Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Here Come the Brides

I have been excited about this wedding for weeks. Ridiculously so.

The night before, it is hard to find sleep. Lying in bed, I am wondering what they’re going to be wearing, if they’ll have written their own vows, if they’ll walk in together or if someone will give them away. The way I’m carrying on you’d think it was the first wedding I’d ever been to.

And, in a way, it is.

The first time I went to a wedding, I was nine and I was ridiculously excited then too. My oldest cousin was getting married and I got a new dress.  I was never that into dresses though, so I think I was more excited about the prospect of staying up late, of being one of the adults. That, and the purchase of three boxes of confetti to throw, blue on one side, pink on the other, embossed on both with a cartoon bride and groom.

If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve been to forty or so weddings since that first wedding, maybe close to fifty. Some blur into each other, some I’ll always remember, some I’ve loved and some I’ve liked and some had too many drunken uncles saying ‘you’ll be next’ too many times. But this wedding, the one I flew back from New York for, is the first time that statement might actually be true.

Because this wedding has two brides.

Waiting for them to walk down the aisle, we have our cameras and Smartphones at the ready. And our tissues. And there they are, both in white, different dresses but the same look on their faces, both radiant with love and excitement and emotion like any bride. Only they’re not like any brides. This might be the first time they’ve held hands in front of some of the people here, certainly the first time they’ve kissed. Months ago we discussed that kiss – one of the brides and I – what kind of kiss it should be, how you wouldn’t want to have the kind of kiss that would shock the aunties too much.

We’ve talked about a lot of things over the last couple of years, that bride and I, things that when I was a teenager growing up in South Dublin, I couldn’t even let myself think about, never mind talk about. Like me, she came to who she was later than some, only a little while before I did. Watching her sit there, holding hands with her lover, her best friend, her soon to be wife, I remember a freezing February night when we walked Dun Laoghaire pier in the dark. I had a toothache and the wind was biting, whipping my words away as I told her what was on my mind, that I’d met someone, that I didn’t know how to tell people. She hugged me, she said it was brilliant news and she couldn’t wait to meet her. She’s not one to give unasked for advice and the piece she gave that freezing night, I took to heart. ‘Don’t act like it’s the end of the world when you’re telling people,’ she said, ‘because it isn’t.’

She was right, of course, it wasn’t the end, only the beginning. It was the beginning of so many things – a love that has taken me to New York, to a new life, or a new version of my old life. Of digging deeper than I’d ever dug before to find a courage I didn’t know I had, to tell the people I loved, the people who thought they knew me, that there was something they didn’t know, something I’d hidden away so deep I’d hardly known it myself.

After the ceremony, there are canap├ęs and music and before we sit down to eat, by a roaring fire, the speeches begin. As the wind throws rain at the windows, we listen to a father, a mother, two brothers and a bride speak about journeys, about courage, about the commitment to being yourself. They talk about all of those things and I reach for my tissues more than once. But mostly, they talk about love.

The people who I love, who loved me before, still love me now. Maybe they love me more, even. I think I love them more now– I think I can – now that they know fully, who I am, now that I do.

Over dinner, I try and explain it to my best friend, a friend who has known me for more than twenty years, the friend who was the first one I summoned up the courage to tell, more than four years ago now. She nods and says she can imagine how it must feel to see them get married but I don’t think she can, not really. So I ask her to picture a world where she’d been going to gay weddings for her whole life, that they were the norm and that one day that changed – that she walked into a wedding and there were a bride and groom on top of the cake. As I explain, she nods and something in her face changes and this time when she says she gets it, I know she does.

Later, when the brides throw the bouquets, I end up with one and people say ‘you’ll be next’ and I laugh because this time, it could be true and they know it too. And later still, climbing to the top of the old wooden staircase to try to get a signal to call my girlfriend, to tell her about the day and how much I love her and how I wish she could’ve been there, I know if anyone spots me I won’t need to make up an excuse about who I’m calling. That the worst that would happen is that I’d be slagged, just like anyone would be slagged, the ultimate Irish acknowledgement that things are OK, that you are one of us.

Like the new Mrs and Mrs who are downstairs on the dancefloor, holding hands and dancing in a circle of parents and aunties and sister- in-laws and friends, there is no need to hide anymore.

Not for them. Not for me.

Not for any of us.