Identity / Life

Wedding Aisle or Line in the Sand: Dance with the Loving

As some readers may remember, I was recently invited to a family member’s wedding. Fifteen years ago, the parents of this family member did not come to my wedding due to the nature of my wedding–gay. In two previous pieces, I discussed my initial reaction to the invitation and then my subsequent decision to attend the wedding. This piece is the final part of the trilogy. This is what happened Markham at the wedding.

SPOILER ALERT: If you’re looking for some kind of Housewives-style smackdown, you’re about to be sorely disappointed. If you’ve somehow envisioned that this sad tale of ignorance culminated in thrown cocktails, flipped tables or any other kind of behavior that all but begs for a class on anger management, then you’ve confused Reality with reality. Civility, boring but appropriate, was alive and well throughout the event.

Similarly, if you’re looking for any kind of closure–an understanding reached, a return to love, tears shed or hands held in a field of daisies–yeah…you’re still going to be disappointed.

There were no pyrotechnics at the wedding. There was simply a family that came together to witness and celebrate two people who fell in love and who chose to spend their lives together.

I barely saw the mother of the groom. To be honest, I avoided her like the plague. I was pretty sure my emotions wouldn’t get the best of me, but really, why test it? I saw her once at the beginning of the event and once as we left. She has no idea how hurtful she has been to me, to us. She thinks that not coming to my wedding was a simple difference of opinion and not the affront to the very core of my being that it actually was. She thinks giving me a hug or photobombing me and Rick while we get our picture taken in one of those photo booths that seem to be all the rage at parties right now means that we’re all ok. I’m fine with that. I made my peace with her “difference of opinion” when I RSVP’d.

I will say this, however. I’ve never been in a Catholic mass. Never witnessed a Catholic wedding. And I can tell you for a fact that I never will again. The priest spouted nearly two hours of misogyny (“All brides are beautiful…tomorrow I can’t promise you.” Lovely.) and homophobia (“God is love. Love is God. God brought these two people together.” I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly my love is and who brought me and Rick together.) and not one word that might actually help these two young people navigate waters that they simply can’t conceive of. Nothing relevant. Just some out-of-touch platitudes and a healthy dollop of hate.

As we were walking out of the church, Rick said to me, “I should have walked out.” He was right. We should have. But when you go to someone’s house, you respect the rules of that house. I said to my husband, “I’m sorry I made you sit through that. Never again.” And I won’t. I had never stepped foot in a Catholic church before, and I can guarantee you that I never will again. I’ll meet you at the reception. I’ll drink a toast to you. But never again will I sit and listen to a man proclaim that God is love and know full well that my love has been left out of the equation. Not to mention my husband’s love, which I am lucky enough to experience every single day of my life. No. I will never go anywhere where that truth is denied. Never again. And I’ll never ask my husband to do it either.

The reception was lovely. We met the bride, who greeted us with her warm spirit and wide smile. We congratulated the groom. We sat in a room filled with probably 300 people and we, the groom’s father’s entire family, fit at one table. Eleven of us. And of that eleven only six were blood. We were it. I was glad we were there if only to represent such a tiny family tree and to carry into that room some of my family history, some of the people who course through my veins. I was glad we were there as a link to a history. And I was glad we were there because I do love the people that I sat with. We laughed. We drank. We danced. We made another memory. I’m glad I didn’t let one ignorant family member rob me of a memory.

Instead of steaming and stewing, I chose to dance with the loving. It’s a lesson I plan on taking with me wherever I go. When in doubt, dance with the loving.

Same Sex Ballroom

Photograph: Ade Johnson/AFP/Getty Images

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  1. Roger,
    I went to my cousins wedding in the early ’90’s in Montana. Her husband is catholic and she converted and we all gathered in a big catholic church and listened to the same misogyny. Ugh. My father was filming the whole thing and when it was over, I went right up to the camera and let the priest have a piece of my mind. Such a bad career move. My Dad had to edit it out before he gave my cousin the footage. The catholic church has a long way to go even with the new pope.
    I am sorry you had to sit through hate to be with your family. And I’m sorry your aunt was hurtful.
    But you did all the right things and your grace is to be admired. I wasn’t graceful at my cousin’s wedding. I wish I’d known you then. Maybe you could have stopped me from spewing vitriol at a family event.
    PS But wouldn’t you give like a week’s pay to hear what I said? I would.
    And you piece is great. Really, really great. We need to know how others are dealing with these difficult situations involving family.
    Thank you!

    • I could not have stopped you then. Early 90s, you say? Whatever grace I have now I did not possess then. Come to think of it ~ early 90s ~ I hadn’t discovered my considerable anger yet. So if I possessed any grace at all it was the grace of the clueless, not the grace of someone who’s anger sometimes feels infinite yet manages somehow to control it enough to express it in a way that can be heard. Primal screams don’t tend to read well or attract people.

      And yes, I would love to hear what you said!!!

  2. My family is catholic. My father is a theologian. He has fully embraced me and who I am. We have a family priest. He flew to WI from NY to bury my grandmother. He married my sister and her husband. He would have married my parents if he had been ordained in time. Ultimately, I married a man. I couldn’t do it in the church. So, I married him in an Indian restaurant surrounded by friends and family. Our catholic priest was there. He asked if we wanted a blessing and I said “no thank you”. He respected our wishes. I know he would have done the same had my partner been a woman. That said, too few like him.

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