Each post this week serves a dual purpose: an exploration of the topic at hand as well as a re-introduction to big ideas this blog will be grappling with.
My Polish grandmother (aka Babci) regularly sends me cards on the holidays. Often there is a check in there with instructions for me to “get myself a nice dinner” or “have fun with friends.”
Recently, she’s started including my partner, Sara, and sending her a card and check as well. This is adorable and hugely generous of Babci for two reasons. First because the additional card and money is unnecessary: it should be obvious I’ll spend the money on the two of us, not just myself. Second, because Sara and I aren’t married and don’t plan to be. My grandmother was married to my grandfather for *fifty years* and is still reasonably Catholic. Let’s be honest, we’re all a bit surprised she’s quite so accommodating. The fact remains that she is so accommodating and understanding.
My parents’ generation dealt with the scorn of “living in sin.” What’s bizarre is that though my parents and Sara’s parents are nothing but loving, accepting, and supportive of the two of us, they are also a bit weirded out by us not being married. We’ve been together nearly a decade, longer than most our married friends, but it’s still a bit odd.
The question I have been asking myself is “Do I owe Babci an explanation?”
The feminist-gender-queer critical theorist in me says “hell no! I don’t answer to your heteronormative standards.” The guy who appreciates that his parents and grandparents pretty much rolled just accepted things as they were and never made the whole thing an issue even though it bugged them says, “maybe I do need to explain this.” The part of me that wants to understand how people go from believing something is bad to something is tolerable-but-not-for-them to something is normal and a-ok says, “what does she actually think about the whole thing?”
I’m not about to explain why Sara and I aren’t and probably won’t get married in this post. That’s not the point. The issue at hand is if I should sit down with Babci and explain it to her – the answer isn’t obvious. There is a kind of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell vibe to the whole thing. Babci doesn’t ask and I don’t tell. But we all know how well that policy went.
The bigger piece here is respect for Babci. She is up there in years and has some kooky theories (lord help me if I’m 80+ and don’t) but she isn’t an idiot. Moreover, she has already made the decision to accept how I express love, it’s only fair to share why.
I bring all this up because things are changing fast. We have new broadly accepted ways of living and loving that were unpopular 15 years ago and unacceptable 30 years ago. Those who love us but don’t understand and aren’t necessarily thrilled by these changes have earned a discussion on the topic.
Why? Because we might be missing out on something. I want to talk to my parents and to Babci not to explain my way of life but to investigate theirs and, in the process, find my blind spots. Our generation has reaped huge benefits from the work of those before us who pushed the envelope of personal liberty. It’s now our responsibility to make sure we aren’t losing traditions and values just because they came in out of date packaging. A lot of countries and generations modernized without abandoning essential parts of their culture.
If I can get Babci to understand, chances are pretty good I can convince a few other people too.