Dyke Cousin: Part 3
I wrote about my dyke cousin (by marriage) in an earlier blog posting. To read the previous parts 1 & 2, please check out this post.
Wang Yin and I had still never spent anytime alone together when I came to Shandong the third time, which was when Guo Jian and I got married. Only two years after we’d met and fallen in love, there I was with his family and my parents and my dear friend, Cheryl, (my queer witness from Canada). We were all gathered for dinner the week before the wedding to get to know each other and I was a blur with translating and hosting.
Mashing up our families was like a clown show at a circus. The laughter was constant, which is good, because even though everyone was confused, the mood was joyous.
And the noise!
If one aunt was yelling at my mother to do something, she was then yelling at me to tell her what was happening, and then Guo Jian was interrupting my mother to yell over to me to translate for my dad who was trying to say something to my father-in-law through Guo Jian who didn’t understand him enough to be his translator, but my father-in-law didn’t realize he was being spoken to by my father anyway and was commenting on something that my friend Cheryl was doing to Guo Jian’s uncle and mother, and then Cheryl wanted to know what they were saying to me so she was asking me what was happening… and… it never ended!
I barely ate my dinner that night because my attention could never be focused on my food, let alone the fact that my mouth was in constant translation service to other people’s words and it didn’t get much of a chance to chew!
Because I was spinning out about the reality of what was happening, I wasn’t thinking much about the disconnect that I had come to expect with Wang Yin. After all, wasn’t I her future cousin-in-law? My queerness was getting more and more invisible with every tick of the matrimonial clock, no matter how much we both preferred men’s jeans or had similar taste in sneakers.
I wondered briefly if my friend Cheryl’s presence might have been a clue to Wang Yin. Cheryl is six feet tall and has short cropped hair, broad shoulders, and, like me, she was socialized in the same queer community that I was. Meaning: we don’t express femininity in a stereotypical way. We were brought up in our twenties with a different gender standard, so what can I say? She’s one of my peeps.
Halfway through the meal, Guo Jian and I left the busy table for a much-needed respite to use the facilities. Cheryl was just coming back from the bathrooms and complained with a laugh in the hallway that she had just been ushered into the men’s room by a confused employee. It wouldn’t be the first time that would happen to her in China. I translated for Guo Jian and we chuckled at her impersonation of the shocked employee shaking a mop at her only to realize that she had breasts. The employee then bolted the other way, embarrassed.
As Cheryl returned to the dining area and we continued on to the bathrooms, I said to him then that I hoped Cheryl’s presence might clue Wang Yin into the fact that her cousin-in-law-to-be is also part of her queer family.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you. I told Wang Yin that Cheryl is queer and has a girlfriend. I also mentioned that you used to have girlfriends.” And without so much as a pause or a breath to gauge my surprise, he went on to say, “She said that she knew. She had read about you on the Internet. 啊我忘了告诉你。我跟 Wang Yin 说了Cheryl也是同性恋也有女朋友。我也说你以前跟女的在一起。她说她已经知道了，她在网络看到了。”
You forgot to tell me?
I stopped in mid-stride. He turned and looked at me quizzically. “What’s wrong? You had that article written about you when you first came to China by the lesbian community in Beijing, remember? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. She knows. 怎么了？第一次来中国不是有北京拉拉社会给你写的一个文章吗？反正, 无所谓, 她知道了。”
Yes, she knows. But didn’t he tell me not to come out to her as it would make her uncomfortable? And, when did I give him permission to come out for me, as though it was his place to diclose? But wasn’t this what I had wanted all along? Maybe he had done me a favour and saved me an awkward conversation with someone I still barely knew?
I went on to the bathrooms with him, stunned and full of emotional fireworks. Sparks were spewing in every direction from my heart and head and I found myself just dumbly absorbing the bright light of this news but unable to analyze its impact.
We separated at the bathroom entranceway, something I find so annoying now that I’m with a man. I never had this problem with women! The fluidity of a conversation gets rudely dammed by two separate pictures on two separate doors. Harumph.
When I emerged (always faster than him, mind you, because he spends time fixing his hair!), I felt calmer. What had felt like a heavy secret that couldn’t be thrown overboard wasn’t actually a secret after all. Who knows when Wang Yin had discovered that I was queer, but she had said nothing. She had respected my privacy. I had likewise respected hers. In the silence, we had kept each other safely closeted as though the other preferred it that way. I’m still not sure if that’s what she wanted from me, but as we walked back towards the chaos of merging families, I set these thoughts aside.
We reentered the private dining room—a room with just one large round table filled with relatives and separated from the rest of the restaurant—and I was bombarded with questions crashing toward me in a giant wave of excitement in both languages. Everyone needed the language bridge that had just temporarily been washed away to the restrooms.
Jumping back into my role as translator, I caught Wang Yin’s eye and smiled. She smiled back. Here I was hosting my parents just a few days before getting married, and yet my most intense emotion was regarding my future cousin-in-law’s response to my queer identity. I kept wishing everyone else could just fall away so that I could ask her something like, “How long have you known?” or “Were you surprised?” or “Did you already have a feeling when you met me like I did with you?”
But the circus raged on around me and I had a job to do.
Behind the smiling mask I found myself thinking darker thoughts like, “What have I agreed to do again?” and, “I’m really getting married to a man?” and, “Who am I kidding?”
They say sudden questioning is common in those final moments before marrying someone. They call it cold feet. My feet, however, started to feel frozen… and massive. I had images of myself in super large polka dotted clown shoes, a human bunny rabbit bumbling along in a foreign language sporting a white, painted smile.
No one noticed.