For the past 20 years or so, I’ve pretty much been what one might call “out”, if that’s defined as not being “in”. It’s not that I make any big announcements or formally “come out” to people. I’m just me, and I don’t lie or talk in riddles to keep from using the “she” pronoun when talking about my spouse. Years ago, I did, because, as the phrase goes, “those were different times”, and I lived in a less open-minded part of the country, and for whatever reason, I feared being pre-judged or . . . something.
Anyway, things are different now. I’m so happy to see the whole talking-in-codes thing vanishing and I’ve noticed over the last few years that people don’t seem to see a division anymore. No more Us and Them. We’re all Us.
I can remember times, years ago, when I would be talking to someone and I’d see the understanding slowly dawning on them, followed by raised eyebrows, a tightness in their facial muscles, and a response of, “Oh!” That reaction rarely happens anymore. And that is a wonderful thing, because it sucks to feel different from everyone else.
My point in bringing this up is that, as same-sex marriage quickly gains ground in state after state across the country, the concept is still a fairly new one for a lot of people who may not have really given it much thought before, and so there are still times when it’s kind of humorous to watch someone figure it out, or to realize I’ve just outed my spouse and myself without even thinking. Of course, when the latter happens, it’s not a big deal, to me, because I’m not trying to keep it a secret; it’s just something that opposite-sex couples don’t encounter, since most people they meet have automatically assumed they are an opposite-sex couple.
One of the funniest (to me) examples of this is when we take one of our cats to the vet. We were there yesterday, and without giving it a thought, I said to the Vet’s Assistant (who is not the same Vet’s Assistant we normally see and who already knows us), “Emily was in her bed, which is on our bed . . .” and I didn’t even realize I’d said it until we were on our way home. I saw no reaction on her face (which is the way most people seem to react nowadays), and that’s why it didn’t occur to me that I’d even said it until later.
We were visiting with someone the other night who we know through a business association rather than a social one, and somehow in the conversation, our wedding came up and we showed her some of the photos. The conversation was more about the decorations and colors and location and less about the fact that we are both women. (That part probably wouldn’t have even entered into it at all if I hadn’t mentioned that we’ve actually had 3 weddings – our Civil Union in New Jersey in 2011, followed by our commitment ceremony in Florida in 2011, and then our “actual” wedding in 2013, after New Jersey legalized same sex marriage.) Anyway, that led to a conversation about the funny ways a few people have approached the topic of who we are to each other.
In the last several months, we’ve had a number of contractors and inspectors in the house because of some work that was being done. Sometimes the guys were just downright confused. A few weeks ago, two guys were here for most of a day, putting in a new gas fireplace. I figured they must have seen the collage of wedding photos hanging on the wall in the hallway or something, and I assumed they knew. At one point, one of the guys looked at me and pointed to my wife and said, “Is she your . . . relative? Friend?”
“She’s my spouse,” I said, not sure if the word “wife” would feel, to him, like I’d used it for shock value.
He pondered for a moment and then said, “Oh, ok.” It made sense to him, then.
Later, I noticed him looking at the wedding pictures in the hall, and he commented that they were pretty.
Our business friend who we told this story to was surprised that people just come out and ask, but I’m glad they do. The more comfortable people are discussing same-sex marriages and relationships, the less taboo the topic becomes and the less those marriage and relationships are perceived as being different from any others. Eventually all the awkwardness and tiptoeing around will be gone. Because there shouldn’t be any awkwardness around love.