Thursday, December 15, 2005

"Should I stay or should I go" to my daughter's wedding... What?!?!

So, a few months ago, my mother told me that she and my father might not attend my wedding. We had just met up at Bed Bath & Beyond so that we could hang out and so that I could go shopping for my friends' wedding that was coming up- their registry was online, but I wanted to see the items myself at the store. We finished shopping and headed over to a bookstore. I mentioned that J and I were registered at Linens N Things but hadn't put anything on it, yet, and that we would be going shopping for my dress again in a couple of weeks when J's family arrived for her graduation from social work school. She had a mini-breakdown and said she "wasn't sure if she and my father could come" and some other pretty heterosexist things over teary tea in the bookstore's cafe, things started going downhill even more when it began sinking in for me that she was actually, really, truly thinking about not coming to my wedding, and then I decided I had to leave. Things were pretty tense in the parking lot, and I don't remember what else I said, but she told me (again) not to spend too much money on the wedding, and then finished my sentence for me when I retorted that if she's not coming, I don't want to hear her assvice.
It's not like I hadn't anticipated this turn of events. Even though when I announced the engagement a couple of months prior she had managed to eek out a "congratulations" (after 20 minutes of nitpicking) and then offered some money towards the wedding. Even though she and my father really like J, a lot, meaning my father hugs her when we leave their house- and my dad doesn't hug just anybody. Even though J comes to Christmas and Thanksgiving and dinner usually once a month and actually listens to my father inform her about things like "digital photography on the internet" for 2 and 1/2 hours at a time, and is in many other ways a welcome part of the family. Still, my parents have had a hard time with the whole gay thing for almost 4 years now, and even though I know they are so much better than before (when we hardly spoke for 2 years), my mom's annoucement was in my head before and it shouldn't have surprised me.
I don't know if it was surprising, but I do know that I was way more upset about it than I thought I would be. Many a stern lecture had I prepared myself with about not letting them ruin my wedding-planning year, about letting them work out their own crap in their own time, and about once and for all not tying my emotional health up in knots over their approval. Of course, I knew I would be hurt if they wouldn't come, but I didn't know that it would weigh with excruciating heaviness on my mind and heart every second for the next 30 sleepless hours until I broke down and called them. She had said she didn't know if they "could" do it (come to their youngest child's wedding, which will only happen once, and which will damage your relationship with her irrevocably if you don't). I needed to know if she had made up her mind and reminded her that I know this has been difficult for her, but this year is my year and this wedding is my day ( not for anyone else), and she said that she knew and had thought of that since we last talked and that she would be there. She didn't know about my dad, though. I asked her to tell him I needed an answer soon, like by tomorrow, because this was driving me crazy. She said not to push it, he was still pretty unhappy. A few days later I got an e-mail from my mother saying dad would be there with her, "as they have always walked side-by-side".
So, that stank. We have had regular fights over their rejections and my unwillingness to let them slide for a long time now, and we usually stay away for a couple of weeks or so and then act like it never happened and things get back to normal and friendly. This time, though, it stayed with me for two or three months. I just couldn't feel genuine with them after that. Every conversation was an effort for me because I just felt betrayed all the time. And I have to admit I resented that my mother didn't call me for a few weeks in the middle there- she usually calls every week or so- ah, the unreasonable blame we heap upon our mothers. She's a great woman and I love her more than I could possibly say and she's done so much for me and she's my mom. And Dad? Well, he's another long story, but we love each other, too, and he's a huge boatload better at telling us than he used to be. We're family, for better or worse.
And they're coming. Whew. Good thing, because S was threatening to open up a big can of middle-child whoop-ass on them if they didn't cut it out. Such a good sister!


M. said...

I'm glad that they'll be there afterall and I hope they will be able to see your love in a new way. My parents choose not to attend our church wedding (the big, formal one) but did make it to our legal marriage five years later.

I was happy to give them a second chance.

Now things with my parents are pretty great, even though my mom still reminds me this isn't what she would have picked for me.

Trista said...

Kristin and I eloped both times we were married (long story) and we told my parents about the first one after it was over because I was pretty sure they wouldn't be supportive, and they were so hurt that I hadn't felt like I could share that moment with them. I think something really changed for them in that moment. So, we planned a big reception and my father made a toast, and my mother finally told her siblings about us (who are all very Mormon, she had adamantly refused to tell then, and I had appeased her even though it chafed that my whole extended family, who all live around us and normally we're all very close, thought Kristin and I were just friends) because they didn't want to make a decision for them that would mean they would miss out on seeing their oldest niece's nuptials (even though it wasn't legal) and all of them came, even though most were still in shock (how, how could they not know) from the news of my life.

The second time we eloped, I let my parents know in advance that we were going, and they couldn't make it, but they genuinly couldn't make that trip out of town, and were so apologetic and proud of us.

I think you're doing the right thing, it hurts having to put yourself out there and tell people what you need from them and letting them be the assholes when their prejudices and issues rear their ugly heads instead of glossing things over and letting them sit in their small place. But damn, it does hurt.

starevelina said...

Thanks for sharing, M. I'm glad they came to your legal marriage. I hear you about your mom's "reminders" about what she thinks. Sometimes they seem to be on a schedule about that- like a PSA or something, you know, just in case you forgot.
That's funny, Trista- I can only imagine your reception with the extended family smiling but still scratching their heads. It's funny how parents can be about this stuff- not accepting you and then being offended that you haven't confided something. My parents were awful to me when I came out, but my mom was still offended that I hadn't told her earlier. That's great that your first elopement opened up new communication for them and that they wanted to be involved the next time (even though they couldn't get there, it's so meaningful to have their support in your heart).
I don't think my parents will ever come around fully. But then sometimes, they can turn around and be really supportive about something specific. The wedding is definitely not all about them, but we're hoping to have our minister officiate and include some elements that will help them to connect and feel good about being there. They really value the opinions of clergy and words of scripture. Hopefully, they'll be ok.
But first, of course, we have to make it through Christmas with all 8 of us in the house ;) `Better bring lots of rum for the eggnog.

eryn said...

Sorry your parents are putting this undue stress on you.

I just read through your blog. My partner and I have been going to the Highlands Inn for years, so it was really neat to read about your engagement story. Bummer about the bridge, we also discovered it had been washed out the last time we were there (almost a year ago!!! It's time for a visit.).

Sacha said...

It's really good that you don't let them slide. I've seen too many people compromise over their fear of losing their parents' love. We had to be very strong with M.'s parents, to the point of having zero relationship for seven years. It hurt her (which hurts me) and there's a huge lack of trust on so many levels, but in the end we all have a better relationship because of it. Stick to your guns, girlie!