I have another life, where I met a guy and fell in love. Where he proposes, or maybe I do, with a shiny diamond ring. Finally! I tell my mom, and she starts helping me plan my wedding. We disagree on details, but she respects that I’m trying to find inspiration in my cultural roots. And she laughs at me when I get details wrong.
In my actual life, I met a girl and fell madly, deeply in love, almost in spite of myself and definitely against all my plans. I move in with her, barely six months into the first serious—and the first same-sex—relationship for both of us. Then we find ourselves shopping on Etsy for vintage engagement rings, neither having gotten down on a knee.
In my other life, I tell my mom that I want to wear red, like she did in the ’80s. She tells me whether the auspicious color is still fashionable, because I have no idea. I insist on wearing red either way, and we go shopping for gowns. At my actual wedding, I’m going to wear an elastic-waist tutu that I’m making for myself. But I don’t tell my mom that I’m planning to wear red. I don’t tell her any details.
The Stark light of reality
My mom is probably not going to help me plan my wedding; we really haven’t talked about it. My fiancx and I started making plans a year before we told my parents. During that year, all discussions of guest lists made me cry. I would bawl into my partner’s lap, unsure why I was too sad to breathe. The crying stopped after we told my parents about the wedding, around the time I started therapy. My parents and I only had one conversation about it.
I kept the news for so long, due to many fears. My foremost fear? That I failed to make my parents proud. That they’re ashamed of me.
This fear is probably overblown, but not baseless. My parents grew up in a deeply homophobic world. We all did. Even in my relatively queer-friendly urban life, my fiancx and I routinely hold hands while referring to each other as “partners,” only to be dubbed “friends” by nice-seeming people who do not understand that queer erasure is hurtful.
I keep assuming that if I were engaged to a man, like in my imaginary life, like in my plans, my mom would be a bigger part of the wedding. I’m also assuming that I’d like it. But I’ll never know for sure, because that’s not my real life.
And as the icing on my insecurity cake, the Wedding Industrial Complex often leads me to browse the “mother-of-the-bride” online catalogues, not knowing if my mom will even want to wear such things. The media is constantly reminding me that “most” mothers have opinions about their daughters’ weddings, while my mom barely talks to me about mine.
a shift in perspective
When I was a kid, I took my mother’s love for granted, because that’s what moms are supposed to provide. But I also worked really hard at school in an effort to retain my parents’ approval. I loved it when they told their friends that they took pride in me. And while I spent hour upon hour imagining my wedding (to a blond surfer dude), I also imagined that my mom was going to be an important part of my wedding. I drew sketches of bridesmaid dresses (all in lavender) and made a list of my future children’s names (twin girls, then a boy).
When I made those grand plans, my mom and I talked everyday. We fought, too. Her affection was physical and clear, as we spent many nights cuddling on the couch. She taught me about the world: how to cook, how to take care of people, how to exist as an immigrant in an extremely cold country. Our relationship was also clear, though it didn’t feel that way at the time. There were small, teenage secrets that I couldn’t possibly divulge, like the diaries I “hid” in shoe boxes (she definitely knew but let me believe that my secrets were my own). Despite these little secrets, I desperately wanted to tell my mom everything. She helped me grapple with puberty with her usual matter-of-fact manner. And she listened to my endless reports of the world-shattering drama of my teenage friendships.
My mom and I have a very different relationship now. After I moved out a decade ago, my mom tried to teach me about this new phase in our relationship. She drew some boundaries, told me that I don’t need to constantly seek her approval. But it took me years to learn the lessons and to see my parents as multifaceted fellow adults. And while I know I’ve changed, I forgot to see that my mom had been changing, too.
My current relationship with my mom is, and probably always will be, in transition. We don’t live in the same time zone or watch the same TV shows. We experience daily triumphs and setbacks away from each other. There are many incongruities in our pop culture references, and we have fewer conversational shortcuts than we used to. But we still share a family history and a keen interest in the world. Now that I’m old enough to understand, I’m also privy to my mom’s sharp political opinions. And if we’re being frank, we spend a lot of time talking about our silly little dogs, excessively and unceasingly.
Accepting “Good Enough”
As a queer/bisexual womxn, I sometimes imagine a hetero other life as somehow easier. But nothing is easier than loving my partner. Loving her is joyful, dynamic, difficult on occasion, and oh-so easy always. I spent so long being worried that my parents might not like my fiancx, that I forgot to give them the time to know each other.
While my craving for familial approval still looms large, I’m the one who placed unreasonably weighty expectations on this wedding. I’ve imagined too many cross-country trips to bridal shops, cozy family photo shoots in matching outfits, and joint tropical vacations. I’ve carried around high hopes that a marriage certificate will somehow erase the awkwardness around my sexual orientation, that a party will suddenly create the intimacy between my loved ones that only time can foster.
I need to let my imaginary life go, so my parents can come to our real wedding, on their own terms.