The song “When a Man Loves a Woman” is one I am sure most of you out there have heard. There is line that goes, he would “Turn his back on his best friend if he puts her down.” This line is very powerful in its implications, to love someone so much that you would lose your best friend if they said an unkind word about him/her. As a child, I wanted to love someone that badly. I wanted to feel that burning power of love, that passion for one person whom I would give up all my friends for if they were too blind to see the amazing thing we had. Is this not what love is? Something you would risk everything for? Everything except your family that is.
Yes, sadly there is a but in this sentiment. You can give up friendship for a love, but you are not allowed to give up your family. Your family can make you choose, say the most unkind things imaginable, rationalized because they know what is best for you. They love you unconditionally, so you must put up with all their crap and never waiver. Your love can move any mountain, unless your family does not agree with your choice. Because we all know love is a choice, and we choose to fall in love with the knight in shining armor, or the sleeping beauty high atop the highest tower.
I grew up in an environment where your family judging you was acceptable because they loved you. They wanted you to achieve great and wonderful things in life, love and everything in between. The stakes are high, and the person that makes you happy is not the same as the person who will be loved by your extended family. Perhaps every family is like that, where there is constant criticism disguised as “what’s best for you” and “just looking out for your best interests”. That inability to just be happy for a family member, because that individual is truly happy is something often forgotten in my family. Following your heart is the most wonderful feeling in the world, unless of course your family disapproves.
I watch, mystified, and shocked that significant others in my life, and those of my family are told they have to prove themselves to have a seat at the dinner table. To be welcomed inside the homes of those I grew up with these people that bring joy to our lives are given hurdles that they must jump. No mistakes are allowed, the courtship must be flawless, date, love, never get angry and then get married. And of course start popping out babies, for that is the true testament in my clan. Babies born inside of wedlock can erase every single sin that you have ever committed. All is forgiven, but not always forgotten.
I write this post because love is not always easy. I write it because I see pain around me, in the harsh and hypocritical judgements. Those who should read this and open their eyes never will. I have made peace with that, and yet I still write it with that infallible hope that I cling to. Love conquers all, or at least it should. I lament the pain that I watched this thanksgiving, and I am shocked by the numbness I felt in the continued exclusion I have come to accept. When love doesn’t conquer the cruel judgemental nature of your own family, I turn to my friends who are more family then I ever could have dreamed, and of course wine.