As I mentioned in this blog, I started panic when the wedding bobbed its enormous, spinning head on the horizon. I remember also feeling like I was on a collision course with it and I began to look around desperately for crash pads and a helmet and culturally appropriate armour—appropriate to my culture.
And what culture is that? I’m Western, yes, but I’m also queer, which is a sub-culture within my Western culture. It simply wasn’t enough that my parents were coming.
I had already “come out” about my nuptials to my core group of (mostly queer) friends (see this blog) and had simultaneously discouraged them from attending the Chinese events, downplaying their importance. But when it was just about six weeks away, I started kicking myself for that. The absence of a witness from my community gave me that familiar, sinking, invisible feeling that being in love with a man had brought into my life.
I needed a queer witness.
That’s where Cheryl came in. Cheryl Reid is my longtime musical compatriot. We met in 1997 and began playing music together that fall. Over the years, she has become like a big sister to me and I love her dearly.
It was during the early swirls of panic when we were talking on Skype from Beijing to Toronto one day and she very casually said, “Oh, I wish I could be there!” I stopped, paused, and then responded in a tentative voice, “Well, you can come if you want to! Do you really want to come? I could make that happen!”
With my parent’s help, airline points, Cheryl’s understanding ex-partner (who took over full-time childcare of their son for three weeks,) and Cheryl’s amazing enthusiasm, within a couple of days of that Skype conversation, she was scheduled to arrive the following month and spend three weeks alongside of my parents.
I distinctly remember that particular sigh of relief, the creaking weight of its breath, exhaling loudly from my lungs.
Later that month, again over Skype, she showed me the dress she and her girlfriend had found for her. Now, Cheryl’s not exactly a dress person, but, “Look out, China!” I exclaimed. The shiny silver and black dress with tall black boots was seriously SMOKIN’ HOT! My six-foot tall friend would be the physical embodiment of my need for a shiny, human shield of a witness. And what an amazing witness she was. Yes, in the storm of my upcoming wedding, Cheryl would be my storm trooper.
In Chinese weddings, there’s no wedding party, but there is a “伴郎 ban lang” and a “伴娘 ban niang,” which is the Chinese equivalent to a “best man” and a “maid of honour.” I asked Cheryl to be that for me at the Beijing event because we had already asked some local friends to be in that role for us at the Shandong event.
Oh, did I forget to mention the fact that there were two weddings we were prepping for? Yes, two events: one in his hometown of 淄博 Zibo (上冻 Shandong province) and one in Beijing. They were ten days apart. The storm on the horizon was getting closer.
But where was my helmet?
I’ll save that for the next blog but here’s a clue: it’s all about bicycles.