I’m not brave. Let’s make this clear. I’ve never been brave. From my childhood friend Laurie who trudged home in silent disgust with me one winter’s day when I refused to slide head first down a huge snowbank into a concrete parking lot, to the eighth grade science teacher who shouted “wussy wussy wussy” at me when I admitted to my fear of hornets during an entomology class, to a former boss who used to watch me looking out my office window at snow covered roads and say ‘oooh scary scary snow for your ride home!,” I’ve always been pretty easy game for people who loved to point out my fears and weaknesses. Time and age have helped me get over some of them. I don’t run away from bees anymore, and I can almost sleep through a thunderstorm, and a good solid four-wheel drive jeep has helped with the snow driving issue. But I’m far from considering myself brave.
This week I’ll have to dig deeper and harder than ever to find an ounce of bravery to do something that terrifies me- testifying before a legislative committee about my marriage. Yes, a mere four months after Kelly and I said our I-dos, ate cake, danced to “My Girl,” and opened gifts at our wedding, a series of bills is threatening our marriage. Our marriage. Our hum drum normal, tacos-on-Tuesday, Glee on the DVR, homework over the kitchen table, did you feed the cats yet, family life is apparently so deeply offensive to certain members of our state legislature that they not only want to repeal the law that allows for marriage equality but also to pass another law defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman. In short not only would no other same sex couples be able to marry but my marriage would be…. null. And that makes me angry. And when I get angry… I… cry. Ok that’s sort of embarrassing and undermines any ounce of credibility I can hope to have. But anger can also make me brave and I’m counting on the bravery part to over ride the crying part on Thursday morning when I will join with others to testify that marriage equality should remain legal in New Hampshire. And I’m terrified. I’m terrified of what the opposition will say. I’m terrified of crying and making a fool out of myself when I try to explain what it means to me to be married to the woman I love more than life itself. What it means to sit with my wife and daughter over Sunday night chicken dinners and know that this family is whole and healthy and legally recognized the same way as everyone else’s family. I’m afraid that somehow by testifying I’m opening my family up to hate and bigotry that we’ve never had to face before. I’m so angry that it has come to this at a time when our state and our country have so many real problems, and yet have the time and energy to create a problem out of people loving each other. There is a not-small part of me that wants to ignore these hearings, stay home or at my desk and pretend it’s not happening, leave the rallying and gathering and testifying to others better suited to it than I, people used to the political arena, people who are brave.
But I know that this is something I have to do. I have to do it for my family, for my friends who celebrated their own marriages and the births of babies this year, for my daughter’s young teenage friends who excitedly told me about “straight ally’ week at their high school and complimented me on the HRC sticker on my jeep. For the friends and family who danced at our wedding wearing ‘I like girls who like girls t-shirts.’ For the maitre’d at the restaurant Monday night who congratulated us on our first married Valentine’s Day. For the pride I hear in Kelly’s voice when she refers to Liza as her stepdaughter. I won’t lie. I’m still scared. But I’m hoping if I carry these memories and these voices with me that maybe I’ll find a way to be brave. And I’ll do what I have to do.
In the classic Broadway musical, “Funny Girl, “ Fanny Brice sings, “I’m Sadie, Sadie, married lady/ bow when I go by/ I’m a corporation now, not me, myself and I…” As a rotund 12 year old, I used to perform “Funny Girl” nightly (two shows on weekends) in my bedroom belting out that song even though I didn’t have any kind of a prepubescent clue what the lyrics meant. Nearly 33 years later I find myself substituting my name for Sadie’s and humming “I’m Katie, Katie , married lady,” under my breath and smiling.
Recently, (in my post “Exit Two”) I talked about how taking those hesitant, nervous steps out of the closet led me to a Thai restaurant, a baseball-hatted blonde with a penchant for old movies, and ultimately to a new life as a legally married couple. Our wedding was a gift. A brilliantly sunny day placed right in the midst of five days of rain prior and the five days of rain that followed. It was everything we wanted it to be, great food (so I hear, the only thing I ate that day was a piece of garlic bread Liza decided she didn’t want, and my piece of wedding cake, which necessitated a massive pizza delivery that evening), lots of wine (so much so that our hostess had to make a mid-reception run to the store for more – apparently we have thirsty friends), a tremendous amount of laughter, song, dance, and the overwhelming feeling of a yard-full of people surrounding us with what my friend Tara would call “love and light.” (I said that’s what SHE would call it, I think all that love and light came from everyone being pleasantly pickled by the time the ceremony rolled around).
So. Married. Shiny new ring – shiny new last name – joint wireless cell phone plan – MARRIED. “Do you feel different?” I’m often asked. Well, the short answer is. . . “sometimes.” I mean, not a whole lot changed in our day-to-day lives. We still bicker over my tendency to (as Kelly says) “leave all those hair products willy-nilly all over the bathroom counter” rather than putting them back neatly in the attractive bins she purchased. Her ever-loving need to put taco seasoning on popcorn or pretzels and then leave the can of seasoning on the living room side table makes me absolutely bananas. We both claim superior dishwasher-organizing skills and we still love to curl up with a marathon of our favorite Bravo shows (any Real Housewives incarnation, Millionaire Matchmaker, Top Chef, you name it). So in those aspects nothing has changed. But in other ways everything has changed. I thought I’d feel a little silly referring to Kelly as my wife…I didn’t. Instead I felt giddy and excited. Kelly’s role in Liza’s life seems to have solidified as she routinely handles after-school pickup, rehearsal drop-offs, lunch packing and homework help on nights my schedule doesn’t allow me to do so. Liza loves to call her “StepKelly” and make cracks to either of us that usually involve some variation of “did you hear what your wife said?”. We’ve always been a family but I didn’t expect to feel this deeply how good it would be to have our family recognized legally, publicly, and joyously by the people in our lives.
When I started writing “My Imperfect Truth” my tag-line referenced my insecurity, my uh…fat-ness, and my single mom status. Well, with this new life and this New Year upon us that tag line will be changing. I’m no longer a single mom, and while I’m still grossly overweight, I’m hoping 2011 will be the year I finally face that particular demon and wrestle it to the ground. Kelly and I have embarked up on a weight-loss escapade together. (Side note: I refuse to call it a ‘journey.” Can we all please agree to retire ‘journey’ as one of the most overused words of 2010, everyone from contestants on “The Bachelor” to yoga instructors seems to be using it. Enough already.) With a minimum of 60 pounds to lose, it’s not going to be easy but with Kelly along for the ride it’s already been fun. Check in with us next year to see how we’ve done. (That is, if we haven’t gone crazy from hunger and eaten the couch cushions). And, of course, my name has changed. So with all those changes, and at the urging and under the capable hands of the aforementioned, incredibly patient, unbearably creative Tara, this blog has a new home at www.thekatiecollins.com. Kind of has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? We’ve made some slight changes to the tag line but the rest remains the same. It’s just me talking about my family, bragging about Liza, giggling at Kelly’s wisecracks and snarking on her fashion choices (oh just wait til I talk about her Pilgrim shirt), wondering what to do for a living, reflecting on the people I’ve lost and miss so much, and worrying about an election that has already placed my brand new married status in peril.
Thanks for checking in with me from time to time, for reading, for commenting, and most of all for laughing with me. Although please be forewarned that any cheery “you can DO IT!” comments about my weight loss will be mercilessly mocked. As Kelly and Liza and I celebrate our “Married Christmas and a Happy New Life,” I send you all my best for a joyous holiday. May there be food and friends, wine and wit, and good tidings for you all.
A few weeks ago Kelly and I took Liza for her final fitting on her dress for our wedding. The bridal store was just off Exit Two in Nashua and as I drove down the long exit ramp I suddenly flashed back almost seven years to the time I got off Exit 2 to go to the movies for the first time with Kelly.
At that time in my life just getting out of bed was a challenge. I was in the process of divorcing and I was terrified about what the future would hold and how I could even begin to think about surviving as a single mom. I felt as though I was standing on the edge of a steep, tall cliff and I was either going to crash in pieces at the bottom or figure out how to leap hard enough to make it to the other side. I had lost my sister and one of my best friends within a year of each other, and I was unsure how or even if I could tell my mother that I was finally going to come out as a gay woman. A terrific network of friends surrounded me for whom I will always be grateful, but I was fearful of becoming “that” friend. You know the one. The one you see coming and think ‘Oh great, here comes Katie moaning about her divorce and her dead sister again.” I had no idea which direction to turn in, what road to take or how to parent my child. I was wracked with guilt about hurting my ex-husband and breaking up our family. I was lost. Sitting up one night I searched the computer for any kind of support group that might help a woman in my unique position. While I didn’t exactly find that I did find a notice for a local gay women’s group advertising a Friday night “Food Night”at a restaurant about 25 minutes away. I thought, “Well, I can talk to anyone over dinner. Maybe I’ll meet some new friends.” Let’s be clear here. I was not looking for romance. I was not looking for anything other than maybe finding a few women who might have been through similar situations and who might help me find some good resources to figure out where I was going. Taking a deep breath I emailed the event organizer, got directions and put my name on the list. It was time to start leaping.
I found my way to the tiny strip mall that housed the inauspicious Thai restaurant and entered to find a group of women chatting while the hostess arranged for their large table. A woman in a plaid shirt, baseball hat and I started talking about the latest season of “Survivor” (Pearl Islands in case anyone is keeping track) and instantly bonded over who we were rooting for (Rupert). “I know. Rupert right?” the woman said and then stuck out her hand to shake on it as if our shared backing of a bearded reality show contestant was a deal we were closing. “I’m Kelly.” She said. And so it was.
That night I laughed harder than I had in years. Laughed in a way I thought I’d forgotten how to laugh. Kelly mocked my choice of wine. “Ooh Shiraz…FAN CY!” (I loved this, for, like most people who use humor as crutch, I only mock people I really like). We chatted about seventies television, Oscar winners and tried to out-trivia each other. After dinner she invited me to join her and the group for ice cream down the road and we headed out with her best friend Jackie and Jackie’s then girlfriend in a convertible that nearly took our heads off when Jackie accidentally started raising the top back up. I didn’t recognize myself it was such a leap for me. But all I knew was I was laughing and happy in a way I’d forgotten how to be. When I got home that night I had an email waiting for me from Kelly. (This was pre-Facebook, otherwise I’m sure she would have ‘friend-ed’ me).
A few weeks later Kelly invited me to join her for a movie at a cinema near her home. “I live just off Exit Two” she said giving me directions. I accepted with a combination of excitement and trepidation and as I drove down the exit ramp I wasn’t sure what to expect. But then there she was opening the door of her condo and somewhere deep down I suspected life as I knew it was about to change. I didn’t start dating Kelly that night or for many months to come. I was skittish and nervous and busy trying to make some kind of order out of my new life. But little by little Kelly’s presence in that new life became a constant. She was there shoveling my driveway (which by the way she’s not so enthusiastic about anymore), taking me and Liza on outings and adventures, cooking me risotto, and leaving funny songs and trivia questions on my voice mail each morning. And little by little I found myself letting go of that breath I’d been holding. Little by little I found my smile again, my laugh again, and let down my guard and opened my heart and my life to this woman who lived off of Exit Two.
Today is our wedding day. After nearly seven years of movies, road trips, horrible tennis games, helping Liza with her school projects, and white wine and brie on the deck on Friday nights; after nearly seven years of growing together, leaning on each other, loving each other and most of all laughing with and yes at each other, we are getting legally married. And I’m so glad that the scared woman I was nearly seven years ago took that chance and made that drive down to Exit Two. Happy Wedding Day Kelly. I love you.