphia, or Boston, but still -- I was really looking forward to that mommie-daughter bonding moment. Kind of like when we went on college tours!
I love what she chose -- it's perfect! Maybe we can shop for what the mom-of-one-of-the-brides wears?
I have never been to a same sex wedding. I'm not sure many of the people in my age cohort have either. It certainly seems that way, given the questions I'm asked. I noticed some rather odd questions, and then I checked in with my daughter to see what kinds of questions she is asked. Hoo boy. We both agree that people "mean well," but if I may offer a tidbit of advice: think before asking that question. Try to figure out what you really want to know, and then find a way to ask it that doesn't sound...well, so hetero-normative! It's ok to not know all the ins and outs of a queer lifestyle! The important thing is to make sure you don't make the person you're asking questions of feel like a sideshow act. I do not offer the examples below with the intention of belittling the people who asked them. Rather, I think when anyone sees them written out, their awkwardness is immediately apparent. Some examples:
I'd also suggest imagining a world where roles aren't assigned by gender. This can be quite refreshing. For example, my daughter is planning to have her sister and her best friend stand up for her. The best friend? A man! And I for one think that is simply wonderful, to have your bestie, regardless of the sex of that person, be there with you on the big day.
Do *you* have questions? Let me know, and I'll try my best to answer.
I'm going to admit right out front that I am not as savvy/informed/comfortable with the latest sex/gender labeling with which millennials can converse. Yes, I google and check Urban Dictionary, but I am very nervous about saying the wrong thing.
Luckily, my daughters have me covered. One was a Gender Studies major and the other one is the bride-to-be. They are very patient with me. As I was getting this blog going, I actually had the thought "does my daughter think of herself as a lesbian or as a queer?" (that's progress!) -- so I asked her. She readily said queer. Then my other daughter told me to use the language "my daughter, who is queer," rather than "queer daughter." Because it matters to some people, she said.
Apparently some think the "lesbian" moniker is a bit dated and therefore calls up cliches about women who love women. "Gay" is generic in a catch-all way, but it is typically reserved for men who love men. I personally like "queer" because it just means not straight. And if you agree that sexual orientation is on a continuum, as I do, then you can use "queer" and not have to get into the specifics. Unless you want to, of course.
I have an excellent relationship with my daughter. Which doesn't mean perfect -- it's sometimes messy the way the closest relationships can be.
I believe our relationship -- or more specifically, my relationship to our relationship -- took a huge turn for the better when my daughter came out to me when she was a sophomore in college. I have vivid memories of this conversation, which took place over the phone (sort of like having a serious conversation when in the car -- no eye contact required). Her dad and I had recently met a good friend of hers at a field hockey game, and I had noted our daughter was talking about this friend quite a bit.
We were on the phone, and I was driving at the time, and I said, "It seems you are spending a lot of time with X," and she said "Yeah, I am. Actually a lot of time. Actually I am staying at her place." I'm not slow on the uptake, but I can't remember now exactly what she said next, but it was something like "we're dating." Or maybe it was just complete silence, I don't remember. The reason I can't remember isn't because I was freaking out, it is because I started thinking "Be VERY careful what you say here, because this is a one-time thing."
"Are you happy?"
"Then I'm happy."
I meant it. I think there was an awkward silence then, and perhaps we carried on our conversation a bit, but there was no question in my mind what had been said, even if indirectly. I of course called her dad right after I got off the phone.
I can't say I was completely caught off guard. But like most parents, I had just assumed my daughter was heterosexual. I had never considered the possibility of anything else. Even though I had been a sex ed teacher and had talked to lots of parents about being mindful that maybe their eighth grader was gay. So one might say I was wearing blinders.
My first reaction was life was going to be harder for my child. That upset me. While I suppose that's true, what's harder, really? Isn't living a lie much harder than being true to oneself?
Once the "life is harder when you're gay" argument was vanquished, I was left with all the dreaming I had done about my daughter's future life, and within a short period of time (weeks, not months), I came to the [obvious] conclusion that my ideas about her life were just that -- my ideas. Her life was hers to live as she saw best. This was a liberating thought, and it's why I say our relationship took a turn for the better. I became a better parent when I fully accepted my daughter's life as her own.
Just the same way I'm going to be a better mother-of-the-bride because I have fully accepted my daughter's wedding as her own.
I started this blog during the early stages of my daughter, who is queer, doing her wedding planning. I acquired a wedding etiquette book, because I care about things like etiquette, but I was horrified at the hetero-normativity of it. And if *I* couldn't relate to what the book was telling me ("consult with your future son-in-law," "the groom's parents pay for," etc.), how on earth could my daughter relate to it?
I am a proud feminist, and my own wedding was custom-built by my husband and me nearly forty years ago. We thought we were really deconstructing old wedding ways by writing our own vows (and many people agreed with us), but we also clung to tired tropes like my father "giving me away" and other things that now make me wonder what we were thinking when we did our planning.
A queer wedding presents an opportunity to open discussion about what elements really matter in this milestone event. I think that's refreshing. A queer wedding also opens the eyes of the straight, middle-aged mother about what the world can be like for her daughter as she just goes about the business of being herself in a world that still assumes everyone is heterosexual. I think this is an opportunity for me to learn and I'm bringing you along with me. As Bette Davis said in "All About Eve": "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride." (Well. She actually said "night" so I'm paraphrasing. But you get the drift.)