My Uncle Mark sold his vintage cars to fly us to the Netherlands after the Dutch legalized gay marriage. At the airport, everybody was there, like it was Christmas: me, my sister, my mother, my father, my uncles, my aunts, and my grandmother—everybody except his long-time companion, Other-Mark. My uncle insisted we go anyway.
He spent the first half of the flight laughing, saying his stupid fiancé must have gotten lost. After a flight attendant said “or changed his mind,” he spent the other half locked in the bathroom. At the hotel he spent hours on his cell phone trying to track down Other-Mark. The rest of us made sad faces until my mother told us to get out.
While my mother rubbed her brother’s feet and cooed, my other uncles went to the red light district and my aunts went to buy perfectly legal hash. I wasn’t supposed to know, being twelve. My dad took my grandmother, my sister and I sight-seeing. Grandma wanted to see a windmill.
My sister said, “I want to see a little boy with his finger in a dyke.”
My dad barked a laugh that turned into a shout, “Arf!”
“What?” she responded, all innocently. “What?”
My grandmother said, “Hush now, sassy teenage smarty-pants.”
“Grandma said ‘sassy,’” I whispered in my sister’s ear.
Halfway my grandmother thought of Other-Mark’s mother and had us turn around.
“But Other-Mark’s mom doesn’t believe in homosexuality,” said my sister.
“She’ll be so happy he’s ditched the wedding. I bet he’s there,” Grandma said.
“Grandma said ‘ditched,’” my sister whispered.
“I’m about to say worse,” my sharp-eared Grandmother said, as we pulled up to the hotel.
My sister and I hid under Grandma’s bed: “Wendy, it’s Ruth. Is your Mark there with you? I don’t want to talk to him, but you’re going to. Don’t interrupt. It’s time you faced facts. Your Mark isn’t getting any younger or any straighter… That’s fucking stupid and you know it. Hang on a minute, Wendy, either Dutch beds giggle or my grandkids are eavesdropping.”
We didn’t hear the rest. It must have been good. Next day Other-Mark arrived, his mother in tow—a happy ending for all.
Except me. Moments before the prodigal groom’s return, my uncle asked me what I thought. Twelve is young; I figured the truth was appropriate. I opened my big mouth and said, “I’m glad he bailed. I don’t like him. He’s wishy-washy and rolls his eyes when you talk. He made you sell the Vipers. Why doesn’t he ever pay for anything? You deserve better.”
I was shunned for the rest of Holland.
My grandmother pulled me aside on the last day and said, “When women or gay men are emotional, say what they want to hear. If you don’t know, don’t speak; just touch their hand, smile and nod. You got me?”
I touched her hand, smiled and nodded.
“That’s it, Sweetie,” she said.