Category Archives: Public Perception

To Cali and Back

two giraffes facing each otherWe made it to California, mostly unscathed.  Then there was the plane ride home.  Whew.  You should always know you are in trouble when there is no in-flight entertainment.  M was a gem, slept with an eye-mask on, played quietly.  The guy in the seat next to me decided that his lack of movie and my son’s sweet napping were really invitations to spill his entire life story.  This despite my obvious engagement in a serious series of solitaire games.

I was polite for a long time, felt like hours.  Then I mentioned something about my partner.  He said, “Oh, so you aren’t married either?”

“I have been married for 10 years.  It just isn’t legal in many states.”

Of course, he took that as an open door to let me know what he thought.  He proceeded to tell me that his girlfriend has gay friends (meaning men) who, “you know.  They say they want to get married but they don’t even know what that means.  There are real responsibilities that come with marriage.  They don’t get that.  They just want some of the things of marriage, not everything.  I mean, come on.  I hope I didn’t offend you.”

Remember: I am stuck on a plane with this guy.  I am actually stuck in the middle seat, on a plane, next to this guy.  Then it gets better.

Within ear shot of M, he says, “How’d you get him? Adopt or what?”

I say, “My partner gave birth to him.”

“How does that work?”

Knowing he also has a two-year old son, “How did your girlfriend get pregnant?”

He laughs and says he knows how she got pregnant.  I point out that it was a pretty personal situation that led to his girlfriend’s pregnancy and that they probably don’t go around talking details (like positions) that led to her insemination.  He was quite uncomfortable, but I really didn’t care.

To all of you who might ask just because you are curious, don’t.  It is none of your business.  If you are trying to figure out your own process and need information, PLEASE ask away.  I will be more than happy to answer any questions.

I realize this post is a little rambling.  There is probably more I could actually ramble about, but the aforementioned is what stands out.  I am trying to forget that guy and just remember when M saw the giraffes at the San Diego zoo.  Priceless.

-Betsy

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Tractor Ride

ImageThis evening, we went for a tractor ride around a farm near where we live.  It was the three of us, a man, a woman and the driver (the husband of the woman in the back with us).  We had a lovely tour of the farm, but the whole time I could tell they were trying to figure us out.  S told M to go sit by Mama and I told him to wave to Ima.  We asked all sorts of questions about them on the twenty-minute tour yet they didn’t ask us a single one other than M’s age.

Halfway through the ride, the drive stopped and asked M if he wanted to ride with him on the tractor.  He did and loved it.  Buckled in, he bounced all around and hung on for dear life.  At the end of the ride, I walked over to the tractor to collect M and the driver said to M,”Here is…um…someone you know.”

Fascinating.  And accurate.  My son does know me.  What went through my head was that all of these people were judging us.  They couldn’t figure out how the three of us fit.  They didn’t see that we are cogs from the same wheel. They didn’t see us as a family.

The reality may have been that the driver and the other people in the trailer with us didn’t even think twice about our family.  The reality may have been that the drive stumbled over his words because he is in his seventies and was handing me a heavy toddler from above.  The reality may be different from my reality.

Obviously, I can’t get into someone else’s head to know what they are thinking.  Sometimes, I would just really like to get out of mine.

-Betsy

Pissed Off

Ok, queers.  Get your shit together.  Here is a story that really makes me mad:  Back in 2005, after things had gone south in their relationship, two women in North Carolina went to court over who should receive custody of the child they conceived together.  This child was being raised jointly by both mothers.  The non-gestational mother was granted a second-parent adoption (back before it became illegal as a result of this court case).  When the gestational parent decided that she was more well suited to mother the child, she took the non-gestational mother to court saying that she never should have been granted a second-parent adoption in the first place.  The case went to the NC Supreme Court which sided for the gestational mother, negating the non-gestational mother’s adoption of the child.  She was granted joint custody with limited rights to see the child.  Whoopie.  WHY DO WE DO THIS TO EACH OTHER?

I know several cases involving lesbians where one gave birth to their child[ren] and once the relationship dissolves, the gestational mother decides she is more of a mother than the other.  BULLSHIT.  I have heard bonding used as a reason for this.  Sure, a baby may bond with its gestational mother first, especially if breast-feeding is involved.  But there is SO much more to parenting than breast-feeding.  What about caring for the breast-feeding mother? Changing diapers? Feeding the adults? Cleaning the house? Rocking? Shushing? Walking? Shared sleep deprivation?  I could go on.

Gestational mothers pulling this shit makes me really angry.  Not only do I feel angry for what they are doing to the non-gestational parent, but I feel angry for what they do to the queer movement.  Recognition of our families is vital for our children to grow up feeling seen and respected.  When they pull this, gestational mothers are saying, “I am really the mother.  Not her.”  Fuck you very much.

My kid didn’t come out of my vagina and he hasn’t ever suckled at my breast, but I am his real mother too.  100%.  Try to prove different.

-Betsy

Farmers Market 101

images-1M. and I took an excursion this afternoon in search of plants for around our house.  We spent a couple hours perusing the many vendors, petting baby goats and having some nice quality time away from the house.  In the midst  of all of these luscious plants was a food stand.  M. wanted a snack so we ordered and hung around for a little while.  The people who ran the stand were quite friendly and, since it wasn’t crowded today, they kind of sat around and chatted with us while M ate.  I noticed they had accents from somewhere up north and they informed me they are from Philly.  Internally, I breathed a sign of relief hoping this meant they would be more accepting than the stereotype of someone from rural North Carolina.  Up until then, there was a little voice in the back of my head hoping they didn’t ask about M’s father and set us all up for an awkward conversation.  I HATE that I still have this internal dialogue.  But it is my reality.  I expect people to be mean and judgmental as a self-protective measure.  Most of the time, people aren’t like that (as least outwardly) so I end up being surprised, which is a lot better than being unprepared.  There were no awkward moments with these kind people.  They didn’t ask any personal questions.  M ate and we were on our way.  Maybe one day that internal dialogue will be gone. Today, it is still there.  Not as loud as it once was, but whispering just loud enough to be heard.

-Betsy

And..what do you do?

Baggage

I always find this question disconcerting.  I internally stumble a little while I grasp for the words to define me: artist, writer, therapist, mama, jill-of-more-than-one-trade.  I was at a gathering for queer parents the other day and this question came up.  When I ask about a person, I try to choose my words carefully: “How do you spend your days?”  The usual answer is about what they do for a living and not who they are or what feeds their soul.

I am still trying to tease this all out and to not lose some of my self-worth to my lack of a paycheck.  I love what I do.  I am raising a stellar human being who will go on to raise other stellar humans who will continue our legacy.  Even still, I cringe a little when I tell people I am a stay-at-home mom.  I even fumble over the words, “Oh, I …stay home with him.”  What I should be saying is, “I am so lucky to get to spend my time with this amazing person just being his mom.”  And I do feel lucky.  I do.  Sometimes, though, the old baggage gets flung open and I feel like I should be doing more.

I have heard a million people talk about “having it all” in life.  Meaning, career and family.  For me, I think having it all means the family part.  One day maybe I will publish a NY Times bestseller.  Or maybe not.  Either way, my life will still be full today and tomorrow.  Now if only my baggage can get the memo…

-Betsy

People Say the Most Stupidest Things (Seriously, Y’all*)

I think this may have to be a new weekly post on the blog.  Since it keeps happening, I am assuming the pattern will continue.

While at a local restaurant (yes, I am now realizing how many sentences I have started this way), we were chatting it up with one of the owners with whom we have been friendly for over a year.  We aren’t best friends forever, but she is kind of loud and sometimes funny and I like that in a person.  Back to family brunch- There we are, enjoying our grits and fruit and eggs and said owner comes and sits down.  After a few minutes of catching up about her children’s lives, the restaurant and about us, we started talking about M and his luscious surfer curls.

Owner lady looks at S and, trying to determine the origin of such enviable locks, says, “Well, he’s half yours, isn’t he?”

The other “half” she was referring to was not me.

S looked at her kind of stunned for what felt like 2 minutes, but was really about 4 seconds, “Uh…I gave birth to him, if that is what you mean.  He’s half Betsy’s, too.”

“Yeah.  I thought so,” she replies without blinking.

The shit that comes out of people’s mouths is astonishing sometimes, like their question is so important it doesn’t matter who may or may not be offended in the asking.  To be honest, I wasn’t totally offended.  Because this woman is brash, it came as no surprise that she said what she said.  If we were closer friends, I would have said something to her and I am sure her response would have been (after a playful punch to the arm), “Oh you know what I mean, loser!”  Yes, loser.  I know what you mean.

-Betsy

*For those of you not from the U.S., y’all is a very southern term referring to ‘you all’.  We like to speak with as few letters as possible down here.

Awkward

Remember how the other day I said that no one has ever asked me about physical attributes of M’s “dad”?  Two days ago some one did.

M and I went on a tour of a pre-school (YIKES!). The room was tiny, like a walk-in freezer with windows and small people milling about and toys all over the floor.  After about fifteen minutes of awkward play, M was ready to go.  On the way out the door, one of the teachers asked how old he is.

“He turned two in December,” I told her.

“He’s really tall.  Is his dad tall?”

“He doesn’t have a dad,” I replied.

Before I could explain,

“Oh. How tall are you?”  She didn’t stop to breathe.

“I didn’t give birth to him.  His other mother gave birth to him and she is also 5’6.”

“Oh.  He’s tall,” she said like a closing paragraph summing up the thesis.

The topic of conversation did not feel awkward, but this woman sure was!  I think she must be used to talking to adults in really short spurts throughout the day, never being able to have an entire conversation at one time.  Her speech was rushed, quick like a bunny.  Before I could even formulate a thought in response, she was wiping a nose with one hand and holding a book she was reading aloud in the other while I was breathing deep for her.

-Betsy