#YHZ – Spelling It Out

Hi! My name is Mo, and I’m super gay!

Being loud and proud can be a tricky thing for an introvert. I’m a private person by nature, and whenever I find myself in a crowd of strangers (a scenario I actively avoid at all costs), my first instinct is to find a quiet, out of the way corner where I can sit and breathe and be left alone. In moments like this, I wish to be invisible.

Kate and I recently returned from our yearly trip to Nova Scotia. This was our first visit as wives! My family is always extremely warm to Kate (if you ask me, they could stand to tone it down a bit), but the area I’m from is rural and extremely small. I’m never confident of how non-relatives will interpret us. I don’t expect harassment, necessarily, but I do prepare myself for mild confusion and inappropriate questions.

The Mrs and I aren’t big on PDA in front of strangers. I think that’s equal parts introversion and queer nervousness. If we’re out together and we’re not holding hands or touching, I can understand someone not immediately guessing that we’re a couple. But sometimes people don’t clue in even when I’ve explicitly spelled it out. When this happens, it comes across as selective hearing, and that sort of bums me out.


Unfortunate Moment #1

Kate and I have been talking about buying a home in NS ever since her first visit. This time around, we thought it might be fun to look at some real estate listings. We checked out communities in the vicinity of my parents’ place, and it wasn’t long before we found a couple of properties with ridiculously low asking prices. We decided to set up appointments to view them.

The first house we saw listed was dirt cheap. We weren’t really sure what to expect (turns out we should have expected complete garbage), but I excitedly emailed the real estate agent all the same. I specified that I would be bringing my wife along, and I signed the email with my given name, Maureen (which is decidedly female).

Kate and I were walking along the Halifax waterfront when a response from the realtor popped up on my cell. Excitedly, I opened the message.

“10 AM would work for me. How about you and your husband?”

Sigh.

I answered her email, gently clarifying that I had a wife, not a husband. She wrote me back to confirm our appointment, but she never acknowledged her error.


Unfortunate Moment #2

The first house was a no-go (for many, many reasons having nothing to do with the realtor). Later that same day, we met with a different realtor to view another home in the area.

As before, I had used the word “wife” in my initial email. We’d messaged back and forth a few times, without anyone referring to Kate as my husband. I was feeling positive.

Kate and I arrived at the house first. We started falling in love with it before the realtor even unlocked the door. We followed her into each room, listening intently as she described the home’s quirks in a cheerful tone. She described the area we’d be living in and expressed how important it was to support the local economy. She insisted that the community needed people like us (young, I guess?) to help it thrive.

We said our goodbyes with big smiles, and we parted ways. Kate and I spent the rest of the afternoon talking excitedly about what it would mean if we could get this home. I was tickled when I glanced at my phone and discovered that there was an email from the realtor waiting! And then I read it.

“Hi Maureen. Nice to meet you and your daughter today.”

Double sigh.

I don’t have a daughter. I have a wife. She’s only seven years younger than I am. Also, I used the word “wife” in my initial email. Gah!

Because this was a house we were actually interested in, I sent a reply indicating (for the second time) that Kate is my wife. I asked whether the people of the community were going to give us flak for that. The realtor assured me that there were same-sex couples within the community that were loved and accepted (such as the United Church minister). That was good to hear.


Unfortunate Moment #3

My brother Mike is a karaoke fanatic. On Friday nights, you can usually find him up onstage at the bar where he works, singing his heart out. Months before we arrived in NS, he made us promise to spend at least one Friday night at the bar, so we could hear him sing, and possibly even get up on stage ourselves. We did, and it was a riot.

Mike is well known by all the karaoke regulars. He’d been telling everyone about our impending visit for weeks, so there were a lot of people who wanted to meet us. We shook hands and said hi to lots of folks. Sometimes we introduced ourselves, and sometimes Mike made the introductions.

“This is my sister, Mo,” he beamed proudly, patting my shoulder. Then he gestured at the cute blonde seated across from me, whose hand I may have been holding, and said, “This is her wife, Kate.”

The woman learning our names turned towards Kate and widened her eyes.

“I finally get to meet the wife!!” she exclaimed. Kate smiled politely.

“No, no,” Mike corrected. “She’s not my wife. She’s my sister’s wife.”

“Oh!” the woman recovered. After a beat, she squeezed one of my hands and one of Kate’s, nodding enthusiastically at us both and smiling widely.

“Hey, you know, good for you! Good for you guys!”

Uh… thanks?


Why does this sort of thing bother me so much? Isn’t invisibility a welcome state for an introvert?

Yes and no. While I frequently prefer to fade into the scenery, it also really pushes my buttons when I feel like I’m not being heard. Maybe it’s because social energy is a finite resource for me, and I resent having to spend it repeating something I’ve already said. Maybe it’s because having to declare something bluntly and clearly is more taxing than just slipping it into the conversation and expecting it to be absorbed. Who knows?

Kate is my wife. There’s nothing in this life I’m prouder to be able to say. Being with her makes me radiate joy from the inside out. I guess it just hurts a little when people look at us and don’t see any of that.

It would be easy for me to label this a “rural” problem. But that would be dishonest. Just last week, Kate and I went to the dentist here in Edmonton, and once again I got mistaken for her mother. It must be the gray hair, insists my wife.

Maybe. Or maybe most folks simply don’t have a “Wives” slice on their Wheel Of Possible Relationships yet.


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