I remember years ago reading an article in the New York Times, Hers column about the politics of weddings. It was written by a young woman rabbi. She wrote about the irreversible choices people made around wedding on who to include or exclude and who will sit with whom. When I got married in 1993 I was determined to have a wedding free of petty angers and hurts. Rather than think about it just as our day, we thought about how to make it the best experience for all the attendees. I think we succeeded.
Last weekend a close friend of mine, who had come out to his grown children this past year, and had separated from his wife over the summer, was not invited to his daughter’s wedding. The wedding took place last Saturday and I encouraged my friend, who was thinking of going away for the weekend to a gay retreat center, to have a party instead. The party, I suggested, should be a celebration of our lives. I see my friend and myself as success stories in our lives. He has been courageous in the steps he has taken this past year to have an integrated, whole life. Unfortunately his daughter could not see this.
When I think about a daughter, who had been close to her father prior to his coming out, taking this rigid, awful stand, I think about what her life will be. The decision to exclude her father from her wedding is one, I suspect, that will haunt her in years to come and taint her marriage and her happiness. These kinds of decisions have consequences, and she has made a tear in the fabric of her relationship with her father that will be extremely hard for her to repair. Either she will feel regret for what she’s done and she will express that regret, or more likely her shame will turn into anger and her position will harden.
When I think of a marriage bond sealed under these circumstances, I think of a marriage doomed to fail. That failure may not be this year or next, but big decisions like she has made have a tail, and that tail will likely worm its way into the core of her marriage over a period of years and poison it.
The party my friend hosted last Saturday was a wonderful mix of men from all aspects of his life who for the most part, did not know each other. I was struck by the ease of the conversation and the laughter. It was a nice way to protect and take care of all of our lives, but most particularly, my friend, who was having a very difficult time as the wedding came and went.
It is hard to get up the courage in our 50’s to come to the truth that we need to live an honest and open life and leave a marriage of many years. I know that decision for me was long and painful, but one I am very happy that I finally had the courage to make. It is easy along the way to fall back on all the old doubts and internalized homophobia that kept us in the closet all those years. I applaud my friend for his courage and the choices he continues to make to live an open, honest and integrated life.