"Yoo-hoo, you in the carpool line, aren't you a LESBIAN?"
"Hey you in the front row at the winter concert, I hear you're a LESBIAN."
This is mostly my problem. Apparently the majority of the other parents at this unnamed, posh private school are not thinking about my sexual orientation every time they see me. The problem is I think they are.
Being a lesbian parent is hard work. Not only do you have to change diapers, clean up poop and vomit, negotiate temper tantrums, pump your breasts, and earn a living, you have to remember that not every hurdle you encounter in the outside world has to do with the fact that you're a lesbian mom.
Some of them--the hurdles that is--do. But many don't.
I think I know this. I tell people all the time that my experience of parenting is that children trump all. In playgrounds across Boston, I have found my status as LESBIAN mom is second to a) how cute my daughter is in her new snowsuit, b) whether or not I have a band-aid, and c) how skilled I am at negotiating a battle on the see-saw.
Still, I falter.
Case in point: my daughter, the effervescent and scrumpdilicious Betsy, was new to school this year. She had spent two years at a preschool she adored but at which we were the only lesbian family. For kindergarten and beyond, we had the incredible fortune to enroll Betsy in a prestigious private school devoted to diversity and able to boast six lesbian families in its incoming kindergarten class.
So when Bets announced she wanted her new friend Zoe (not her real name) to come over for a play date I didn't hesitate to contact Zoe's mom. I had met her at curriculum night and mentioned the girls were hitting it off, and she had said oh yes let's try to get them together.
The phone message: "Betsy would love to have Zoe over for a playdate if Zoe is comfortable coming home with us one day otherwise we could all go out for lunch."
The email response: "That's sweet of Betsy to want to have a play date with Zoe. However, it is difficult for us to have play dates during the school year. Thank you for understanding. Sincerely, Wanda."
I tried not to think the worst, that Wanda had been forthcoming when she and I had spoke. But she had since then met Faith, Betsy's other mom, which means, since we originally spoke, she had learned Bets has two moms.
In five and a half years of childrearing no one had ever said, sorry no play-dates. And the girls loved each other.
On my blog (www.areyoumymothers2.blogspot.com) I took a poll and most of my readers – gay and straight - agreed, "if it smells like poop..."
The poop in question was homophobia. Was Wanda giving us the royal dis because we're a gay family? Or did Zoe really just never have play dates between the months of September and June?
And now for the complicated part: Zoe's family is African American.
At our little, swanky school, diversity is the calling card they put out to lure new families. But diversity is a wild boar of a concept. Just because you represent one minority doesn't mean you're fond of another. We all know there are racist, homophobic, classist white people. But we kind of assume people of one oppressed group will be fond of those of another. After all, they're all in it together. Right?
There are racist gay people, anti-Semitic brown people, homophobic Jewish people, and crazy, unexpected white people who actually are fond of everybody.
But what to do?
I couldn't let it go. To let it go meant I was complicit. "Thank you for understanding." It suggested I understood, and I didn't.
But I couldn't be 100% certain her rejection was about homophobia. I could be 99.9% certain, but not 100%.
I drilled Betsy, "Does Zoe ever go home with anyone? Does anyone ever go home with her?"
Her answer: "Yes, no, I don't know. Can I get a Webkinz?"
I contemplated asking Wanda outright, of asking Betsy's teacher, the dean of students, the police. A couple months of this brewing and stewing went by, and then last week it happened. I ran into Wanda at a fairy princess birthday party. When first I saw her from afar, saw that she was in a room I was about to enter, I realized had no idea what I was in for – a cold shoulder, a forced smile. I gave her wide berth. I didn't want to call too much attention to myself, to her, to our past interaction.
But she saw me.
And, as soon as she did, she came rushing over and gave me a big hug.
We had the friendliest chat, during which she offered a fuller explanation about why they don't do play-dates, one that had nothing whatsoever to do with Betsy having two moms and everything to do with some compulsive, painstaking effort to prevent any children from feeling bad if they can't accept a play-date (so they have decided to do none at all until the summer when the children aren't around each other to compare social lives). I can't say I understand - hurt feelings are an unavoidable part of growing up. Still I am much relieved, and humbled.
As we talked our daughters sat squished next to each other on a single chair. Wanda insisted we have a play-date the moment school lets out for the summer. Betsy and Zoe want it to be a sleepover.
Later that day Betsy showed me how she and Zoe pretend to kiss each other on the lips. If there's anything that will bring out the lovelorn obsessions of two six-year old girls it's not letting them see each other after school.
I was thrilled and chagrined, happily the wiser for having been so wrong, reminded once again that not everyone is all the time thinking about me and my sexual orientation. One woman thinks she's protecting children from hurt. Another thinks everyone's a homophobe. We each have our issues.
Meanwhile, I need to keep an eye on Betsy, lover-lips. Not because the daughter of lesbians shouldn't be kissing other girls, but because strep throat is going around the classroom.
Geez. Don't go jumping to conclusions.