“You’re the worst bride ever, prescription ” declared my exasperated significant other. Lisa’s accusation wasn’t without cause. We had been taking our evening walk on the beach when Lisa made a casual suggestion about putting together our childhood photos for a wedding slideshow. Excited by this idea, side effects my loving fiance chattered on and on about how cute I must have looked as a kid and how it would be great if I could dig out some of my family’s old home videos to show with hers.
Meanwhile, in my mind a battle waged. Lisa’s seemingly innocuous slideshow idea triggered my panic button. With my gut wrenching itself into a knot, inarticulate feelings of anxiety and hostility welled within my body. Suddenly, I wanted nothing to do with a wedding at all.
Stopping abruptly I turned to Lisa and said, “I don’t want to have anything to do with this wedding. You can just plan it yourself.” Lisa gave me a stunned look. Pressing on in my half-crazed state, I told her that the only thing I cared about with regards to the wedding planning was having a really awesome dessert table at the reception. “I don’t care about the rest of the nonsense,” I said not so nicely, “I’m doing this only for you.”
What was supposed to be a romantic evening stroll had turned into a battle of “extreme statements.” “Fine then,” Lisa shot back, “If the wedding is just for me, then let’s just forget about the whole thing. I don’t want to force you to marry me.”
Knowing that I had hurt her feelings, I backtracked. “I do want to make a commitment to you,” I tried to explain, “I just can’t stand anything to do with an actual wedding, with guests, and walking down the aisle, and slideshows and all of that. Let’s just go get it done at a courthouse.” In the emotion of the argument, I had forgotten about a critical point: “Too bad we can’t actually go to a courthouse to get married,” said Lisa. Oh right, damn California.
But marriage equality issues aside, what was my problem? After all, I was the one who had proposed to Lisa, so clearly I was prepared to spend the rest of my life with her. But the actual wedding? Frankly, it scares the shit out of me. The slideshow incident wasn’t the first to have triggered my freak out button. A few months back while trekking through the Himalayas, Lisa had happily daydreamed aloud about her plans for a bachelorette party. Her comments sent me into such a dizzying tailspin of emotions that I couldn’t even talk to her for the rest of the afternoon.
I’ve tried to force myself to look deep into the source of my reactions, but I couldn’t quite articulate myself until our friends Krista and Gilda came into the scene. Like me, Gilda comes from a first-generation immigrant family. And like me, her family doesn’t accept her sexuality or her relationship with her partner. When we related the slideshow incident to Krista and Gilda during their holiday with us in Mombasa, Gilda said that she understood exactly how I felt.
“Those photos from your childhood are part of your memory,” Gilda said, “And you want people at your wedding to share in those collected memories with you.” Weddings are supposed to be a celebration of two individual lives coming together, a celebration with all the people who have helped bring up each person. But in my case, those people aren’t going to be at my wedding. There is no joining of two families. And that’s where my hurt lies. Yes, it’s great that Lisa and I have built up a community of “chosen family,” and yes it’s great that Lisa’s family fully accepts me with open arms – but nothing can replace the two people who have known me since the moment I was conceived into this world.
Last week, after months of avoiding the inevitable, I finally sent my parents the news about our engagement in the form of a video message. Given our family’s dynamics, I figured a video would be most personal without the risk of getting into a dramatic altercation. My dad replied a few days later with a short email telling me that they’ve watched the video multiple times over but were still too upset right now to respond to me.
That’s an honest response and it’s all I can hope for at this point. Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions. Indeed, I am truly happy to be making a lifetime commitment to this wonderful woman who loves me so well and puts up with my craziness. As time passes, I hope that the fears will subside and I’ll be able to think about our wedding with the proper amount of excitement. But however I may feel on the big day, I’ll at least have my dessert table to look forward to.