Dykes on a Cake

Individual states passed gay marriage before the beautiful Supreme Court ruling. My wife and I were lucky enough to live in one such state, and thus we were married back in 2011. There was a lot that went into planning our wedding. I’ll break it down for you, in case you’ve never planned one- music (we went with a DJ), cake (my priority), outfits (my second priority), photographer, food, venue, flowers (we didn’t have any, because we were married in December and wilting flowers irritate me), guests, and family. There certainly can be other aspects to wedding planning but for us those were the main issues. Venue, food, centerpieces, and music we nailed down relatively quickly…the cake took some time.

I wanted the cake to be delicious but also a decoration. Our wedding was Christmas themed, and I wanted the cake to be Christmas themed with two brides topping the cake. I was wearing a wedding gown, that I loved, and my wife was wearing a suit. It was tailored to look feminine, but two brides in gowns on top of a cake just wasn’t accurate. And clearly a male and a female on top of the cake also was not okay. I decided ultimately to ditch cake toppers. There would be no lesbian lovers adorning our cake. Instead I designed the Grinch cake.

My wife and I started dating in December four years prior to our marriage. It was a special time for us and still is for many reasons. It was the first period of stability my wife had after being kicked out of her parents home. It also was her first Christmas out of her family’s home. My wife grew up being told that she could only listen to orchestra music or religious themed music. The first time she heard Christmas music that was not religious themed was with me, baking cookies, singing loudly to the Grinch Soundtrack- the one with Jim Carey and Busta Rhymes rapping about How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I remember rolling out the dough for my candy cane cookies, covered in flour and peppermint oil; in my happy place listening to my favorite music. I remember looking up and seeing her face. It was a mixture of shock, delight, guilt, and curiosity. I remember I laughed and then asked what was wrong. She told me she had never heard Christmas music before that had a beat, or that did not revolve around the bible story of Christmas. I would also find out that she never saw any movies not based in religion.

Our first month we were together we both experienced many “first’s”. My wife because of her strict upbringing. For me, it was my first time ever dating a woman and I had never let myself be so vulnerable before as I was with her. She was introducing me to a whole new way of life, and vice versa.

There were dark times too, then and in the years to come for my wife. Deep pain and sadness that would erupt from her because of the years of repression and suppression.

At some point that month we watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas and that scene, at the end; when his eyes start watering, and his heart triples in size was especially meaningful for both of us. She was feeling and experiencing a new world of freedom and being herself when for twenty years she hadGrinchCake to be someone else to live up to her family and her church’s expectations. I was experiencing a new world emotionally, connecting with someone on a new level. The Grinch says, “I’m feeling” in this very squeaky, scared, and bewildered voice. That’s how it was for us both that first year. We were both feeling our way through a brand new world.

The cake was three tiers. Different flavored cake and frosting on each tier of course. It was topsy-turvy like Grinch Mountain. On the top sat the Grinch himself with his sled and Max on the tier below.

Many people that night asked us why we chose it, they loved it, but they wanted to know the story. I told people we couldn’t find two appropriate dykes to top it off so we went with the Grinch. I was not ready to share then what I am now because at the time I could hardly even articulate what it meant. That cake and the Grinch represented to us freedom, new beginnings, and our love. It represented the darkness we both came from, and the light we brought to each other. We cut the cake to the song “This will be an everlasting love…” and I thought there was never a more perfect moment.

 

Lesbian Family Portrait

My wife and I are in the midst of house buying and selling hell. For any one who has bought or sold a house you know what I mean. We have buyers…we have a house we would like to purchase and well the seller’s being difficult. We are supposed to close in ten days and don’t have anything finalized, and in fact we may have to walk away. Needless to say I’m on my way to developing alcohol dependency and thinking that though I’ve never needed Xanax, now may be a good time to find some.

But let’s back up. Because this post is not about buying and selling hell. Sort of.

About a year ago we put our house on the market. We had several showings and no bites. Three months in I looked at our house with a critical eye. We packed up half our belongings to make it look more empty, we had it painted, and overall I thought it looked good. Then I realized our living room was plastered with pictures of our beautiful family. Professional pictures, framed in lovely frames, tastefully done in my opinion; but I realized that our gay family was on display. I wondered if that was why we hadn’t received any offers. I called my realtor. She is lovely, she assured me in all her years she had not seen that. But she’s kind and compassionate, and I think she would not have told me even if she knew every family coming to look at our house was calling us dykes on their way out.

I stewed on this for a couple days before I approached my wife. I told her my concerns, that our house wasn’t selling because there were pictures of a lesbian family in the living room. She didn’t disagree. She told me she had been having those exact same thoughts.

I remember having this sinking feeling in my stomach. I am by nature cynical and my wife is not. So if she was having those same thoughts that meant there was definitely some truth to them. We were trying to have this conversation around our two toddlers, which was poor planning on our part. Due to frequent meltdowns and normal toddler intrusiveness we tabled the discussion until after bedtime.

Two hours later we were sitting on our couch, in our living room, surrounded by our favorite pictures. Our sons in their newborn shots, the two of us on the beach for our maternity shoot, and their most recent birthday shots at the park nearby. As mentioned in a previous blog post about lesbians and pregnancy, we worked very hard to have my sons. I loved being surrounded by beautiful photos of my favorite people. We faced a decision. Do we take down these pictures to try and make the house more anonymous for potential homophobic buyers? Or not.

We talked about it a lot. There were few different factors that went into our decision.

First off, we didn’t know how long it would take to sell the house. What if it took another year? I’d go an entire year without seeing my pictures? Second, my sons were and are toddlers. There are about a hundred times a day they try my patience. Which means there are about a hundred times a day I need to look up at their smiling faces in their individual 8″x10″ photos in my wall collage and be reminded that they are my happy boys. Because the wild beast in front of me is a far cry from that smiling face. Third, my wife and I collectively reached a point in our lives when we were comfortable enough with ourselves that we were able to say fuck it. Selling our house was absolutely important to us. But if it came at the cost of hiding who we are, when we have both sacrificed so much to be the family that we are, then it was not worth it.

We decided after a long dialogue to keep the pictures where they were. It’s unfortunate that we had to talk about our family photos as a potential turn-off to our house. Normally it’s discussions about the landscaping, the scratch on the floor, or the old appliances. But my wife and I had to discuss the fact that beautiful, professional photos of our family could detract from our home’s value to a potential buyer. It was painful, poignant, and once again brought to the forefront that our life is not the same as other heterosexual people’s lives. Our decisions are harder and our fear of discrimination always lurks beneath the surface.

Rationally we also knew it might have nothing to do with our photos and family composition. Our house has one bathroom. Maybe potential buyers so far wanted two. But being a part of a minority that faces discrimination brings with it a level of paranoia that it is always about our sexual orientation.

Buying and selling houses has so many components. Every tiny step along the way we had to face as a lesbian couple. Our attorney asked if we were legally married. He didn’t know gay marriage “was a thing”. I told him that gay marriage was actually a major legal case at the level of the Supreme Court. Then I thought maybe I need a new lawyer. Every contractor and inspector I spoke with asked what my husband’s name was and when they would meet him. It was small, innocuous things, but they build over time. An ever present reminder that we are different, more vulnerable. And it started with our family pictures.

We are moving in ten days. I packed the pictures today, wondering if the seller is holding off because he knows he is selling his home to lesbians. I packed the pictures lovingly in bubble wrap, hoping that in ten days they will christen a new lesbian home.