What’s Worse: Being the “Friend” or Being Nothing?

Posted: 22 November 2008 in bitter old woman, queerlife, work

We were feeling so…supported here.  Sure, the state of Virginia isn’t going to turn over partner health benefits, but we do get partner gym benefits.  Better still, the University’s duel career recruitment program applies as much to gay couples as it does to straight couples.  For a state university in a conservative rural area, I thought it was remarkable that they worked as hard to find D. a job as they did any other spouse.  She got a temporary position that has transitioned into a job that’s a perfect fit and, happily, I think we’re both satisfied with our professional environments. 

The sweet idyll came to a bitter point on Friday when D was officially introduced as a new employee.  The library does this; every town hall meeting brings the 100-strong staff together and rolls the red carpet out for the new folks.  It wasn’t much different for D.  She got a stellar and accurate introduction with one glaring exclusion – me.  Other new staff got the familial nod (“This is Joanie, superlibrarian.  She also happens to be married to Jerry, fellow superlibrarian.”) but I was handily left out of her introduction. 

I don’t need the glory, and usually, I commend people for treating us as seperate, distinct individuals (especially at work) but if mentioning family is the norm, then her introduction should have mentioned her relationship to me.  I’m sure it wasn’t a purposeful exclusion, but it’s part of the unconscious straight-centric world populated by well meaning people.  We exist.  I’m her wife, not her friend or some silent roommate.  If we didn’t want you to know, we wouldn’t wear rings, introduce each other, etc.  Our relationship is no different than Joanie’s and Jerry’s – so if it’s inappropriate to mention ours, it is likewise inappropriate to mention theirs. 

So much for perfect.

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Comments
  1. madeline says:

    A similar thing happened to me as a new hire this fall: at the September faculty senate meeting, each department introduced its new members. There were two of us new to the English department, and as each chair stood up to introduce their new hires, she and I began to share uneasy glances. The chairs were doing the whole “Please welcome Dr. X and his wife Mrs. X, as well as Little X. Mrs. X was recently hired at [where ever]; Little X will attend [insert expensive baby daycare].”

    My fellow new-colleague was not anxious to be forcibly outed to the entire faculty. And *I* was not interested in being identified as the horribly young new faculty person with THREE children (what *was* she THINKING having three children so young?).

    There are ways that the whole welcome-to-the-family should be just that: we welcome you in, no matter who you are, how you got here, or who/what you bring with you. You are not identified by your partner. You are not more or less than yourself because of your family.

    And my fellow new-colleague and I were THRILLED when our chair stood up and introduced JUST US. No Mr, Mrs, and no kids (thank gawd).

    I totally understand that I see this from the privileged side of the court–that had I been introduced as the heteronormative breeder that I am, it wouldn’t have made too much of a difference for me, I suppose.

    And your point is well made: that it shouldn’t have made a difference for you and D, either, and that their exclusion was exactly that: exclusion.

    /colon-happy ramble

  2. madeline says:

    Oh, and I also meant to say I’m sorry. That sux.

  3. I would be bitter and hurt, too. I’m sorry that happened. The disappointment is worse when it’s from people you otherwise think you know.

  4. Digger says:

    I suspect a lot of those folks, who likely consider themselves right-thinking liberals, are just concerned that they would be forcibly outing you. But the proper thing for them to have done is ASK. And not just you, but everyone they were introducing: do you want us to introduce your husband/wife/partner/kids? How hard is that?

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