Herman and I have been partners for over fifteen years, and during that time he and I have attended every major gathering of his family: weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and Thanksgivings. I regularly go fishing with Herman’s brother and have done remodeling and yard work for several of his siblings. His family consists of thirty people spanning four generations, and although I don’t really fit in, I at least socialize with them every time we get together and everyone is cordial.
Last month, when it became legal for us to marry here in California, Herman and I were the first male couple to be married in Marin County. We posted pictures on our Chin Family blog, which let everyone know that we had tied the knot.
So to get to the point, this week we attended my mother-in-law’s 75 birthday party, a luncheon at a Japanese seafood buffet in San Mateo. We were the first to arrive and greeted everyone else as they came. Only one person there said a single word about our getting married, my sister-in-law, Diana. She gave me a hug and said, “Welcome to the family.” She said it with warmth, for which I was grateful, because she has never shown much warmth to me until now.
But my immediate response, which I thankfully did not voice, was what the hell would you call the last fifteen years? Does having a slip of paper from the government legitimizing our relationship suddenly make a difference? Apparently to her, it does. Diana, if you’re reading this it is not a slam on you, merely a comical look at how we as a society view relationships.
I was somewhat surprised, and perhaps disappointed, that Diana was the only in-law to mention it, but this morning I received the following note from another sister-in-law, which warmed my heart:
Alan and Herman
I once read somewhere that it was poor etiquette to acknowledge a marriage/engagement/shower by saying "Congratulations" or "Best Wishes". (I must not have manners, because these words come to mind at these occasions and I have to bite my tongue not to say them!)
That being said, Ed and I still desired to express our personal joy that we have for you both. I thought the appropriate way was to acknowledge the celebration of your life and future together, bound by love, health, happiness and peace. Many years of wedded bliss (in the Chin family!)