It wasn’t the welcome we expected. It did become funny, but only after nothing bad happened.
My girlfriend and I flew to New York City on August 27, 2011. We took a red eye and and sleeping pills, but I barely closed my eyes the whole flight. We stumbled out of JFK and got struck dumb by the humidity, because we are weather weak Californians. Somehow we made it to our friend’s 4th story upper west side walk up and she suggested we take a walk to beat the jetlag. That’s when we saw them.
Block after block of boarded-up windows spray painted with warnings. Get out Irene! Stay away Irene! We don’t want you Irene! Irene is my girlfriend. Irene is also the hurricane that hit the city the next day. Huddled in our friend’s apartment, we listened to the storm. All that wind. All that rain. The next morning, the only thing in the kitchen was a bag of moldy Zabars bagels, so we went outside, not knowing what to expect. There were downed branches and gutters full of leaves, but not much else. At least not where we were. The feared destruction hadn’t come to pass. Irene had been kind.
And five years later, she married me.
In 2016, all the rightness and wrongness of the world whipped the planet in unceasing waves of tribulation. Cultural icons fell. Babies washed up on beaches. I held the hands of my love and we married each other, legally (!). My white country family and her brown city family hit the same dance floor. We ate tacos and ice cream, and, thank the lord, no one made a scene. In November, we voted as newlyweds and that night I was too distraught to drink. Which was a first. I cried and cried and cried. Irene started joking about getting deported, except I don’t think she was joking.
A few days later, I got my hair cut at the very queer salon that’s also a portal to a different reality. Once the lesbian next to me said apologetically, “don’t get me wrong, I love my parents,” and the lesbian painting my hair with dye said, “girl come on, we all love our parents, but this is a safe space, what did they do?” And all the truth came out. Jokes in rainbow shorthand cause a row of chairs to erupt in giggles in the reg. There’s always someone talking about tarot and someone talking about the Drag Race.
But when I walked in two days after the election, Folklore Salon was silent as the grave. Everyone was either puffy eyed or still crying. None of us knew what to say, so there were long hugs and brownie drop offs.
Six weeks later I was back. There was some crying, but there was a little bit of laughing too. Obama was still our President, he would be for a little longer and we were clinging to his last days. We talked about plans for the new year. I told the native Angeleno transguy shaving the back of my neck that Irene and I were thinking about maybe trying to get pregnant, but now I didn’t know. Same sex and multi-ethnic… I mean, was that wise? He laughed. “Actually I think that’s perfect. I think you two having a baby is like the most subversive thing you could do.”
In a few weeks, I’ll start peeing on sticks until one tells me I’m ovulating. And then we’ll drive to our local lesbian-owned sperm bank and try to make some magic. Before then, we need to pick a donor. Our baby will have half of my DNA, so the sunscreen industry will be safe for another several decades. But what about the other half? “It would be cool if we could find a donor that’s Mexican and native like me,” said my wife back when we thought our baby would be born under the full moon of a female president. There is a such an option at the ‘ol sperm bank, but neither of us has said out loud if that’s still what we want.
What about a last name? Do we give our little baby my good Irish name? Or my wife’s good Mexican one? How subversive do we get with this new tiny human?
Oprah says there are only two emotions: love and fear. I’m feeling both, in nearly equal measure, like a hurricane in my brain all day every day. It has made landfall. The destruction is here and this time it’s real.
My grandfather told me that my gay marriage, or “you gals’ whole situation” as he calls it, taught him that time marches forward and he can march forward with it. He’s 85 and doesn’t even walk very well, let alone march. So if he can do it, so can I. I can make brave choices. I can protect my family. I can go to the salon and talk about mercury in retrograde. I can make my own signs and softly sing Goodnight Irene.
In five years, in ten, maybe all this tumult will feel pleasantly distant. Until then, I’m taking prenatal vitamins, starting secret Pinterest boards to save pictures of Danish modern cribs that my wife will never go for, and praying I’m doing the right thing for the tiny hands and tiny feet I hope will come into my life while we stand in the eye of all this wind and rain.