I remember taking this photo (below) like it was yesterday. It was spring 2000, and we wanted to commemorate the turn of the century with our young family. We bought coordinated shirts and a dress from Lilly Pulitzer, booked the appointment with a local photographer in Bucks County PA, and showed up on a Saturday morning ready to strike our pose.
The look on the photographer’s face when two gay men showed up with two young kids was priceless. He and his assistant were speechless. It had never occurred to me that there would be a problem with two gay men taking a professional photo with their kids. So naïve.
So as not to cause a stir or make the kids feel uncomfortable, I proceeded with confidence and asked them what we needed to do to prep and where we needed to be. I had gotten used to proceeding with confidence in awkward situations. Simply push through the situation and it’ll eventually go away and just become a memory.
The photographer literally didn’t say a word other than to give us simple directions on where to sit and when to smile — painful, to say the least, but I don’t think the kids noticed. Perhaps they too had gotten used to not noticing, even at their young age.
Flash forward 21 years and my husband and I need to find tuxedos for our daughter’s wedding. “My how time flies,” isn’t just a saying. Now we live in Manhattan so we just assumed that it would be a piece of cake to find matching tuxes for the fathers of the bride. We picked out a few stores to do our search with the hopes that we would be faced with a tough choice as to which were best.
Like the photographer some 20 years ago, we just assumed that we’d be embraced by the sales folks at places like Bergdorf Goodman. I mean this is Manhattan. These are luxury stores. I just assumed, still naïve after all these years.
Sure, they had no problem with two gay men buying tuxes for their own wedding — been there done that many times over. But for two gay men to buy tuxes for their daughter’s wedding was met with similar silence and side eye right from the start at said store. Either silence or a mix of judgement-filled questions like how on earth could two men raise a daughter?!? How on earth could we be planning a wedding for our child?!? Where’s the mother?!?
Year after year when the kids were young I had gotten used to the question “Where’s the mother?!?” But to tell you the truth, I’ve gotten out of practice on how to answer it.
After literally five stores, we decided to march back home with our heads hanging low. Out of the corner of my eye we spotted the new Nordstrom Men’s Store and pulled up enough energy to walk upstairs to the suit department where we were immediately met by Michael.
His first statement to us? “You’re too young to have a kid that old.” Progress. We found two matching tuxedos that were actually on sale that fit perfectly. I asked to come back in four weeks so I could lose some of my Covid-19, to which he smiled and said, “of course.” Four weeks later and ten pounds lighter, the tuxes got properly altered and we were ready for our next pose — 21 years later, almost to the date of the original, smiling into the camera. #FOB
So yes, we’ve just come out of Pride month to celebrate how much has changed and indeed it has. But also let’s not forget that we still have to navigate through the world with confidence and with our heads held high.