Introducing your girlfriend to the family


Team Dattch, the lesbian app

Taking your girlfriend to a family party is a task fraught with potential disasters; will the assembled family and friends be welcoming, dismissive or furious? Will your girlfriend cope with the onslaught of relatives keen to get to know her, or, depending on their standpoint, keen to stop her “corrupting” their daughter/cousin/niece that, “always seemed so… normal?” Will your dad have thought to buy fruity cider? Because, you know, lesbians are coming!?

Family parties, to my mind, can go one of three ways; one that bimbles along awkwardly before your grandma falls asleep in her chair, blissfully unaware that you are a lesbian because “Her heart isn’t so good and she doesn’t need any shocks”; One that ends in a blazing row because Uncle Jim asked you when you were getting your ceremonial lesbian head shaving; Or one that involves your Drunk Aunt Sally revealing lesbian experiences at boarding school. The surprise bonus situation is your cousin asking what you actually “do” anyway, because all he gleaned from his lesbian porn collection is that they have really long nails and just rub each other vigorously.

I am out to the fam; in both the gangster and family sense. They’re as cool as any slightly squeamish, bemused parents could be expected to be. We have an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” agreement, which, whilst it did not have its place in the military, seems to work for us superficially. I just have to be above reproach in every other aspect of my life so they can’t blame any failing on my preference for the ladies.

So I don’t really worry about bringing girls home. I know I can keep the girlfriend in parental favor, just as long as I can get to the wet towels she will inevitably leave on my bed before my mother does, so what’s my problem with the family party?

It’s wondering whether my mother proudly will wave her metaphorical rainbow flag, or instead, call my partner the F-word? That’s right … will she introduce my girlfriend of however many months to the assembled guests as my special “friend”?

I don’t know why the word “friend” in this context serves to rile me so much, but I cannot abide my girlfriend being introduced as anything other than that. Anything that demotes her from that-girl-I-love-and-do-sex-with seems to me to be a step back in terms of parental acceptance. I can feel my eyes rolling when I even think back to instances where my mother has dropped the F-bomb to acquaintances.

I’m not sure what she thinks will happen if she reveals the truth about me to these people; a short stint on Google would probably be enough to confirm that I am a raging lezzer, but, seemingly convinced that they are going to recoil in horror and start flicking conveniently bottled holy water at me, she says “… and this is her special FRIEND”.

“No, Mum, special friend is what I call my fuck buddy,” I say. Silently. In my imagination.

A confirmed wimp by nature, I don’t do anything but quietly seethe, apologize to my girlfriend, and continue as if nothing has gotten to me. The most I’ve ever done is jump in and introduce the woman (with full title) myself, but this sometimes earns a disapproving look. To be honest, if I did object it may well be dismissed as hysterical oversensitive lesbian disorder, so I just leave it, grumble internally and exacerbate the beginnings of a stomach ulcer. I just invented that disorder, by the way.

Introductory irritations aside, my first experience taking a girlfriend to a large(ish) scale family went without a hitch until my 10 year old brother caught my girlfriend and me having a sneaky snog in the swimming pool. Being a boy and apparently unaware that this was a thing, he proceeded to tell on me and was met with the response, “Don’t worry, people do silly things when they are drunk,” which confirmed that my parents were more comfortable discussing the bad decisions made due to excessive beer than they were the topic of homosexuality. Amazing how a veneer of tolerance can be polished so brightly and yet the cracks so evident. Still, I counted myself lucky; I hadn’t been kicked out of the house because of my sexual orientation, my special friend had been welcomed to the party, but there was still a nasty, little niggling feeling that they didn’t want the neighbors to know that they had a gay. Just in case it is a phase, perhaps, or maybe because of the contagion. I don’t know.

If I cannot sum up the courage to politely ask that my girlfriend is afforded a title befitting a partner. I can only hope that in forty years’ time, when I still don’t have a boyfriend, yet rather suspiciously live with a woman, have popped out some kids to an invisible father, and continue to attend family parties in a flurry of dog hair and children who either curiously look like me, or my special friend, that I don’t need to say anything to the neighbors; they’ll just know.

Either that, or I’ll take up wearing dungarees full-time.

Dattch — The Lesbian App is out for iOS and Android. Loved by, AfterEllen and Autostraddle, we are the social platform for all things gay. Free download!

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