“Ugh, I have to go to a wedding this weekend for my uncle,” said a girl during lunchtime to my 11-year-old.
“Why don’t you want to go?” she asked. “Weddings are fun.”
“Well, he’s marrying a man! Gross!”
My daughter was quiet as the other girls confirmed the storyteller’s disgust with their own giggles. Some moments later, my daughter asked calmly what exactly was wrong with same sex marriage. The girls looked back at her silently. One finally asked, “What’s THAT?”
Then it was my daughter’s turn to giggle. She explained easily. “When two people of the same gender fall in love and get married, it’s called same sex marriage. My dad’s a rabbi and does weddings, of all kinds, a lot. He’s gonna do my cousin Sarah’s wedding to another woman next summer.”
The girls went back to their sandwiches and all was quiet. Food for thought, as it were.
“Well, I still think it’s gross and my parents do, too,” volunteered the initial storyteller.
I was rather shocked to hear this story. For many reasons, not the least of which was the courage my daughter had to stand up to these girls. This is a new school and a new group of friends for her. I know I would never have dared to go against the crowd at her age, let alone at my own! My girl relayed the story easily. She said she didn’t feel worried being the only one with a different opinion about this, but was, of course, relieved when another girl finally voiced a similar opinion on the subject. This occurred recently, at a big-ish public school in Los Angeles. The population of the school is fairly diverse, so my initial surprise at the lack of information was transformed into empathy and curiosity.
Where had my girl learned all this? She always seemed to have a bit of a head start on kindness, but what else? We are not a particularly political family that goes to rallies or watches the news together. We are more of a cuddle up and watch “Modern Family” kind of team. When she was little, though, a close family member was in a same sex relationship. We were awakened during that time to the importance of the language we used in our home. For instance, when we would play those driving games like “A my name is Amy, my husband’s name is Adam…” we became vigilant about expanding the rhyme. The song morphed into “A my name is Amy, my husband OR WIFE’s name is Adam or Allie…” Yes, even at the expense of tampering with the tune.
This topic was making a deeply regular appearance in our synagogue as well. Not only was our temple hosting more and more same sex weddings, but my girls regularly heard their dad, the tall and handsome guy’s guy of a rabbi, stand in front of his large congregation and firmly declare that love binds people of all colors and shapes and genders. Period.
I am proud of my child that she was able to stand up for what she believes to be true in front of others who believe otherwise. She did not seem to do so with superiority of fury, the way us adults can do, but instead seemed to hold her ground simply and firmly. She said she was trying to tell the other girls that it must be hard to feel so differently about things that seem to be the norm for everyone else. Kind of a universal point, if you ask me, irrefutable really regardless of your actual stance on what the difference might be.
I am struck, as I often am, by how ignorant I can be. Our congregation is very accepting and progressive. As an actress and a yoga teacher as well, I come into contact mostly with like-minded people and artists who are open about their sexual ambiguity. The variance of lifestyle choices is the common thread.
I am grateful that within this environment, my children are sorting through their own identities and beliefs. I hope it can continue to educate me—and them—as we step into this very uncertain time where tolerance for “the other” stands in question. I hope she can remain simple in her observations when things like this come up, so that she can continually question the notions and not berate the person espousing them. I hope she can continually remind me to hear someone whose scope I think is narrow-minded in the same, open manner.