Friday, March 07, 2008

Assumptions, part deux

I thought that maybe, just maybe, folks in Massachusetts might assume that Mrs. Gerbil is my wife rather than my "special friend." In California, some admitted that they should know better than to assume that there is a Mr. Gerbil, but California does not have gay marriage. (Yet.)

But Massachusetts does have gay marriage. Mrs. Gerbil and I had a lovely Massachusetts wedding almost two and a half years ago. It is so nice finally to be in a place where our marriage is actually recognized; and in fact this was one of the major reasons for our move.

Unfortunately, it seems that my expectations were too high. Although same-sex couples have been happily (some might even say "gaily") getting hitched in Massachusetts for almost four years now, I guess changes in automatic thought processes take a little longer. (As a clinician, I should really know better, eh?)

Mrs. Gerbil and I have been attending classes at the hospital on childbirth and breastfeeding. We've also spent a few not-so-pleasant nights in the hospital when it looked like the gerb might make an early appearance. And we've had to explain our relationship a lot more often than I'd like.

At the hospital registration desk late one night, I indicated Mrs. Gerbil (who was sitting next to me) when asked for my emergency contact. "Oh," said the registration person, "is this your friend?"

"This is my wife," I said.

The registration person looked at me kind of blankly and said, "Okay, I'll type in 'cohabitant' for your relationship."

"No, she is not my cohabitant. She is my wife," I insisted.

"How about 'partner'?"

"We are legally married in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If your system won't accept 'wife,' it should at least recognize 'spouse'."

Pause. "Oh," she said, "okay."

In our childbirth class, we are the only same-sex couple. Our instructor is very cool and makes an effort to say "partners" instead of "dads," and to correct herself when she does say "dads." But the instructor for our breastfeeding class was not so inclusive. It was "dads" this and "dads" that--even though we were not the only pair of women in attendance. Granted, some of those pairs were moms-to-be with grandmas-to-be. But there were three other pairs of women who were the same age. They may or may not have been couples; but in any case, I wasn't the only one there without a man.

We were greeted by the instructor at the door. "Hi, mom," she said to me, "what is your name?" I dutifully introduced myself. "And is this your friend?" she said of Mrs. Gerbil.

"No," I said, "this is my wife."

A pause, and then, "Oh. Well, that's all right then." (Jeez, I should hope so!)

So this is all very frustrating. Every so often I wonder whether I should be crass and say, "This is not my 'friend'; this is the person who knocked me up!" But perhaps this is not the way to win hearts.

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