This morning’s post by Jill about the balls needed to plan a gay wedding is, first of all, hilarious. But secondly, it’s true in this highly-specific-is-always-universal head nodding way. Reading it, I kept being reminded of my own, mixed-gender wedding planning. Because the second you break out of cultural expectations for what a wedding is, you somehow seem to find yourself in a weird dress, in the middle of a generic wedding dress store, lying to a sales lady while feeling super guilty about it, because you suddenly don’t have the guts to tell her the truth. So for pride week, Jill tells us about the much harder, braver, gay version of balling up (or not) during wedding planning.
The story of our engagement has become a sort of funny story: we had both separately planned to propose on the same day, our five year anniversary, but I ended up with the ring because I didn’t have the balls to get her one.
It’s not that I had become any less sure of marrying her; it’s just that I was humiliated at Zales and then couldn’t get over myself.
It went like this: I wandered in to look. Once realizing how much these suckers actually cost, my brain was already exploding with mini-panic-attacks when the super-duper-friendly salespeople targeted me and asked what I was looking for.
“Oh, engagement rings.”
“Ooh, helping him out, huh?” *wink wink*
There’s this funny thing that happens to queer people. We surround ourselves with our community and gain so much strength from them. We feel so happy and proud and wonderful and self-righteous and defiant. We tell ourselves we are going to conquer the world with our fight for equality and visibility! Even Obama and Jay-Z love us!!
But then sometimes, out in the world, when we are all alone, sometimes, we get scared. We wimp out.
In my defense, even though I live in one of the most liberal cities in the country, the Zales I wandered in to was in the suburbs, and who knows what you’ll encounter in the suburbs?! Suburbs are murky, terrifying places. So I fumbled.
“Oh, er, uh, yeah. I’m… looking for a friend.”
She continued to pepper me with questions, full of perky smiles, about This Dude I Was Helping Out, and I kept making up vague answers even though I am the worst liar in the universe, the whole time my brain shouting at me: “What the hell are you doing? Abort mission! Abort! Get the hell out!” Which I did. I got back in my car, felt small and stupid.
My fiancée purchased her ring for me the smart way most of us do things these days: online, where no one asks any questions.
In actuality, I never purchased a ring for her because I really couldn’t afford it, but my Zales experience still haunted me. I can’t, of course, speak for the entire queer community—I know there are many, many righteous babes who would have said, “Actually, Miss, it’s for my girlfriend.” The thing is, though, I always think that’s going to be me. And it is, sometimes. When strangers have asked about “how he proposed,” I have corrected them—“Actually, it’s a she”—and it’s awkward for a second but then we all get over it.
In our wedding planning, we’ve been very open with most of the vendors we’ve worked with. Indeed, almost every reception venue I contacted sent me glossy information packets with two beautiful ladies holding hands on them. The marriage complex wants our gay money as much as they want everyone else’s. But I never seem to be able to know when I am going to wimp out; it’s a split-second anxiety-induced decision that I almost seem to have no control over. It happened again when I tried on wedding dresses with my mom recently.
As the sweet sales lady was throwing mountains of fabric over my head in the dressing room and I was already wondering if, in our sudden and bizarre intimacy, my lack of shaving of any of my body hair was making her uncomfortable:
“So, how did he propose?”
I had two immediate thoughts: 1) My mom is right there. I don’t want to make her uncomfortable by shouting my lesbianism all around David’s Bridal. 2) This girl is so sweet. I don’t want to make her feel bad. So I avoided any correction while also avoiding any specific pronouns or details.
“Oh, we stayed at The Nines hotel downtown on our five year anniversary, have you been there? It’s great, isn’t it?”
“So he had it all planned out and everything?”
“Um, yeah, yep.”
My inner monologue: You big stupid wimpy jerk.
In our most recent wedding planning experience, we were shopping for a man’s vest as part of my fiancée’s wedding outfit. A no-nonsense saleslady came over and asked what we were shopping for.
My fiancée: “Oh, for me, for my wedding.”
No-nonsense saleslady looks up, glances quickly between the two of us: “You two? Great, congratulations. Here, this is the size you need.”
I cannot tell you the relief and joy we both felt. We didn’t have to explain anything! She just knew! And it was okay! And so easy!
It helps, of course, that my fiancée has a mohawk and was looking for men’s clothing. Even a salesperson with decent gaydar wouldn’t have a hard time figuring that one out. But society looks at me with my girly dresses and dangly earrings and straight haircut and screams: “HOW DID HE PROPOSE?!” When are we going to get to the point when the world stops assuming that all straight-looking people are straight—or for that matter, that all butch-looking people are gay?
We’re going to get to that point when we all stop wimping out. Listen, gays: we gotta have balls.
I have always been overly concerned with how other people are feeling, but I have to reach a point concerning this where it’s okay to make other people uncomfortable. Because the thing is, most of the people that automatically switch to the “he,” that ask these questions and make assumptions, are not bad people, are probably not even homophobic, might in fact be thrilled to know about my gay wedding. Sure, some of them won’t be, but it really doesn’t matter either way, because none of them will ever have the opportunity to be excited or awkward or mad if I never give them the chance. They will never know that I was a little different than they thought. They will never know that they were wrong. And if I correct them, if I let every single person know about my big gay wedding, then maybe, maybe, next time that person asks someone else—they won’t assume. Maybe feeling just a little more uncertain as to what the hell anyone is will make them confused and anxious. Good.
This is easier said than done, of course. Each decision of what to say and how to react depends on the person and the situation. There are people who are still struggling with the huge feat of coming out to those who love them most, let alone complete strangers. There are places where broadcasting your real relationship to everyone you meet could literally threaten your physical (and emotional) safety. But those of us who are able to—we have to jump into the awkward conversations. And it’ll be awkward for a long time. But hopefully, one day, it won’t be.
It’s clear that the gay marriage political train is charging full-steam ahead. But even when it’s legal in all fifty states, there will still be Zales and David’s Bridal salespeople asking, “How did he propose?” You may be thinking: “What were you even doing at a big box bridal store to begin with?!” And yes, I know that there are a number of gay-friendly venues, as well as non-traditional ways, in which to exclusively plan a wedding. But the thing is—it should be okay everywhere. At Zales, at Etsy, at everywhere. Planning a wedding should be a joyous occasion, not one marked by anxiety and defensiveness. More than that, it should be honest, and true. Anything less is a disservice to your love.
So next time someone asks, “How did he propose?” I’ll do my darndest to remember my own advice, jump over that sudden, irrational moment of fear, and say, “Actually, it’s a she. It was on our five year anniversary, and it was wonderful, thank you.” And I’ll smile, and we will all just get the hell over it.
Photo from Jill’s personal collection