Wrong in All the Right Ways

In March, Rachael and I took her 9-year-old daughter Sophie to see Pink perform in her Beautiful Trauma world tour in Grand Rapids. We bought the tickets way back before Christmas and had been counting the days. Rachael dyed Sophie's hair a gorgeous, shocking shade of hot pink and tied it in a ponytail of tight ringlet curls. I wore a crazy outfit I found at the thrift store hours before: a Victoria's Secret PINK T-shirt and a sheer skirt that I purposefully shredded a bit and paired with black hot pants, fishnets and boots.
My mother lives in Grand Rapids, and given that I don't head in that direction often, and that she has only met Rachael in person once, I figured it would be a good idea to try to eat dinner with her before the concert. I called my mom the afternoon before the concert and she agreed to have me pick her up after her naptime. When I arrived, it was close to 6 p.m., and I told my mom that we didn't have much time so we would be grabbing a quick sandwich at Subway. Her response was "Well, with you dressed like that, it's a good thing we're not going to a sit-down place." I took that jab in stride. I'm used to it, and, truth be told, a part of me gets off on shocking her.
Since she had just woken up, she claimed that she was too befuddled and too exhausted from the night before to head out to dinner with me and my "friends." After all, she had been up until way past her bedtime with my brother's daughter attending a concert starring my other brother's three boys — did I mention she failed to even acknowledge my son's 18th birthday last week?.
I excused her but asked if she still wanted me to pick up a sandwich for her. Old women living on their own often don't eat well, as I should know since I care for many of them in my job as a home help care provider. She said please.
In line at Subway, I hemmed and hawed to Rachael because a part of me still wanted to have a chance to visit with my mom rather than blow through and drop off a sandwich. Inside I waged a battle. I wanted my mom to meet Rachael and adorable little Sophie, even more so because she had snarled on the phone to me that she hates it when little girls dye their hair bright colors. I wanted to throw all of it in her face. Instead of just showing up, though, I called her and asked if it would be OK if we ate with her. She said no; she was already in her pajamas and was in no state to meet my "friends." She said I had sprung these plans on her and that she was in no way ready for us.
I swallowed hard. Ordered my mom's sandwich and mine, sat in the booth at Subway and ate with Rachael and Sophie. Then, we drove back over to my mom's to drop off her dinner. I composed what I wanted to say to her in my head.
"Meals on Wheels is here Mom. Enjoy …."
She engaged me in some light conversation, but I couldn't let her subtle dismissal of me and my life drop. When I saw her I said calmly, slowly, "Mom, her name is Rachael. You can call her Rachael, or you can call her my partner, but, please, do not call her my friend."
Mom locked eyes with me and flatly stated "Stop that," followed with, "There are all kinds of lesbians in this condominium complex. Are you going to rub that in my face, too?"
I am so used to these kinds of exchanges with my mother that her insults don't even rankle me anymore.
Without raising my voice even a notch, I replied, "Mom, this is the label I use to address Rachael. I don't have a romantic or sexual relationship with her but that doesn't make her any less of a partner. She lives with me, she loves me, she is family to me. I wanted you to see us all tonight, especially Sophie since I'm so proud of her. I'm sorry you aren't taking me up on this opportunity."
"Dana, this thing you do, this poly-amory, it's so hard," she says. "I try to tell my friends about it and they look at me like I'm crazy."
"I'm sorry this is difficult for you, but I am not going to change," I say. "This is who I am."
I turned to leave, and she tells me to enjoy the show and that I looked pretty sexy in my outfit. Suddenly, a bit shamed, because even my armor has chinks in it, I quipped as I clicked away on my boots, "I don't always dress this way, but this is a very special occasion."
The concert was magical. Fire and glitter, aerial feats, wild dancing. We had amazing seats, not too far from stage. At one moment — forever frozen in memory — Pink spied Sophie in the audience. She waved to her and pumped her arm in the same way Sophie was pumping hers. Priceless. The next song, dedicated to Pink's daughter Willow – "Perfect."
This was Sophie's first concert, and I don't think that as her parents Rachael and I and her fathers could have given her a better Christmas present than a new dress, radical hair, a powerful performance and a personal acknowledgment from Pink. We are raising a daughter to be and to love herself. I hope that I never treat my children the way my mom treated me last night, but I can think of no better therapy than hearing Pink belt out her songs of empowerment while I dance alongside my partner and our daughter.
We are fucking perfect, Mom. Get over it.
Dana Chase grew up in Grand Rapids and holds a Ph.D. in French and Romance Philology from Columbia University. She works part time at a local coffee shop in addition to running a very busy household. Actively putting a face to polyamory for close to a decade, Dana has appeared at conferences, spoken to college classes and church groups, served on professional boards, and even held a feature spot on the evening news. She hopes to one day publish a memoir of her colorful polyamorous journey.