Last week, Angie and the boys and I were driving around delivering the lasagnas that Angie had made for various families with wee babes. This is something that had never occurred to us to do prior to having children. We had time to sit in cafes and read Savage Love and Real Astrology, but we did not make and deliver lasagnas. We lived in a world where if you didn’t have the time or energy to cook, you went out to eat. If you didn’t have a lot of money, you could always get a burrito. Now we have the one-year-old (as of tomorrow! Happy Birthday wee Charles!) and the 16-month-old, and damn if we don’t appreciate the food that was brought to us by sundry family and friends, and that, from time to time, my mother will still bring if we order ahead, and that Angie’s mother will cook if we drive up to Sonoma to visit. And we make an effort to welcome new people into their new families with food. It’s a good way to usher people in, and a good way to usher people out. Oh yes, and we delivered cookies, too.
The point, however, is that as I drove, Angie read to me from the latest issue of The Atlantic, which had come in the mail just before we left. There is an article by Andrew Sullivan in it called “My Big, Fat, Straight Wedding.” I just had a technological break-through and found the article online, here:
We got all choked up reading it. Of course, I loved that, intonationally, Andrew Sullivan sounds exactly like Angie, at least when Angie is reading him aloud. But also the article talked about how there’s been a shift in how gays are perceived: instead of homosexuality being a disorder, it is a defining characteristic. I am not going to rehearse his whole train of thought, because there is the link and all. What mattered to me was the idea that we are now, legally, individuals before we are gay people. And that that legal tidbit actually matches my own feeling about myself and my life.
I remember being stoned on a nude beach with someone I loved, and both of us just laughing about the fact that we were gay. It seemed sort of unbelievable as an identity but not because of the set of behaviors and pleasures we personally attached to it. In other words, we adored each other and adored adoring each other, but how funny that that made us gay. I see that without being stoned on a nude beach, the resonance and humor is not coming through. It’s just that I’ve puzzled about what “made me gay.” Angie likes to make jokes about this–mostly at her mother’s expense, as in, you packed me off with peanut butter sandwiches on rice crackers for lunch and that’s why I’m gay. I wonder what people who knew me before I came out think about it–if they have stories about how they knew or didn’t know or wondered or would never have thought it in a million years. I just have never had a personal narrative where the kernel of who I am is gay.
So as my beloved and our sons and I drove around delivering organic lasagnas with handmade whole wheat pasta to three lesbian families–one with a newborn, one with a two-month-old, and one with a four-month-old who is sick in the hospital–I felt the thrill of hearing this idea again: that I am a person who wants to marry another person who is a woman. Yes, it is true that almost all the people I’ve wanted to marry have been women, at least at the time, so some sort of meaning accrues there.
This is not about not being “out.” I come out all the time, now. Because people are always seeing me with my boys and asking, “Are they twins?” To which I reply, “They are four months apart in age.” At this point, the boys look enough alike or are so obviously both mine, that people tend to knit brows and mumble to themselves until I say, “My partner gave birth to one and gave birth to the other,” thus outing us as a two-uterus family. At The Little Farm. At Totland. At Whole Foods. And I love coming out in this way, because it is so peculiar to us (and a few other families). It generally doesn’t remind people of their one cousin in New Jersey or their friend who moved to San Francisco. It may remind them of the couple they know who has twins, but they can’t gloss the twist we add, either. Most of the people I’m having this conversation with are mothers, and what they want to know is, what is it like being pregnant at the same time. Or they say, you have your hands full–and then we are back in mutual territory.
As a half-Jew on the “wrong” side who grew up half of the time in the fancy Berkeley hills and half of the time on the “other side of the tracks,” just below San Pablo, I have never fit comfortably into an identity. I have always been afraid of the foreclosure that comes when people think they know who you are because of . . . who you are. Or who you seem to be. And yet I long for the comfort of exactly that sense of community, of being known.
I guess this is one of the reasons I love fiction. As a reader, I identify with any sympathetic character who unfolds well before me. I become all sorts of protagonists if they are specific enough, particular enough, to come to life somewhere between the page and my imagination. Somehow, gay marriage and its attendant civil rights boil down to this for me: are Americans good enough readers to be willing to experience happy endings different from the ones they live?
There may be another way to say this: can people learn to deliver lasagnas to new families even if they’ve never brought a child on board in their own?