As thrilled as I
am about marriage equality in California, I'm not
getting married again. I had a lovely garden wedding two
years ago. It gave me memories that will last a
lifetime, but I would rather put a lit cigarette out
in my cornea than gather my entire Filipino family in one
place again. Everyone in my family is a tortured creative
genius of some kind, which I can attribute only to
hundreds of years of colonial Spanish inbreeding and
poor diet. My mother, the only person for whom we all
collectively behaved, passed away 16 years ago. Without her
around to keep everyone in check, my wedding day was a
husband's family arrived hours before the ceremony
began and immediately assisted the caterers in
arranging chairs and tables. My family arrived half an
hour late and immediately started to complain.
"I'm cold. We're hungry. Is this
free?" My father, a diabetic with a million
food restrictions, clicked his tongue at every verboten
canape and proceeded to eat them all before they
were passed. My brother, a recovering alcoholic, got a
little too manic at the sight of all the Veuve
Clicquot. My younger sister suffers from chemical
depression, so while guests were gathering out back
for the big cocktail meet and greet, she sat in the
living room watching Tomb Raider. Mercy, my stepmom
from the Philippines, showed up with five people I'd
never met before and a baby. I spent eight months
meticulously planning the seating assignment for each
table, and in two seconds she turned it into a barrio
fiesta. She compensated by toting her wedding gift: a
blue velour blanket with a Siberian white tiger on the
front and an eagle in flight on the other side in an
enormous see-through plastic bag labeled "size queen".
I spent the
morning barricaded in my bedroom with my maid of honor, my
lesbian sister, Monica. She and her partner, Marie, had
planned their own City Hall ceremony in San Francisco
in 2004, but those plans came to a screeching halt
when the state supreme court pulled the plug. As an
overcast sky proceeded to drizzle on my guests and my
horrendously overpriced wedding cake, I started to
feel like she and Marie had dodged a bullet. Four
years later, with the supreme court's reversal, my
sister's wedding is back on. She's planning a
very simple ceremony. A small gathering of witnesses
at City Hall, followed by a house party with
home-cooked food and a tight-knit group of loving friends.
As her maid of honor, I'm helping out with the
"You're not inviting Pop and Mercy?" I
ask. My sister is my emotional opposite. I'm a
hypervigilant people pleaser desperate for approval.
She's a dry-eyed control freak. "I
don't know," she responds. "I want to
have a good time. I just don't know if I can with my
father and that woman. She might show up barefoot with
20 people and a roast pig under her arm."
I'm incensed. "No fair! If they almost ruined
my wedding, they have to almost ruin yours
too!" She speaks slowly, as if aiming a rifle:
"I'll think about it."
culture, the minute a child is born, you owe that child
everything. In Filipino culture, the minute a child is born,
that child owes the parent everything. It's all
about obligation, emotional blackmail, and fried food.
To go against your parents or to be disloyal or
disrespectful in any way is the worst possible sin. My
sister and I went against everything we knew the
minute we both came out. Our lives would no longer be
about what our parents wanted but who we wanted to be
as people. This defiant individuality has always made my
father proud and wary.
"Don't hate me, but I already invited them
both," I admit.
"What?" I can actually feel that imagined
rifle aimed at my head.
them they can't bring anybody else. And they have to
be on time. Mercy already bought you guys a blanket.
It's green with dolphins on it.