the devil you know

The visit to Ft. Walton was not as obviously horrible as predicted. Instead it was subtly excruciating. Like hearing my aunt ask my mother when Matt and Joanna were getting engaged. She mentioned a guy I've known as an acquaintance through the cousins recently asked his girlfriend to marry him not long after she'd met his family. So then speculation about Ryan and Matt asking their respective girlfriends "the question" circulated around the conversations. At first I thought the pain was from the idea that Joanna would be "part of the family" but then I realized that it was from the fact that my mom will never be asked that question on my behalf. And I realized that's why I hate going there. It feels fake. It feels like all of the heteronormative values have gathered all in one place. And I'm in the cold.

My two female cousins have children and one will have another one in February. I do not begrudge them this. The children are beautiful and have added in tremoundous ways to the family. I think they are probably wonderful mothers, especially Kim who I've always been closer to and who has had to overcome the most. Nevertheless, I do not want children. I never imagined myself with the kind of life my cousins have. Not that I think their lives are lacking. But I wish they did not think mine was just because it's different from theirs. For me, being away from Michelle and dealing with this reminds me of everything I cannot have, even if I wanted it.

This is what many straight people do not understand, the constant reminders that I'm not like "everyone else." Every time a waitress assumes Oren and I are on the same check but always asks if Michelle and I are I'm reminded about the expectations of the status quo. And I do understand that these assumptions are not the fault of the individuals but that the problems are systemic and ideological. But that doesn't make it easier. Each time I think before I touch Michelle's hand I'm reminded that straight couple's rarely have to consider touching each other in public. Being around the Florida kin certainly exacerbated these feelings.

It's strange how split into I feel when I visit here. My parents, my grandmother, my brother, Alabama these are my roots. There is a sense of belonging that washes over me in ways I don't realize until I'm about to leave. There is a comfort, a way of feeling understood that as a Southerner in Illinois I do not feel. And yet, there is this huge piece of me that is missing here. The piece that includes Michelle and my life in Illinois. The piece of me, of my heart that grows larger each day colliding with the home I once knew. Perhaps because I moved so much as a young child, teen and young adult that I long for some sense of place. I yearn for it. It is why I often begrudge having to leave my apartment and who I am in it. Or the office at school... Sometimes outside of these places, I'm not sure who I am. I read this about Aquarians, that they often struggle with their identity and that this is the Aquarian secret, this struggle. It's true of me.My father says if you can't find yourself where you are then you can't find yourself at all. I've recently discovered that graduate school is where I'm learning who I am. But perhaps it's just this time in my life with these friends and acquaintances and surroundings that I can learn. Perhaps grad school is just the thing that got me to this place for this perspective.
And at this moment, I long for home with Michelle, somewhere I can relax and feel like myself. Whoever that may be at any moment.