tried to eat the safe banana (thefourthvine) wrote,
tried to eat the safe banana


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.
Tags: [real life]
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