SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2007        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Megan Dryer

Can You Have Two Mommies? Jennie Does

I remember it was the beginning of third grade.  Jennie, a year older than I, just moved in across the street.  We lived in Awhatukee Foothills in the east valley, bordered by South Mountain.  She lived with her mom, Chris, and her mom’s “best friend”, Lynn.  Jennie and I became the best of friends very quickly because we were outnumbered by the boys in the neighborhood.  Before we knew it we were walking to and from school together every day.  Every morning I would sit at the kitchen table watching Lynn and Chris read the newspaper while I twiddled my thumbs waiting for Jennie; she was always running late.  Chris and Lynn always offered me a pop-tart, I always declined because my mom never bought them and I wasn’t allowed to eat them. 

I had just moved into a new neighborhood with my mom and Lynn.  My mom said I needed to make friends being the new kid.  I met Megan and we became the best of friends…for a while that is; she lived across the street from me.  We walked to and from school together, she was in third grade and I was in fourth.  We hung out a lot at my house.  My mom and Lynn liked her because she was one of my first good friends.  I had lost all my friends with the move, and also because Lynn and my mom got married and I guess my friends couldn’t accept it.

    I was helping Jennie do her hair for wacky-hair day at school one morning for spirit week.  We were in Chris’ bathroom.  I was looking around and noticed the bathroom was set-up like my parents, his and her sink and two closets with an adjoining bedroom.  I could tell one of the closets consisted of Chris’s clothing, the other Lynn’s.  I asked Jennie if Chris and Lynn shared the bathroom/bedroom.  “Of course,” she had explained to me.  I hated having to share the bathroom with my twin brother, so I couldn’t imagine why Chris and Lynn would want to either.  Puzzled, I asked why the bedroom was shared by Chris and Lynn, I mean wouldn’t they want their own. She replied, “because they are best friends”!  Oh, I thought.  Whenever my best friends spent the night we shared my bed…just like Lynn and Chris.  I realized the sharing made sense, sort-of.

    School got out early on Fridays.  I stayed at Jennie’s on some early dismissal days instead of going home right away.  On these days we usually did our homework together, played Nintendo 64, or just girlie stuff.  One particular Friday was quite different from the others, a day of confusion and awkwardness.  Jennie asked me if I wanted to see her Mom’s wedding album.  Jennie’s mom had divorced her father years ago, I had never seen him, and so I had said yes.  To my surprise, the pictures were not of her mom and dad, but her mom and Lynn. 

I couldn’t believe it.  Pictures were taken of Chris and Lynn being married by a priest.  There were rings, and even kissing.  I remember feeling icky inside. My stomach started to hurt like it did when I did something wrong and feared of getting caught.  “Two girls kissing…Chris and Lynn married…holding hands…gay?” were the thoughts racing through my mind.  I was so confused.  How could this be?  Nothing was making sense in my mind.

I remember wanting to show Megan my mom and Lynn’s wedding album after school one day.  I didn’t really expect the response that Megan gave me when I showed it to her.  She looked scared and closed the book abruptly, like she shouldn’t be looking at it.  I mean, I thought she knew my Mom and Lynn were married; they both wore wedding rings.  I later found out that Megan just thought that they were best friend rings.  She thought my mom and Lynn were just best friends.  I guess that’s my fault from the beginning for saying they were best friends and not that they were married to one another; but the fact is they are best friends.

I remember running home.  I was confused, angry, and even frightened that Friday.  I was confused as to why Chris and Lynn were…were kissing…and were in a marriage ceremony.  I was mad at Jennie for showing me the pictures.  I feared my mom was going to find out what I saw and that I was going to get in trouble.  I remember wondering if Jennie really had a dad because her mom was married to a girl.  I even started to think that Jennie liked me more than a best friend because her mom and Lynn were like that. 

    After that Friday, Jennie and my friendship was never the same again, it was just “different”.  My mom explained to me in a nutshell, that when two people love each other whether each are a boy or girl, they want to spend time together…love is between individuals no matter the sex of the person.  After talking to my mom, I was more aware of what happened that Friday, but I still couldn’t understand the situation.  The friendship changed because of my confusion and uneasiness being around her, more so Chris and Lynn.  It was just a few years later that Jennie, Chris, and Lynn moved away.  Jennie’s mom got a better job in California.  I was so sad when she left. 

    I felt like our friendship had a turning point that day.  We still hung out as usual, went to school, had fun, but she wasn’t herself around my mom and Lynn.  It was as if she was always scared, or confused.  But I didn’t care because when we hung out we had a blast.  My mom and Lynn noticed Megan’s behavior too.  They didn’t think it was their place to explain anything, or that it mattered.  My mom told me they talked to Megan’s parents. My mom said Megan’s parents tried to talk to Megan, but she just didn’t get it.  It didn’t hurt my mom and Lynn’s feelings because Megan was young, and they knew as she got older she would understand the situation. 

    Why did I react in fear and confusion on that Friday when I had learned about Jennie’s parents?  Why was I afraid that Jennie liked me more than a friend?  Why was the friendship between Jennie and I never the same again?  Although I couldn’t logically answer these questions at the time of the incident, I can respond now because of my knowledge of lesbianism and coming of age.  My interpretation of the incident varies drastically today from what it was ten years ago.

    To set my story in context, I examined historical events that occurred before, during and after the time of my incident.  On September 21, 1996, President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law.   The law defines marriage as 'a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife' and defines a spouse as 'a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.'  I don’t believe this contributed to my fear and confusion of Jennie’s lesbian parents, even though my incident occurred at the same time as gay/lesbianism was a debatable issue; it was not a relevant topic for me at age 9.

    Looking back I acted the way I did because I had never been confronted with an incident like that before.  My mom and stepfather got married when I was eight, therefore my interpretation of a marriage was between a boy and girl.  I was bewildered looking at a wedding album with two girls kissing and engaging in wedding practices when my view of marriage was different.  It is acceptable to act in confusion, fear, and anger at age nine when you are confronted with difference…you don’t know any differently.

    Fear of the unknown.  Just about everyone has a fear of the unknown (whatever the unknown may be), especially young children.  My unknown in this case was lesbianism.  I can’t sit here and say I don’t like how I reacted to the incident ten years ago; I was too young to know any better, and had very little knowledge of what lesbianism stands for.  Could you blame me?  If anything, the incident has helped me grow, become familiar and knowledgeable about lesbianism and same-sex marriage.  If I ever wonder why individuals can’t be accepting of gays and lesbians, I can just look back to my incident and realize that they most likely just have a fear of the unknown…or just the societal view that only a man and woman can be married…a view that is drilled into our minds.

Return to Personal Memory Ethnographies homepage