Gay rights or more specifically same-sex marriage has been a controversial topic for the past several years. Given the amount of discourse and media attention devoted to the subject, you’d think I’d have formed an opinion one way or the other.
I honestly hadn’t… until recently.
A few weeks ago, I was summonsed to Tante‘s home for a meeting of the matriarchs. This wasn’t anything unusual. The truth is these occasional “calling-upons” prevent me for fading into a “Christmas Card only” relative. I know. I’m bad kin – but let’s not lose focus here.
Now, I didn’t know the gathering was anything serious – otherwise, I might have arrived drunk and better equipped to handle it. Instead I busted in emitting a high-pitched falsetto brand of cheerful, which I feel obligated put on to compensate for my neglect. It’s my way of saying: “I forgot to call you for months, but look at me now! Clearly, I am happy to see you because I am smiling and loud!”
Within seconds, I realized my exuberance was as out of place as a drunken one-eyed jackass in a knick-knack shop. Three steps into the room, and I could smell IT. In my family, there is a distinct smell when things go amiss. It is Avon perfume, stale coffee, chain-smoked cigarettes and the warm peppermint breath of too many southern women being keen all at once. These things mix strangely together and serve as a good sign of bad things to come.
My first thought was someone had died. Maybe Tante’s poodle with the heart condition. No, he was sitting on his tiny poodle couch, licking his private poodle places. Shit – I’d done something and was now being called forth by the elders to explain myself. The apprehension settled between my shoulder blades. Yes, my money was on “done something” mostly on account of its a safe bet.
Not being one to ease myself into anything, even my own trouble, I went headfirst:
“Does somebody wanna tell me what’s going on??”
Several pairs of heavily Maybellined lashes blinked. Polyester pants got smoothed. Then, they peeked around me to gauge Tante’s whereabouts.
My mother, who was present and looking less perturbed than the others, rolled eyes and announced, “Heavens to Betsy. It’s nothing. Deanna’s getting a divorce that’s all.”
Deanna is my cousin. She is married to a Frenchman named Felipe. He doesn’t like children and he was certainly not worth the drama I smelled in the room.
Divorce isn’t that big of a deal in my family. Hell, some of them consider it a sport and talk about marriages in rounds, such as “Well, on my fifth round, which was with Frank Jr, if he got outta line, I just hit him upside the head with my bean pot…” The more civilized ones discuss it in bouts, like a disease. “Well, when I had my bout with Donald Ray…”
“So! Is that all? Wait, she didn’t kill him or anything did she?”
Mom, who has no problem being blunt, waved her hand around, “Well, I wouldn’t mind if she did. But no, it’s amicable. She’s marrying a woman and moving back to the states because she’s gay. ”
“Probably all her life. She told Tante she’d been in therapy for years trying to work it out.”
“No, not when did she get gay. I mean when is she coming home?”
“Oh. I’m not sure.”
Then, I got fixed with that “I don’t care if you’re grown, I can still hurt you” look: “And don’t you say anything stupid to Tante. She’s struggling with it a little.”
I frowned. Tante is pretty liberal for an indian/white woman pushing 60. When other members of my conservative family took issue with me marrying a black guy, Tante told me: “Screw em. They’ll get over it or we’ll join up with the panthers and put the black power on `em. ”
I couldn’t imagine Tante taking this too hard – but then figured if Tante was tripped up over anything, it was hitting the end of the genetic string thing. Tante, who is all about family, has no grandchildren. She always imagined she would.
Deanna, although a nurturer, had opted not to procreate because the world sucks. Tante’s son, Lance, had a vasectomy after realizing if he knocked a girl up, the need for Pampers might seriously cut into his budget for hair spray, fake tanner and self-portraits for his “I am so studly, I don’t realize I’m 4 feet tall” portfolio. Out of the two, if anyone were to have a change of heart, it would be Deanna. And I think, deep down, Tante counted on that.
However, I had faith in Tante. She would eventually hitch herself up by the straps of her hippy shoes and get on with it.
Then, for the first time I noticed all eyes were on me.
Oh, they were waiting for my reaction. I didn’t have one. Not even if I strained myself. And I wondered then if I’d been called in as some living liberal boundary, such as if this crossed a line with me, then it was okay for them to feel ill-at-ease.
Okay… I felt (I am ashamed to admit this) jubilant for evil reasons. Deanna had bested me on “who can shock the elders right on out of their Love Pat granny bloomers.” Woo-hoo, she was a homosexual. The only way I could top that was to married a black female dwarf and quit my job to raise chicken. It was official. I had passed on the family shit-taker torch.
I felt like doing a happy dance while singing, “Dennie is a lesbian. I am not the bad one because she has a wifey. I am out of trouble.” Then, I liked the ditty so much I thought about calling her to share it. I didn’t have her new number.
As far as her marriage, well, after a great deal of contemplation and soul searching, I decided:
I don’t care. And you can’t make me. (You conservatives should try this whole minding your sex business/apathy thing. It’s very relaxing.)
You know, I grew up with Deanna. I’ve seen this heifer in the morning with bedhead. She ain’t pretty. Lot of times, bless her heart I love her so – she ain’t nice either. So if Deanna has actually found someone who can live with her crankiness, morning breath and all the mess that is her – then, that person should be entitled to all legal benefits of a spouse and maybe even one of those government checks they mail crazy people.
Therefore, I am apparently cool with same-sex marriage as long as the bridesmaid’s dresses aren’t ugly.
However, this doesn’t mean I’m ready to join the fight for gay rights. It’s not that I am opposed or don’t support her – this is just not my battle. Man, I’ve carried the family torch for 15 years with the whole “Get Down with the Brown” battle. I’m tired. Maybe in a few years, I’d be willing to march with her- or at least hold a picket sign if she bought me ice cream and let me sit on a bench.
And so, I looked at the matriarchs, who were still waiting for my reaction and said: “Well, we will have to send her a toaster when we get her new address.
My mother rolled her eyes, “Good Lord Angie, I am not sure that would be appropriate. Deanna might be offended Just keep your nose out of it and mind your manners.”
“How is that bad manners? You send married people gifts. Sometimes the gift might be a toaster. It can’t be any worse than you saying she’s married to a woman because she’s gay. I mean jeez, talk about redundant. Perhaps we should just consult the Book of Proper Homosexual Manners for Dummies. ”
Someone behind me started laughing hysterically. I turned around and saw Tante. She was wearing her hippy shoes and the straps were pulled up just like I knew they would be.