My girlfriend's dad recently went to a food/beverage convention in Vegas for his business and brought us back matching baseball caps. On the cap, there is a hot pink stop sign on the front that says "Warning: Girls Grilling." The side of the cap says "Grill Friends" (which looks suspiciously like Girl Friends). We thought they were kind of cute and funny, but were somewhat baffled as to why he got them for us. Especially when we found out he BOUGHT the hats. I'd assumed at first that they were free convention swag.
When friends came by our apartment recently, one of the hats was sitting out and I found myself joking about Paige's dad, making a comment along the lines of "I'm not sure what he was thinking, when would we ever wear these?".
It is a legitimate question. Neither of us wear baseball caps all that often. We hardly ever wear pink (in fact, I'd put Pfunk in the "never" category when it comes to pink). And we don't own grill. Even if we wanted to, we have no balcony or backyard to grill in.
But my flip remark about the caps ignored the excitement that he had when he gave them to us. Something about the hats made him think of us. I suppose there are two ways to interpret the "Warning: Girls Grilling" message. You could see it as sexist in the sense that grilling is seen as a man thing and therefore a woman would obviously mess it up. So you'd need advanced warning to steer clear. OR, the message could be viewed along the lines of the "You Go Girl!" pop-feminism. Stand back men, these sisters are doing for themselves. I know the hats were made, and Pfunk's dad intended the hats to be received in, the spirit of the later interpretation.
Thinking about that made me see the gift in a whole new light. I'm not really a Spice Girls "Girl Power" kind of gal. But he's trying. I remember early on in our relationship, Pfunk's dad referred to something I'd said as "man-hating." I honestly can't remember the specifics anymore, but something I'd said or done caused him to react that way. It sounds silly and maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I'm really starting to see this silly cap as validation of Pfunk and Me and our life together. We are very independent DIYers. To some degree, all lesbians have to be. There will never be a man in our house to assume the role of master griller or anything other historically “male” chore (not that I’m so naïve as to think all straight women in the year 2008 are relying on men to grill for them).
I realize now I want to focus on all the things Pfunk’s dad got right when we picked out those hats for us, not what he got “wrong.” This isn’t the first time I’ve humored a family member’s fumbled attempt to accept my sexual orientation. Why focus on the fumble when the whole point is they’re trying to show acceptance? Shortly after my sister starting dating the man that is now my brother-in-law, she got a taste of what it is like to come out when she told him she has a lesbian sister. I get the feeling he and his family hadn’t been around many gay people before me. Well, somewhere along the way, he heard about the phenomenon of lesbian softball players. A stereotype (like many) that has some truth to it, but that doesn’t apply to me. I did synchronized swimming in high school, possibly as far from softball as one can get. The closest I’ve been to a softball player is when I dated one in college and would read feminist theory in the bleachers when she and the team warmed up. But when my brother-in-law got me a “Chicago Women’s Softball” tee-shirt, I was totally tickled by his effort, not put off by the fact it wasn’t something I’d have chosen for myself. I wore it with pride until Pfunk, an actual softball player, claimed it as her own.
Sometimes accepting those fumbled attempts can be challenging. I remember very early on after coming out, I told my mom I was dating a woman for the first time. She said, “I’m so glad you found a favorable companion”. It was all I could do to not burst out laughing!! Gays will admit that we still haven’t settled on what to call our significant others. Girlfriend, wife, spouse, partner, significant other: it is hard to know when to use what term. Sometimes none of the terms seem satisfactory. But to have laughed at my mom in that moment would have been to ignore the positive message she was delivering, not to mention hurt her feelings and perhaps dissuade her from trying again.
But seriously, "Favorable Companion"? I don’t think that phrase will ever catch on in any community.