For the last few days, I have been in the bosom of family and their friends, brought together by a family wedding. You may have guessed from previous posts that such events are not always my cup of tea, that they can be draining and straining.
Recently, I wrote about how people who suck the life out of you need to be cut out of your life for your own sanity. [You can read about that here]. Well, weddings and family reunions often make total avoidance an impossibility. Even when 90% of the people present are a joy to be with, the hidden threat of the few bad apples threatens the tranquility—a bit like Jaws stalking from the deep.
The wedding itself was remarkably beautiful. A glorious setting, wonderfully human, and the officiating priest made a wonderfully humorous and heartfelt homily. Best of all were the vows that bride and groom had written one another. What I loved most of all was to see the groom become choked on his own tears as he expressed his love for his soon-to-be wife and read to her the vows that he had prepared to make to her at this moment. It was moving and powerful. They read like an enlightened manifesto, words that should ring from the lips of any man seeking a woman’s hand. FLR? No, but equal and deeply respectful, yes.
Nobody was more surprised than the father, however, when the priest announced “I now give you Mr. and Mrs. X” but in this case the X was the brides last name! I am sure that this is not the first couple in the world, nor will it be the last, but here they were taking the bride’s name as their new surname. Amazing that this is such a powerful statement, but it is.
On a practical level, while the feminist in me loves it, I also think we should just keep our own names and then give our children both of our names…That is what we do in Mexico, and that is a very even-handed approach coming in one of the most sexist societies around. It doesn’t remove the problem of what happens when the child then marries in turn, as at that point the woman’s name is dropped and they revert to the double-barrel of the two fathers…Still, there is an elegance to the taking of a name from both parents.
For our own children, this applied to both first names and last names—so our children ended up with many names, but carry names of significance from both sides of the family, as we reached back and pulled names from our own collective past.
And regarding the Mr. and Mrs. X, I am sorry for the father that he discovered that his son chose to step away from his father’s name only at that moment. I have known for almost a year. This would be another in a bizarre long list of things that people tell me. I have probably posted before about this but am not sure, but for some reason people just like to confide in me. Especially anything that has to do with gender politics, sexuality, etc. And it isn’t like I am out or anything.
Even one of my sons a few days ago was asking me about a “friend” of his at school, and “her” pronouns, and about pronouns in general. And the conversation started informative but then turned silly. And eventually I asked, “but why are you asking me this anyway? Surely you know the answers already.” His reply? “Well Papa, as the most LGBTQ in the family, you’re the only one who knows.” Have we/I ever talked about being non-binary? No. Have we/I ever talked about myself in that context? No. Or anything at all about my sexuality? No. But I guess when a topic turns to something you have passion for, people can see it and feel it in your voice. Funnily enough, I felt really proud of my son who is obviously more sensitive to the world around him than I would expect of someone his age.
It was also wonderful to see a great many people that I don’t often see, and to be able to laugh and dance with them until late. But bizarrely, the people that I didn’t really want to speak to at all were all over me like a wet blanket. As if they were falling me around. The wedding party equivalent of stalkers. And I am thinking, “gosh, I spend a lot of energy trying to avoid you, and surely you can feel and hear my antipathy, but instead you keep coming at me.” It was a bit like the Night of the Undead. One person in particular kept cutting into whatever conversation I was having with whoever I was having it and immediately interjecting herself into it, trying to make whatever obscure connection she could between our conversation and her.
So, there we have it. I am ready to leave, delighted to have seen some people that I didn’t know how much I missed until we started talking, but also exhausted and sick and tired of family drama that I thought I had left behind a long, long time ago.
And as for my little brother? The one who wanted to punch my lights out for suggesting that he needed to find a path towards forgiveness of our father? The one whose atheism is so strong that he was enraged by my suggestion that acceptance comes easier to those who acknowledge there are forces greater than us? The idea that submission might help, might help him find his path to forgiveness? [Written about here]. Well, we found ourselves alone together at a quiet moment in the kitchen (why do all parties seem to offer the most important conversations in the kitchen?!) and his words rumbled out from somewhere deep inside of him. “I found my way to forgiving Dad,” he said. For that, people, I would have crawled across glass to be here for. Suffering is okay when the hurt proves worth it in the end. We hugged after and somehow I managed not to cry.