Or, What happened at the Shower.
When I first realized that I was not going to be content to live in the closet to my extended family much longer; when I realized that Kristin was not just a passing crush or even an ill-fated experiment in living with a lover; when I realized that I was going to want to bring her to my father’s family’s Christmas party and that our normally clannish family was going to be even more clannish than normal because our Matriarch was “dying” and that was going to be her “last” Christmas; I also realized that I had put a real distance between myself and my extended family, both sides, for several years out fear that they would reject me for being a lesbian because they are all Mormon. And I also realized that having created a distance between myself and my family -- that having kept them from really getting to know the adult me -- and then wanting them to be hunky-dory with all of me all at once (or rather, being pissed at them for being assholes after having set them up to be such) was not fair to them. I decided that I would work to close the distances I had created. So I started sending friendly letters and cards to Aunts and Uncles. I started asking cousins out to lunch and dinner. I organized “Cousins’ Nights Out” and made sure that I invited cousins that were significantly younger than me and my siblings – acknowledging their adulthood and our cousinship where when I was younger I regarded them only as infants and nuisances. The only branches of the family that were unincluded in this effort were my oldest aunt and her children because none of them live in the SLC valley and they really don’t do much with the rest of the family, and the uncle that I worked with for ten years and his family. I didn’t think I needed to make any special efforts with that uncle since I had remained close to him, and I had always thought his wife and their children were insufferable. Perhaps that was a mistake on my part.
When Christmas got closer and my father’s side of the family went into the “Grandma Crisis” and started saying that only “family” were to be allowed at Grandma’s last Christmas (though clannish, we do tend to be friendly, allowing people with nowhere else to go to come to our big family Christmas Eve party) and I was not about to leave Kristin home alone that night just because she was a “friend” I realized that preparation time was over and it was time I come out to the whole family. I called several of my cousins to tell them. All of them that I called were supportive and not terribly surprised. So, when that uncle and his wife and children started saying that they didn’t want me and Kristin at Christmas because they didn’t want Christmas turned into a political statement, and my father stated that a) my relationship with Kristin wasn’t political and it was insulting to think that I would make it so and b) if I weren’t welcome then he and the rest of our family wouldn’t be there either (a huge thing to say since remember at the time we all thought my grandmother was dying) many many of my cousins and my father’s siblings and their spouses backed him up. All without me saying one word about the matter to any of them (besides my father). Throughout the years I have never talked bad about that aunt or uncle or their children with any of my other family members. I have remained positive and clear about how much my family means to me and how much I treasure their support without attempting to create “sides” or polarize the family on political issues. The only political issue that I have ever broached with them was when I sent letters detailing the anti-gay marriage amendment and exactly what that would do to me emotionally and legally and asking them not to vote for it. Most of my cousins and Aunts and Uncles called my parents to let them know that they had not. One of my cousins “removed” every sign promoting the amendment from her neighborhood.
As a result, the onus of having created a family issue over my homosexuality has fallen to my aunt and uncle and their children. They are seen as the ones with the problem, not me. And because of this, after my mother RSVP’d for the shower hosted by that particular aunt for her daughter in law, she found out that no one else (except one super, super nice aunt) from our extended family was going to go to the shower. Then I felt bad. Not for the aunt or her daughter in law and grandson, but for my mother. She talked one of my aunts into going with her, since if the mother of the aggrieved party was going to go, then she should at least have company.
So my mother went. And when I called her up to see how it had gone, she told me that she only had 2 complaints, and that she felt that it was a good thing that she was there, so that she could set some things straight.
Complaint #1: Everyone kept talking about how this grandson was the first of his generation with the ability to pass on the family name. First off: our family has only had this name for like 4 generations. Some great-grandfather of mine decided that he was tired of having the same last name as every other Danish Patriarch (Jensen) and so just randomly changed the family’s name to something else. Consequently our family (those descended from him) is not related to any other family with that last name. So, I don’t see the importance of preserving our name. But, I passed the name on to Julia, and my parents’ other granddaughter, Grandchild the First, also has the family name. And so my mother pointed out that these days there is no telling that girls will not pass the family name along, and thus there is nothing inherently more significant about him having the family name than her granddaughters having it.
Complaint #2: Evil Aunt (EA) was repeatedly asked in my mother’s hearing which other family members of our family had grandchildren, and specifically how many grandchildren they had. EA replied (three different times) that my father had 1 granddaughter. One. My mother corrected her publicly (three different times) that no, they had TWO granddaughters. Three times. My mother wants to give EA the benefit of the doubt and say that she was very busy running the shower and had a lot on her mind and Julia is so young that maybe she just rattled that answer off as rote. I replied that perhaps perhaps that would explain the first incident. NOT the two following. I refuse to give her any quarter on that one.
And so, I am very glad that I did not waste a Sunday afternoon being reminded that my child, though she bears the family name, is not really of the family in that woman’s eyes. And if you say, “Well, she may not have done that if you were there” all I have to say is that this is the woman who called me Trishta for decades, many times repeating the misname seconds after I would correct her: “Trishta, could you…” “It’s Trista, Aunt J.” “Oh, anyway Trishta would you…” And that this is the woman who can’t be bothered to remember Sister in Law the Maybe’s name even though she has been with my brother for 5 years, and is a geriatric CNA who goes to my grandmother at least twice a week to help her bathe and shop and do other necessary things so that the family doesn’t have to pay someone to come do that. Just because my brother hasn’t married her yet doesn’t mean she’s not part of the family (the fact that I call her SiLtM is an inside joke and not a reflection of how I feel about her status as a family member. If my brother ever dumps her we’ll probably disinherit him and adopt her).
My mother’s glad she went so she could defend us and publicly claim Julia as her granddaughter. But I’m tired of making overtures to that woman. And again, the only reason my mother went is because I told her she should.
I’m done there. And I’m tired of the people around her who go along with her arrogance and homophobia rather than do what’s right just because what’s right is harder. And I’m mostly talking about my uncle here, I am still very disappointed and hurt by his behavior over the last few years, but also their children and spouses who, like that daughter in law, are nice to me, Kristin, and Julia when EA is not around, and very cold to us when she is. I should be kinder to them all, I know, because that woman is Hell on Stumpy Legs, but I’m just tired of being the bigger person. If they're going to get quarter for doing the easy thing instead of the right thing, then I want some of that quarter, too. At least for a little while.
And, I’ll bet EA voted for the amendment
because of despite my letter asking her not to.