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19 June 2010 @ 09:48 pm
Wife.  
Best Beloved and I have been together for 18 years. At first, I said I wouldn't say I was a wife, or that I had a wife, until I could have a legal marriage. And then I had a legal marriage (obtained during the brief period when marriage was possible for us in California), and I still hesitated to say "wife," largely because if I made a list of my 2,000 favorite words, neither husband nor wife would be on it. I just don't like them. But, you know, it's important for me to say it, all the same. We're married, and there are a lot of Californians who can't get married, and there are other Californians who'd like to take our marriage away from us. It matters that people hear me talk about my wife; it helps them understand that my marriage is just the same as anyone else's. It helps them define my marriage as normal, not society-destroying or child-harming or boils-inducing or whatever the latest claim is.

I also get a certain amount of evil pleasure out of the word. (This is in addition to the regular, ordinary, non-evil pleasure, of course.) In my neighborhood, we are beset by many types of door-to-door people - magazine subscription sellers (my absolute least favorite), "fundraisers" who never seem to have the card they are legally obligated to carry to raise funds door-to-door in my county, appointment schedulers, sellers of various products and services of dubious usefulness.

And these people are very, very good at dragging out a conversation I don’t want to have; basically, I would have to slam the door in their faces in order to get away from the pitch. So I take joy in the following conversation, which always happens:

Door-to-Door Guy [yes, they are always men]: So, you and your husband -
Me: Wife.
Door-to-Door Guy: *blink blink*
Me, in a helpful, explaining tone: I don't have a husband, I have a wife.
Door-to-Door Guy: *assumes the expression of a dog who has just run at top speed into a sliding glass door he didn't know was there*

[There is a pause of variable length as Door-to-Door Guy scrabbles back onto familiar ground. Familiar ground is, of course, agree with the potential customer.]

Door-to-Door Guy, blinking off his tharn: That's cool!

[Door-to-Door Guy inevitably embarks on a lengthy speech about his sincere belief in equal rights, sometimes only slightly undermined by such remarks as, "Can you do that? I mean, like, legally?" or "But you're not really married, right?" My favorite was probably, "But have you tried it with a guy?"]

I actually award points to the Guys based on how fast they recover and how believable their sudden declaration of Equal Rights for All is. I expect a speedy recovery and decent acting skills in exchange for my wasted time, I tell you what.

But my point is, wife is my word. I choose to use it. I make other people use it, and sometimes I deliberately make them uncomfortable with it.

Other people avoid it. They aren't sure what to say, so they come up with a weasel word ("friend" is my least favorite of those; it never fails to make me want to say, "Actually, I prefer 'fucktoy'"), or they avoid the whole thing, or they pretend I have some other relationship that makes them more comfortable than the one I actually have. I am used to hearing people say, "So she's your roommate?" or, "She's your, um, um, mmmmm?" or, "Well, I don't have a way to put that into the computer, so can we just say she's your sister?" (True statements all!)

There have been improvements, of course. Years ago, I used to spend a lot of time patiently scratching out "husband" on forms. These days, actually, the forms mostly fit our family fairly well. We were Parent 1 and Parent 2 on the earthling's preschool forms this year (except on the one mandated by the state, where we were father and mother), and we're mostly Parent 1 and Parent 2 everywhere. But the people taking the forms are often kind of puzzled. The best we can generally hope for is something like our recent conversation with the lady who comes by your house when you forget to send in your census form (whoops), which went like this:

Census Lady: Okay, so you're - um, you're going to have to help me pick the right one, here, because they didn't cover this in my training and I haven't had another couple like you so far, so - what do you want to be called?
Me: Married. We're legally married.
Census Lady, selecting the appropriate box: Oh, that's wonderful! Okay. Married. So, what is your relationship to the child, [earthling]? [This is the price you pay for forgetting to mail the form, fellow US citizens: you have to answer these questions after they are carefully read to you by someone trained to be very, very clear about each one. Best just to send the thing in, really.]

My point is, usually there is a disconnect somewhere. The Census Lady had no actual problems with married lesbians, but obviously it was not something even considered by the people who trained her (or the people who trained the people who trained those people, or the people who designed the trainings, or the people who signed off on them, or any of the other many people involved, and this is the federal government so I'm guessing it was a lot of them). The person who wanted to make Best Beloved my sister was personally clueless, although it turned out her computer was not - it was happy to accept wife and wife.

But that is not what I wanted to talk about, actually.

Recently, we had another insurance snafu, compounded by an unfortunate phone fail on my part, which resulted in the earthling and me showing up for his speech therapy appointment only to be told that we could not have it, as his re-approval is still pending. (No, we could not just pay that one session. As mandated by our insurance, the earthling has speech therapy in the outpatient rehab department of a hospital, and while the medical professionals at that hospital rock, the billing department does whatever the opposite of rocking is, to the extent that Best Beloved used to have to call them up and beg them, beg them, to tell us what we owed them in copays, or, alternately, to accept a check that wasn't for precisely what we owed, applying it to the balance or carrying it forward. Neither of these things ever happened, by the way. After many useless phone calls, we'd send a check and get it back a week later with a sticky note on it saying it wasn't for the amount owed, but they still wouldn't tell us how much that was. We eventually gave up pleading with them to let us give them some money, and now assume they will let us know how much they want if they actually do want any. So, you know, these people cannot do accounting for copays; they surely cannot cope with the financial exigencies of self pay.)

Anyway. The person who manages the appointments and also the insurance stuff called me over and said, "I called and left a message on your home phone. I wanted to call your cell, but I don't know your name, so I didn't know which of these numbers were yours, and I didn't want to risk calling your wife and maybe bothering her at work."

Under normal circumstances, I would have fixated on the part where she assumed that our son's medical care would be less important to Best Beloved than two minutes of her working day, but I didn't even think about that until we were back in the car, because: wife. The officer manager (who, by the way, is married to a man, and wears a cross every day, and who has two or three kids and is pregnant with another) said it like she says it all day long, like it was every bit as normal for me to have a wife as it is for her to have a husband. And, like I said, I have been with Best Beloved for 18 years and officially and legally (at least for now, please don't fuck up again, state of California) married to her for almost two years, but no one has ever called her my wife before without me forcing the issue.

For the first time ever, there was no disconnect anywhere. The insurance manager looked at our form, saw two female names for Parent 1 and Parent 2, and thought, I have no idea which wife is the one I see every week. Crap. I'd better figure that out. And when she was talking to me, she called Best Beloved my wife.

Which she is. But it has taken half my life to hear that from someone's mouth naturally and totally unprompted. Two days later, I am still blinking in surprise.

It was, I'm not going to lie, awesome. Maybe not entirely worth the wait, but awesome all the same.

And it even made me like the word "wife."

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
 
 
 
Merlin Missy: Kara and Ivy (small)mtgat on June 20th, 2010 04:58 am (UTC)
:D That is pretty damned awesome.
tried to eat the safe banana: Superwomanthefourthvine on June 20th, 2010 07:15 pm (UTC)
Indeed it is!
spiffikinsspiffikins on June 20th, 2010 05:01 am (UTC)
yay for clueful people!

and, personally, I think "wife" is awesome - I have several heterosexual couples that I know, that have been together for decades, and aren't married - and I get all tongue tied at how to refer to their other half in general conversation - "girlfriend" just doesn't seem right, after 20 years and 2 kids together :D

joycejoyce on June 20th, 2010 12:57 pm (UTC)
My hackles used to go up when someone called my honey my husband (almost 7 years, 3 cats, one mother-in-law, one house, no kids, no legalities), but I've mellowed a lot. I still don't use the word myself, but if someone else is going to make that assumption, I've gotten used to it. Because, you're right, girlfriend and boyfriend is kind of silly at this point. :)
(no subject) - uncacreamy on June 20th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - joyce on June 20th, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - spiffikins on June 20th, 2010 03:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on June 20th, 2010 07:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - duckyjane on June 23rd, 2010 01:20 am (UTC) (Expand)
keerawakeerawa on June 20th, 2010 05:08 am (UTC)
My favorite was probably, "But have you tried it with a guy?"

2 steps forward, 1 step back, but I like to think things are ever so slowly getting better. YAY!
Denise Raymond: barneyrattlecatcher on June 20th, 2010 05:31 am (UTC)
My favorite was probably, "But have you tried it with a guy?"

2 steps forward, 1 step back, but I like to think things are ever so slowly getting better. YAY!
</em>

And also, that that's one salesman who didn't close any deal... ;)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on June 20th, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
when regiment is gone: Queer historykindkit on June 20th, 2010 05:12 am (UTC)
Census
I'm sorry, but not surprised, that you had a bad experience with the Census enumerator. I worked as one myself this year, and there was a very troublesome disjuncture between what the Census Bureau was telling the LGBT community on the one hand and, on the other, the way it was training its employees.

When I was being trained, somebody in the group asked what to do if someone identified a person of the same sex as their spouse. And the trainer said, "Oh, no, don't check 'spouse,' that's not legally recognized in our state, check 'unmarried partner.'"

At the end of the day I told the trainer I thought that was incorrect (not just morally wrong, but actually contrary to Census Bureau policy) and asked him to find out. And that night I myself checked the Census website, where I discovered that the Census specifically asks same-sex couples who consider themselves married, even if their marriage is not legally recognized where they live, to describe themselves as married.

So it all got cleared up in my training session. But if I hadn't had a vague memory of reading about the policy, and then been insistent with the trainer about it, a whole group would've gone out thinking, like the person who came to your door, that they weren't allowed to check "married" for same-sex couples.

I don't think my trainer was acting maliciously. I think he'd just been badly trained himself, because the policy wasn't seen as a sufficiently high priority to warrant the time. Which is appalling.
Zigismunda formosamelannen on June 20th, 2010 06:31 am (UTC)
Re: Census
I got the impression that my trainer hadn't actually been trained - that the trainers were walked through the same thing they gave us, and that was it. They didn't know any more than us.

If you asked my CL/trainer any questions that weren't in the book (and some that were) she either got it wrong or had to ask her supervisor. If she'd been someone who was more likely to fake knowing the answer than admit she didn't, we could have come out with all sorts of wrong info.
Re: Census - kindkit on June 20th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Census - tricksterquinn on June 20th, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Census - kindkit on June 20th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Census - tricksterquinn on July 8th, 2010 01:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Census - thefourthvine on June 20th, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
lightning rod for criticism: yellowannakovsky on June 20th, 2010 05:15 am (UTC)
My favorite was probably, "But have you tried it with a guy?"

Oh dear God.

Man. I'm so bummed by most of this entry but it's so awesome this woman actually said "wife" so naturally.
Insane_duckfishinsane_duckfish on June 20th, 2010 12:02 pm (UTC)
I know! Oh my god, like, I know people get asked this (I never have been, but it's on all the bingo cards), it's not that I can't believe someone said it, but... a door-to-door salesman? REALLY? A stranger knocked on your door and asked you if you had ever tried sex with a guy? I just... THE MIND, IT BOGGLES!
(no subject) - uncacreamy on June 20th, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - insane_duckfish on June 20th, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - uncacreamy on June 20th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - insane_duckfish on June 20th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tricksterquinn on June 20th, 2010 03:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - stasia on June 20th, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - insane_duckfish on June 21st, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tricksterquinn on July 8th, 2010 02:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - insane_duckfish on June 21st, 2010 11:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tricksterquinn on June 20th, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on June 20th, 2010 08:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
shadow and mirrormollya on June 20th, 2010 05:18 am (UTC)
We had a wedding - religious, not legal - 13 years ago, when the idea that it might someday be legal wasn't even on our radar. We started saying "wife" then to be in-your-face about it, even though it made me uncomfortable to say "wife." I am still uncomfortable saying it sometimes, 13 years and a legal marriage later.
the pirate queen of norwayashkitty on June 20th, 2010 10:34 am (UTC)
Yeah, two of my boy friends have been married to each other (religious, not legal, as well) for 9 years now, and they started saying 'husband' right away, along with the legal name changes and stupidly but necessarily complex legal contract. To close friends, they tend to just refer to each other as 'the Boy' the way thefourthvine here says Best Beloved, but it's always 'husband' out amongst other people.

I've never liked the word (or any word, honestly, that implied I was a Grown Up Woman), but I think if I married another woman I'd stick with using it, too. ;) Single, probably perpetually, so it's a moot point.

Words are v loaded, aren't they?
(no subject) - thefourthvine on June 20th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
emma_in_oz: Billabongemma_in_oz on June 20th, 2010 05:24 am (UTC)
That is so lovely, so heart warming.

tried to eat the safe banana: Superwomanthefourthvine on June 20th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)
It really was. Look, Emma! Change is happening!
Denise Raymondrattlecatcher on June 20th, 2010 05:34 am (UTC)
Whew! I was steeling myself for a story that would make me blind with kill kill kill!

Instead, just lovely.

And to quote one of my own stories (yes, my ego is just that big):


"I get coffee at the place across from the plant," he said. "Nice girl. Italian, from way down on the boot. Always has new pictures of her kids and her - what's the word... domestic partner. You like that? Do guys say that about each other, domestic partner?"
"I like husband," Ray, my Ray, said. His voice was raspy. He seemed to be back in our world. "I already had a wife. Benton gets a husband, I get a husband."
spiffikinsspiffikins on June 20th, 2010 06:55 am (UTC)
okay now on the basis of that snippet, you *must* provide a link to the full story :)

(no subject) - rattlecatcher on June 21st, 2010 05:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dormouse_in_tea on June 20th, 2010 07:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rattlecatcher on June 21st, 2010 05:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dormouse_in_tea on June 23rd, 2010 12:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - stasia on June 20th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rattlecatcher on June 21st, 2010 05:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on June 20th, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rattlecatcher on June 21st, 2010 05:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
dancinguniverse: spirk marriagedancinguniverse on June 20th, 2010 05:42 am (UTC)
That lady in your story makes me really happy.

I tend to use the word partner myself, when not given a different word by someone. I think it was being raised along the feminist line that the word wife is infused with patriarchal blah blah blah, it's important to some people, but wife is just... normal in the good way, a lot of times. Partner has a tendency to sound clinical to me, whereas wife just sounds well worn and obvious. I don't know. I hear both sides, on the word choice. But sister, roommate, and friend all suck. Not even remotely the same. Here's to more people seeing what's right in front of them.

tried to eat the safe banana: Superwomanthefourthvine on June 20th, 2010 09:38 pm (UTC)
wife is just... normal in the good way, a lot of times

See, yeah, that's why I'm making myself use it. Wife is not my favorite word, not at all, but it is normal. Partner sort of emphasizes difference; wife makes me like everyone else.
AO+uncacreamy on June 20th, 2010 05:46 am (UTC)
This made my week.
tried to eat the safe banana: Superwomanthefourthvine on June 20th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
Made mine, too. *g*
kudrakudra2324 on June 20th, 2010 05:53 am (UTC)
this made me tear up. thanks :).
tried to eat the safe banana: Superwomanthefourthvine on June 20th, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It was an awesome experience, I tell you what.
cranberryink: 0: bill & ted excellentcranberryink on June 20th, 2010 06:07 am (UTC)
This is totally an awesome story. It is going into my personal file of positive queer experiences related to me by others. It might even top the one of my college friend who came out to his Italian Catholic parents from Louisiana and they completely embraced and accepted him without hesitation. ♥

I make other people use it, and sometimes I deliberately make them uncomfortable with it.

Also, this. This makes me love you a lot. Because I would do the exact same thing.
tried to eat the safe banana: Superwomanthefourthvine on June 20th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
It might even top the one of my college friend who came out to his Italian Catholic parents from Louisiana and they completely embraced and accepted him without hesitation. ♥


Awwwww. Yay parents prepared to acknowledge a positive outcome!

Also, this. This makes me love you a lot. Because I would do the exact same thing.

Well, of course! If people are going to HAND me that opportunity, I have no choice but to use it, right? IT IS A MANDATE FROM ABOVE.
(no subject) - lizey on June 21st, 2010 04:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
Spectacles H. Decolonizinglolaraincoat on June 20th, 2010 06:08 am (UTC)
This made me teary, too.

I never wanted to be a wife, either, it's never been a happy word for me, and for that and several other reasons, have not legally married my partner. It turns out in Canada we're common-law married anyway, and that's what one says here in filling out the forms or talking to the census-taker or whatever: oh, we're common-law partners. The only time that's ever been a problem is talking to US border people, who are very insistent sometimes that you're not a family member if you're not married (as one of them put it while sending my partner to the back of the line after waving me through.) It seems very old-fashioned to object to a man and a woman living in sin, but apparently even that remains an issue for some of the Homeland Security folks.

The arc of history bends toward justice, but it sometimes jiggles a little on the way there, you know?
starfishchick on June 20th, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
My common-law spouse (a man) and I (a woman) always ask before we go through at the airport if they want us to go together or separate ... explaining that we are travelling together and common-law but not married and have different last names. Usually they say together but not always. (The last name thing is because US forms often have one space for FAMILY NAME and then spaces for first names - Canadian forms have spaces for each person's individual name.)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on June 21st, 2010 03:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
kungfunursekungfunurse on June 20th, 2010 06:11 am (UTC)
Awwwwww. Here in the the chilly north of Minnesota, I'll likely never have a legal wife. But I'm hoping someday to be able to call my girlfriend my wife and have all my friends happily accept and return the favor.
tried to eat the safe banana: Superwomanthefourthvine on June 21st, 2010 04:08 am (UTC)
Oh, I hope you will. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, because - seriously, when BB and I got together, I didn't think we'd ever be able to get legally married, and sixteen years later, we were! May sanity on this subject come to Minnesota soon.

And I'm hoping that while we wait for official sanity, informal interpersonal sanity will soon be the order of the day. *g*
zee on June 20th, 2010 06:14 am (UTC)
This is so, so very much not the point of your post, but I was just reading comments written by this hateful, angry little woman who describes herself as a True Christian, and my shoulders were around my ears and my head was pounding and I was getting crazy-eyed with wrath. I switched tabs, seal-clapped upon seeing your new post, started in and quickly felt my shoulders creeping up again in dread.

I'm a straight advocate for gay rights, and I have been since I was a kid, raised in the theatre by hippies and drag queens. I'm also Christian, raised lovingly in the foot-washing, river-dunking, born-again tradition. There's no clash there, for me; but I live in absolute dread of people who share my faith behaving like ignorant, hateful asshats. I'm lookin' at you, Tea Party. ANYWAY, my POINT is that I'm glad you were treated the way you should always be treated.
zee on June 20th, 2010 06:24 am (UTC)
(Because otherwise my head would have just given up and gone kaboom. *hugs to you and BB and the Earthling*)
(no subject) - uncacreamy on June 20th, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on June 21st, 2010 04:12 am (UTC) (Expand)