Archive for Here come the brides

When is a wife not a wife? When she’s a non-gender-specific pronoun

I started planning this post when we were on honeymoon – ran sentences through my mind, chatted about the subject matter with L – but what with the jet lag and the starting back at work and the having approximately ONE BAJILLION THINGS to do at work… Time kinda got away from me and it’s about time I sat down and actually wrote this goddamn blog post.

So here goes…

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have been aware of a bit of banter I had with @heidistephens and @hilary_w shortly after my wedding where we discussed how the novelty of saying that I had a wife certainly hadn’t worn off yet.  To be honest most of the conversation involved us sending messages composed entirely of the word “wife”, but it was rather amusing.

And I still haven’t got over the novelty of saying it.  I address L as “wife” whenever possible and it’s been fun being back at work and being able to ask people, “Do you know where my wife is?”

But it’s funny – funny strange, not funny haha – that in some situations I find myself holding back.

Before we were married, I’d refer to my “partner”, or my “fiancee”: both words that carry unisex connotations (unless you write the word fiancee, obviously!).  A while back L had a toothache and I went out to get her something a bit stronger than the ibuprofen we had in our bathroom cupboard.  I explained to the pharmacist that my partner had a toothache, that regular painkillers just weren’t touching it and enquired whether she could recommend anything stronger.  She suggested a pack of co-codamol, asking me, “Is he on any other medication?”

I said no, paid for the tablets and left.

I like to think of myself as an out-and-proud gay woman.  So what the fuck stopped me from using a gender-specific pronoun, or even correcting the lady when she referred to my partner as “he”?  I told myself at the time that it didn’t really matter – I was literally at the point of paying for the product and who cares if the pharmacist in Morrison’s knows I’m a big lezza? – but I couldn’t help feeling a sense of disappointment in myself too.

Maybe part of the reason I’m so enchanted with the word “wife” is because I know it does – even in this day and age – still have the potential to blow people’s minds.  Just yesterday one of the new teaching assistants at work asked what my husband did.  Of course, because I am out at work it was no problem for me to correct her – in fact it would have been far worse if I hadn’t! – but I could tell that I’d thrown her and she felt like she was in the wrong for making the assumption I was straight.

Still, as much as I wouldn’t have wanted her to feel badly, her reaction was preferable to others I’ve encountered.

Before the wedding we visited a few wedding fairs.  Most were quite civilised affairs that gave us ideas, inspiration and products to choose from.  Others, however, made you feel like Del Boy was stalking you, trying to shove his product or service down your throat.  At one such fair we encountered Ron, the Toastmaster.  We were there with my mum and had quickly cottoned on to the hard sell that was coming from all angles.  Consequently we tried to maintain a minimum two metre radius between us and any stalls, studiously avoiding eye contact with any stall holders at all costs.  Unfortunately, Ron managed to collar us.  “So, which one’s the bride then?”

“We both are.”

“What?  Both of you?”

“Yes, we’re marrying each other.”

“No.”

“………Um….yes.”

“You’re having me on!”

At this point my mum had to walk away, but he had L trapped so I stayed with her, not that it did much good.  He asked for the date of the wedding and then proceeded to tell her, in great detail, how he would announce her and her new husband, make her feel like a princess – because when her husband first clapped eyes on her in her wedding dress, he’d think she looked like a princess – and then announce their first dance as husband and wife.

We got out of there as soon as humanly possible (although, to be fair, that was also where we found our photographer so it wasn’t a total loss) and I was left completely bewildered that someone could be so, well, so ridiculously homophobic.  Because ultimately, although he didn’t overtly criticise or insult our sexuality, his attitude was one of complete dismissal of the concept of two women marrying one another.

And that was a situation where one might expect to encounter a gay couple planning on getting married.  You wouldn’t necessarily expect it at the pharmacy in Morrison’s.

But then, why not?  Why am I so afraid that if I admit to a perfect stranger that I prefer the fairer sex, I will blow their tiny little mind? Most likely, even if they do have some kind of problem with it, they won’t comment.  And my honesty might actually make people realise that it’s not so weird after all and that, OMG, gay people are people just like US.

When we got off the plane in Mexico, we had to show immigration forms as we went through Passport Control.  One form was a general “what is the purpose of your visit” form and the other was in regard to whether or not you were bringing anything you shouldn’t into the country.  The latter form had to be filled out per family, so I filled one out for both of us.  As we handed it over, the Mexican official asked us if we were related.  I had a moment of inner panic as I weighed up the seriousness of Customs and Excise with the likelihood that Mexicans were going to be okay with gay marriage and eventually blurted out, “Yes, we’re married.”

Without batting an eyelid, he dropped our form into the little box in front of him and said, “Okay, have a great vacation.”

If I was guaranteed that response every time, I know I’d have no problem announcing to the world that I have a wife.  I could even probably tolerate the “Ohhh, good for you!” response that sometimes comes with it.

But I know that, really, I need to suck it up, grow a pair, and just be goddamn honest with people because, until we drum it into the Ron’s of this world that lesbians really do exist and actually are normal, high-functioning members of society, we’ll never get to the point where our sexual preference doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.

I wouldn’t want my children to feel like they can’t tell people they have two mums, so I need to lead by example.  It’s funny, because coming out to my friends and family was never an issue – I knew they’d all be accepting and happy for me – but there’s a real fear of the unknown with regards to coming out to strangers and that’s sad.  Our liberal, Western, modern world still isn’t a place we can all feel totally comfortable and accepted by everyone, but I guess only we can begin to make it that way.

Honeymoon in Mexico

On Thursday morning, we touched down at Gatwick after our two week honeymoon to Riviera Maya, Mexico.

After two days at home we are still struggling to get over the jet lag, but our two weeks away were, without doubt, two of the best of my life.

Our hotel was gorgeous, right on the beach.  We went all-inclusive, so the only thing to do really was lay by the pool drinking cocktails.

We went on a couple of excursions, visiting Chichen Itza, the ancient Maya ruins; swimming in an underground cenote and snorkelling with whale sharks, the biggest fish in the sea.

Mexico excursions

Because we were on our honeymoon, we had a few little perks tied in to our holiday.  We had a romantic dinner on the beach (that only got rained off just before dessert, so that was okay); we had a massage in the Spa; we had a bottle of champagne in our room on arrival and housekeeping often left us swans made out of towels decorated with rose petals.

Honeymooners

We had an absolutely fabulous time and really didn’t want to come home – although the mosquitos were starting to wear me down, seemingly immune to however much insect repellent I sprayed all over myself.

It was amazing and relaxing and I couldn’t have asked for a better honeymoon.

Honeymooners

Now we’re home and thinking about having to get back to the grind when school starts back on Monday, and about our impending appointments at Guy’s, the prospect of which is very exciting.

We also got an email from our wedding photographer to say our pictures are ready and online so we can choose around 60 for our album, which he will then print, put in the album and send to us, along with a CD of proofs.  In the meantime, we can look online and so can our friends and family.  The pictures are brilliant and I love how totally happy we look.  There are over 400, so it takes a while to get through them all, but we’ve looked at them about 3 times already.  In fact, I think I’m going to publish this, click on the link and look at them all again.

Mrs and Mrs

We did it.  On Saturday 13th August at 2pm, in front of over 100 family and friends, we tied the knot.

I had spent a considerable amount of the preceding week obsessing over the weather (as you can probably tell, the ceremony was outside) and the morning of the wedding was no different, particularly as I watched a light rain fall continuously outside the window less than four hours before the ceremony.

But the rain stopped, the sun came out and we had an absolutely perfect day.

Walking down the aisle I was shaking.  I reached the end and turned back, eager to see my bride being led by her father.  As soon as I first caught a glimpse of her I could barely hold it together.  She looked so beautiful.

The ceremony was really beautiful, and remains my favourite part of the whole day.  We had a bit of a “Wills and Kate moment” when L struggled to get my wedding ring on (my hands were hot!), but it fits and I haven’t taken it off once.

It really was amazing to declare our love for one another in front of all these people.  It felt so special and neither of us minded being the centre of attention.

We don’t have the official photos yet.  They won’t be ready until September.  All I can say is, thank god for Facebook.  I have spent the last couple of days looking through various different albums uploaded by friends and family – and driving my wife mad by tagging her in EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

But how amazing to have all these images of our wedding day almost immediately.  I was so flustered by the time my hair and makeup was done and I’d stepped into my dress, had all my skirts adjusted and my shoes put on, that I didn’t even glance at myself in a mirror.  I’d have no idea what on earth I’d looked like as a bride if I hadn’t been able to log onto Facebook and see all these amazing shots.

The food at the venue was to die for – although I was still too pumped with adrenalin to eat much – and our cake was absolutely out of this world!

I literally had a perfect day.  It could not have been any better.  Everything went to plan.  The speeches were HILARIOUS.  Everyone had a great time and much wine did flow.

And best of all: I married my best friend.

Name, rank or serial number?

Today there is less than a week until the big day.  Two weeks of the summer holidays have gone by.  The first week seemed to go pretty slowly.  We had lots of jobs to do organising final details for the wedding and when we reached the weekend, I couldn’t believe we’d only been off school for one week.  This week has gone MUCH faster, however, and I have no clue what bizarre things time will do next week.

I’ve really appreciated this time we’ve had off work, as it has allowed us to get so much done and we are now in a position where, with the exception of a few tiny jobs (like writing thank you cards for the best men and bridesmaids), the wedding is all planned and paid for.

My favourite job last week was putting together our table plan and table names.

Despite the fact that having two brides automatically puts our wedding into the category of ‘alternative’, for the most part our day will be pretty traditional and quite elegant: we are both wearing long, white wedding dresses; we have bridesmaids, flower girls and best men; we are getting married under a gazebo and our wedding breakfast is in a beautiful, thatched mews.  We’ve also not spared a lot of expense.  We’ve saved hard and paid for most of the wedding ourselves.  At no point have we really compromised on what we wanted because of price.

Because of this, we decided that one area we’d be happy to cut a few corners and save a bit of money was in the table plan.  We were more than happy to make the table plan, table numbers and name cards ourselves, using our printer and nice card from a craft shop.  We decided early on that this would be our one major ‘budget’ area and then didn’t consider it again for a while as – obviously – the table plan needs to be done much nearer the time.

We were chatting with one of our bridesmaids several months ago about the tables.  We had decided against a traditional top table, wanting not only to have a round table rather than a long one, but also to sit with our bridesmaids.  The three of us were chatting about table numbers and how the numbers can create a sense of hierarchy that we didn’t really want.  We discussed the concept of naming rather than numbering tables.  We had seen this in various wedding magazines we’d read, but had no idea for a theme and so had discounted it almost immediately.  We’ve not travelled a lot together (which seemed to be a common theme for table names) and we don’t have a movie or TV show that we both bonded over.  The fact that we are both teachers didn’t seem to present many ideas either.  “What would we name the tables anyway?” I asked, writing off the whole idea.  “Different famous lesbians?!”

We all laughed and carried on chatting over our lunch.

Later that day, I spoke to L about it again.  “Is it me, or is naming the tables after famous lesbians actually an AMAZING idea?”

“It’s either total genius or total insanity.”

So we set about seeing how many well-known lesbians we could actually come up with.  We decided they had to be pretty conclusively out, so some names went on the list and then came back off when Wikipedia failed to back up our suspicions with concrete evidence.  We also stayed away from lesbians who are mostly only famous within the LGBT community (Sarah Waters fell down on that count unfortunately).  Once we had about 18 names, we tentatively addressed the idea with our bridesmaids.  “Okay, so our concept for table names… Is it fun and interesting or crazy and inappropriate?  Please be honest!”

The bridesmaids all loved the idea and, to be honest, by that point, we were totally sold on it.

I found pictures of all the ladies on our list and created files that looked quite elegant and could be printed onto high quality ivory-coloured card.  We made the table names double-sided, so that the reverse could contain a couple of interesting facts about each Sapphic star – generally what they are famous for and something about their life as a lesbian.

I’m really, really pleased with how they’ve turned out and absolutely cannot wait to see them on each table.  With a guest list that is predominately straight, we hope that not only will our table names be a bit of fun and a talking point over dinner, but also that people might be surprised and learn something they didn’t know before.

I’m happy to share the files if anyone is interested.  Just let me know in the comments box or drop me an email.

Like a kid at Christmas

Q: When is not a good time to let your mind wander during the headteacher’s end of year speech?

A: Just before he mentions your upcoming wedding and calls you up to receive a bunch of flowers.

Apparently our faces were a picture.

The last day at work was really lovely.  Okay, so I spent the morning tidying and organising and throwing out a whole load of junk, but that was swiftly followed by a lunch with all the staff where we said goodbye to those who were leaving and – unexpectedly – received flowers and a card ourselves.  It made me come over all emotional, which doesn’t bode well for the big day, although I blame it on the fact that we really weren’t expecting to have a fuss made of us and everyone was just so *lovely* and *excited* for us.

So now the holidays have begun and we have less than three weeks until the big day.  Things are coming together and the details are being finalised.  My to do list is getting shorter and we’re starting to get REALLY excited.

We have our second (and possibly final) dress fittings tomorrow and may well be bringing our wedding dresses home!

Emotions are running high, but mostly these are fluffy, rainbow and kitten type emotions, rather than scary hormonal-fuelled crying jags (although these are not completely absent).

In three weeks time we’ll be married and packing for Mexico.

I am SO. GODDAMN. EXCITED!

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