Friday, November 8, 2013

Meet the...parent

A few weekends ago, I met Elle's dad.

This was momentous, both because it happened, and because it wasn't absolutely terrible.

I haven't written much about Elle's family. Partly because it's not really my story to tell, but mostly because a lot of what's happened with them, around Elle's gayness, and our relationship, has been pretty sad and upsetting, and therefore difficult to write about.  Over the past year and half, Elle has heard some pretty terrible things about her sexuality from her family--they've been waiting for the "phase to pass", wondering if she just can't find a man, and that's why she's dating me, thinking that her dating a woman (and, scandal of scandals, a black woman) is just a tactic to upset them and make their lives difficult.  They've refused to acknowledge my existence when speaking to her about her life, etc., etc.  There have been times when Elle and I have looked at each other and wondered aloud if maybe I would just never meet her family, because at times, based on the things they've said and the way they've treated her, imagining a world in which we all ever be in the same room just seemed...impossible.

Pretty heartbreaking stuff.

So, yeah, needless to say, I have had some very-not-nice feelings about Elle's family, have been appalled by some of the things both of her parents have said and done, and have wondered how I would actually ever meet this man and behave with any semblance of politeness. (By the way, Elle did meet my parents, and a large chunk of my extended family, several months ago, and it was...a thing. I guess I should write about that, huh? Maybe I'll get around to it for the book? Maybe.)

But then, as it turned out, her dad was going to be in town, at Elle's apartment, helping her move the last of her stuff from her parent's house to hers (the final exodus). Elle and I live in nearby buildings, so it really would have been SUPER ABSURD for me to not to help with the moving-things-from-car-to-apartment phase of the move. So Elle bravely suggested this to her dad, and he said he was fine with it--with meeting me--and so, just like that, it was happening.

I was nervous about it. How the hell was this gonna go? Would I be able to resist giving him stink eye the entire time? Would he be nice to me? Would it be terribly awkward the entire time???

As it turns out, the answers are-pretty good; yes; yes; no!

When I came out of my building to head to Elle's place, she and her dad were actually heading up the walkway. I reached out my hand to shake her dad's hand and...he hugged me. I was stunned. And immediately thought "Oh, so he's gonna be...nice?" It was completely jarring, honestly.

And the rest of the day went like that. He made jokes, he made reference to both me and Elle dealing with the mountain of stuff she'd brought with her, he was very charming and fairly funny, and bought us brunch, and wine, and a bottle of very delicious whiskey.  He reminded me, totally and completely, of my own father.


I guess this really shouldn't have surprised me so much--Elle and I talk often about how our mothers are cut from the same cloth, which seems to have resulted in us being extremely similar in some key ways, I think from having reacted against similar sorts of narcissistic and confusing mothering to become the people we are.  So it shouldn't' have been a surprise, then, that our fathers are also so alike. It really shouldn't have been. But it was.

And...I kind of liked him.


So, since this momentous day, Elle has been more freely mentioning to him what she and I are doing, that we liked the wine, that we were trying the whiskey, etc. He has explicitly told Elle to tell me hello. It's nice.

And strange. And surreal.

Meanwhile, her mother can't even form the words to acknowledge that Elle's dad has met me, and likes me, when she can still barely handle my existence. But, you know, one step at a time.