By: Shannon Ralph
I was asked an intriguing question this week. Completely out of the blue and totally unexpected, Ruanita (a-little-too-casually) asked me the following:
“So…do you think we should hyphenate our last names after we get married?”
To be perfectly honest, this had never occurred to me. Amazingly—despite the tornadic whirlwind of wedding planning and re-planning I have done all alone in my bustling little brain—the question of changing my last name never even crossed my mind.
Here’s the thing, I experienced a bit of buyer’s remorse sixteen years ago when we had our illegal (I like to use the term “ illegal” because it makes us appear much more hip and dangerous than the bland couch-huggers we really are) commitment ceremony. At the time, we decided to keep our own last names. Actually, I don’t know if we ever even consciously made that decision. We just did it. Or rather, we just didn’t do it. Probably out of simple laziness.
Looking back now, I wish we had changed our names. Or at least that one of us had. Ruanita has never been very keen on becoming Ruanita Ralph (I don’t blame her…sounds like your everyday 8th grade dyke P.E. teacher, doesn’t it?). I, however, would have no issues with being Shannon Pierce. It just didn’t occur to me at the time.
When Lucas was born, because Ruanita and I did not have the same last names, we made the rather innocuous decision to hyphenate his last name. He became Lucas Matthew Pierce-Ralph. Not an altogether bad name.
If truth be told, however, I despise hyphenated names. I don’t know why. I know some perfectly lovely people with hyphenated last names—including two who were expelled from my very own vagina. (Okay…that is a lie. They were born via c-section, but “expelled from my own horizontal lower abdominal incision” doesn’t have quite the same pizzazz.) But I still hate hyphenated names.
As such, I really have no desire to hyphenate my last name. I mean Shannon Pierce-Ralph wouldn’t be so bad, I guess. I could get used to it. But there is still the “ick factor” with hyphenated names that I can’t get past.
I think I am just old fashioned. I firmly believe the members of a family should all have the same last name. That is so very anti-modern of me, I know. But I can’t help it. I am a product of my homogenous 1970s Southern Catholic school upbringing. I went into a mild mourning state when my mother remarried for the first time years ago and was no longer a Ralph. I’m a Ralph. She’s my mom. Logic would dictate that she should be a Ralph, too, right? Today, she is Shirley Marie Hardesty Ralph Robbins Bauer Ralph. Why can’t everyone just be a freaking Ralph?
As you can imagine, the fact that my children have hyphenated names bugs me. Besides the fact that they do not have the same last name as me, I am kind of saddened by the fact that I can’t buy any of the cheesy monogrammed stuff that places like Oriental Trading Company sells. You know, those wooden plaques and Christmas ornaments and tote bags and door knockers and mailboxes that say:
I can’t buy those because we’re not the Pierce Family. And we’re not the Ralph Family. We’re not even the Pierce-Ralph Family. My kids are Pierce-Ralphs, but I am not. Ruanita is not.
This is one of those instances—few and far between—where I would like to go back in time and make a different decision. Given the option of a do-over, I would have become Shannon Pierce sixteen years ago. My kids would be Lucas, Sophie, and Nicholas Pierce. We would have been the Pierce Family. The Pierces, Established 1997. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Alas, I am not a Pierce. And neither are my children. We already have three people in my family with hyphenated names I do not care for. Why add two more to the mix? And I don’t think my kids would be keen on changing their last names now anyway. I mean, my daughter spent the last year of her life being referred to as Sophie P.R. in school because there were three other Sophies and/or Sophias in her class—so much for original naming. (As a side note, why she would not be Sophie P. instead of Sophie P.R. is simply beyond me. I mean…what the hell?) I think my kids like being Pierce-Ralphs. At least, they’ve never complained about hyphenated names. I am pretty sure, like so many other instances, I am the only one with an issue here.
And, aside from the psychological toll of changing a ten-year-old’s name, can you imagine the bureaucratic nightmare legally changing five last names at once would be? I don’t even want to think about it!
So do I want to hyphenate my last name? No. Do I want the members of my family to all have the same last name? Yes. Is one possible without the other? No. Am I shit outta luck? Yes.
There you have it.
I am sure you have heard the old joke What do lesbians bring to a second date? Answer? A U-haul. I had heard it before and I thought, whatever. But I think I get it now, why as women, we move quickly on things together. Or at least I know why I would have. I can tell you that if I didn’t have three children and she didn’t have a child, I would already be living with Erin. It would not have been the second date but definitely after the first several weeks. Although, I say this based on the conversations we had because we already did have kids.
I know it’s a stereotype that not all women fit; however, a lot of us are very communicative. I know that for me, one of the biggest differences in getting to know and date a woman vs. the men I had in the past was the amount of time we communicated. Emails, texts, Facebook, phone, in person . . . tons and tons of discussions. We talked about EVERYTHING and for hours a day. I remember, years ago, when I’d meet someone, there was always a week or two of tons of communication, getting to know each other. Now, with Facebook and texting, it’s so much easier to communicate with someone at various times throughout the day. And when that someone is a woman, maybe a little bit more than what you’re used to with a man . . . or rather most men.
Erin and I are both very open, honest, and communicative. From the get-go we talked about who we were, what we were looking for and what we wanted for our kids. We spent weeks discussing our possible future as it became more and more apparent that we liked each other. That’s the thing that is a bit different when you’re a mother.
When you already have children, the new relationship you are forming will include them at some point in time. For us, it seemed like a perfect fit from the beginning. She was exactly what I have always wanted. She was also exactly what I wanted for my children. Someone who is kind, loving, a hands-on, awesome mom. Of course, as much as I wanted to get started with our lives together (i.e. “uhauling”), we had four children to think about.
I was able to discuss everything with my counselor, who just so happened to be my children’s counselor, and she helped me navigate the best and healthiest way to introduce my new girlfriend into not just my life, but my family’s life. I knew, watching my ex thrust his new girlfriend on my kids just weeks after leaving the marriage, that it wasn’t how I was going to do it. It wasn’t fair to anyone. So as much as I wanted to let my kids know about Erin and me, I didn’t. Eventually, she would hang out with us as a my friend and then a while later, when the counselor said it was okay, I introduced her to them as my girlfriend. (I will talk about this later, I promise.)
Again, if we didn’t have children, I would’ve rented a U-haul awhile ago. But we have children whom we don’t want to thrust into a new situation too soon. So we will continue to live at two different houses . . . our “country abode” and “city apartment” and then come summertime, after school is out, we will join our two families into one crazy, noisy, fun, loving, cuddle-filled house. I can’t wait! Do you think U-haul will take a reservation for six months from now?
By: Sarah Toce
Our mutual friends God-Des & She arranged for a telephone meeting because they knew the world needed to stop and take notice of both The Seattle Lesbian and the strikingly powerful musician Julie Schurr. It was my pleasure to give her a call and find out a little bit more about the openly-gay singer/songwriter from Missouri.
Read more of our exclusive interview here..
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
By: Stacey Sorgen
Lesbian women face unique health issues. So, how can the average lesbian work to combat these health issues and work towards a healthier life? The key is to look at the information presented on women’s health issues and to make the best decisions based on the options we have available. But, the information can sometimes seem a little overwhelming, and it can be hard to know where to start. I think it is always especially hard at the beginning of the year when companies are all vying for your money, your attention, playing with your feelings of self consciousness. Let’s forget about all of that and get back to basics.
Read more of Stacey’s column here!
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
By: Heather Somaini
Same-sex parent writes about pregnancy complications with her wife.
It’s funny how most of us were born without any complications at all. Our mothers didn’t have multiple ultrasounds over the course of their pregnancy and generally didn’t know what they were having until the doctor held us up by our feet and spanked us on the bottom to make us cry. Did that stuff really happen or is it only in the movies?
Until our pregnancy with the twins, no one in my family had delivered a baby in their 30’s let alone their 40’s. I knew that we were moving into uncharted territory to some degree but like anyone else, I had no idea what kinds of things can go wrong. And most people don’t know. We’re all supposed to get pregnant, have glowing, happy pregnancies and then pop out a bouncing baby boy or girl in 9 months, right? Because everyone around us is having those types of pregnancies!
It was surprising to me that as we were open and forthcoming with people about our challenges, their stories started pouring out. It amazed me how many couples had struggled in silence. It’s almost like there’s a stigma to it somehow and no one wants to admit that it’s not as easy as it appears.
Tere spent that first weekend in the hospital hooked up to lots of monitors and given an array of treatments to calm the uterine irritability. I brought reading material, clothes, food, DVDs, anything I could think of. Friends came to visit. By Monday, they had a diagnosis.
Dr. C called me at the office from Tere’s hospital room and let me know that she had some good and bad news. The good news is that Tere was not in pre-term labor and we didn’t have to worry about an imminent delivery of twins at 22 weeks, which would be disastrous.
The bad news was that Tere’s cervical incompetence was just that – incompetent. Luckily, because they had caught it so early, we had a few options –from least to most invasive. Option Number One was bed rest. Interesting, but it didn’t seem to me to be terribly effective. Option Number Two was a Pessary, which is essentially a silicone device that sort of holds the cervix together. Again, interesting – but would it really work? The third option was a McDonald Cerclage , which is a surgical procedure that actually stitches the cervix, closed as high up as they can reach.
I remember asking Dr. C which of these procedures would get Tere home the fastest. Her response was that the goal was not necessarily to get Tere home. It’s sort of funny thinking back to it because I was completely focused on getting Tere home, not necessarily what was best for all of us. It’s hard to turn the Titanic of our lives around on a dime but I would slowly get that ship righted on to the correct path. Time, sometimes it just takes time.
We asked Dr. C what she recommended and she said if it were her daughter, she would go with the Cerclage. We agreed. They would fit in the procedure the following day. Tere wasn’t allowed to eat after midnight so I brought over a fabulous “last meal” before the big day and we settled in for another night of “not knowing”.
By: Heather Somaini
Two weeks passed. Tere was not pregnant. We talked to Dr. C. She said we would try again. One of the nice things about being a same-sex couple means that no one tells you to “go home and try” for a baby. Since you are essentially in need of fertility assistance from minute one, there’s very little wasted time.
Dr. C was not about to waste any time. She explained that Tere had a substantial ovarian cyst that could be affecting her getting pregnant. We would try one more time unassisted in the hopes that the other ovary would produce an egg that could be fertilized. If on try number two, she didn’t get pregnant, the cyst would have to be removed.
We crossed our fingers and Tere started back on the fertility monitor. We went back to our regular lives. Tere was working in Orange County with a very long commute from the Hollywood Hills and we both worked 12+ hour days. It was easy to just throw ourselves into our work.
A couple weeks went by. We tried again. I peppered Dr. C with questions. She was just starting to get to know me so she actually tried answering them. She learned over time that my questions never stop and slowly started just staring at me while I asked. Her answers would ultimately become what my entire day hinged on. I hung on every word she said. But we were still early on in this process so she tried.
We waited two weeks. Tere was not pregnant. Dr. C scheduled the surgery for the removal of the ovarian cyst. It was a few weeks later. It’s amazing what they can do these days in medicine. This was a laparoscopic procedure so Tere only ended up with two small incisions. Dr. K, my doctor, assisted with the surgery and everything went fine. They said we could try again in a month or so.
I took Tere home. She was back to work in a few days. A few weeks went by. Dr. C said that everything looked great and we could try again. She suggested that we move to the next stage and try a low-level fertility drug. Clomid. We agreed.
No one really tells you about the fertility roller coaster. It just starts and you’re on it. It starts out slow and flat so you don’t pay attention to what’s further down the track. You certainly know what’s down there. You’ve heard lots of stories. But they most definitely aren’t your story and you won’t have to go that far. You will be different. Yours will be easy, quick, less complicated.
This was our beginning. Quietly and without fanfare, we got on. I was so convinced it was just fine and that we were in control. Isn’t that always the way it happens? While you’re not watching, not paying attention, not realizing what the future will bring.
That’s when we realize that if we try to hold on, we’ll end up holding nothing. That the only way to come out the other side unscathed, is to let go…to trust. I was a long way away from understanding it but my roller coaster was about to begin in earnest.
By: Heather Somaini
Ok, so you’ve gotten the CliffsNotes version of my whirlwind romance with Tere. How she flew up to San Francisco on a whim, kicked me to the curb over my bad behavior and somehow survived my long, drawn-out proposal. But one thing I “forgot” to tell you about was The Bet.
You see, within the very early halcyon days of seeing each other, Tere accepted a phone call from one of her closest friends. Her friend – let’s call him Chris because that’s his name – wanted to know why she had thrown caution to the wind over someone she had JUST met. Chris was very concerned that Tere was getting in over her head with this perfect stranger. You see, Tere had a habit of moving very quickly in relationships and Chris wanted her to take her time in getting to know me.
Oh, did I mention that I was in the car when she took this call on the speakerphone? At first, I thought it would be funny to listen in, but as the conversation quickly escalated, I realized that I was falling for a serial-monogamist. You all know who they are – the girl that meets you, calls you immediately and wants to move in together after two months. Uh-oh – not what I wanted. The last thing I needed was a “U-Hauler” from Long Beach even if she had a nice house in Belmont Shore!
So I suggested to Tere that maybe we create some rules or guidelines around our courtship. Those rules ultimately looked something like this:
1. No more than 2 dates per week.
2. No more than 2 overnights per week.
3. If you stay overnight on a Saturday, the “date” must end no later than 6:00pm on Sunday.
4. No saying “I Love You” for at least 4 months.
5. No extravagant gifts.
6. No overnight out of town weekend getaways.
7. No moving in with each other for at least 1 year.
Now, by the time the rules began to shape up, I had actually met Chris and he didn’t think I was half bad but I had also met John, who knew I was half bad. John and I both recognized that Tere had limited self-control and wouldn’t survive long with all these rules. She was too far down the road, but we had hope.
To make the game a bit more fun, John and I decided to amp up the stakes – we turned it into a bet. I have no idea why Tere went along with it. I was completely conflicted. No matter which way it went, I would “win”. John and I were essentially on one side and Tere on the other. There was no chance she was going to last and we knew it so we took full advantage. Tere had to follow all of the rules and if she broke any of them, she would be required to buy John a new road bike and me an Armani suit for the upcoming GLAAD Awards.
Harsh, I know. But at this point, would you expect anything less? You wouldn’t have any respect for me if I didn’t pull little stunts like this.
Tere lasted three weeks. Only three weeks. She tried so hard but ultimately could not persevere with the weight of the rules on her shoulders. She broke on a Friday night in my tiny West Hollywood apartment when she uttered those three little words “I love you”.
She knew it was over and she had lost but I suppose in the end, she won. But boy, I still look good in that charcoal grey Armani suit.
By: Rosy Barren
I came home after my miserable cocktail party and the house was dark. I slipped off my heels and peered around the corner to see a slit of light coming from the bathroom. I pushed open the door and my wife lay silently in the bath. She was sad; it was all over her face. I sat on the toilet and adjusted my harsh bitterness to a softer me, a person that could receive what was happening to her separate from my own troubles. She talked about the one beautiful egg and began to cry.
“I just wonder if that one is…”
I knew what she was going to say. I had thought it many times before but this time it was her body, not mine. The bitterness slipped back in and blood rushed to my face. I was no longer rational and all that I have worked for in the last 2 ½ years began to slip away and someone else was about to take over my maternal duties. The role that I had worked so hard to perfect, the healthy, fertile, strong, copious mother-to-be was swirling away right before my eyes.
“the one” she continued.
I swallowed hard. What if she was right? What if despite the fact that she has no interest in birthing a child –let alone breastfeeding –she is the one that is meant to do this? My heart snapped in half; I was torn between letting it all go and haphazardly suggesting an IUI (turkey baster style try performed by the doctor) for this one egg, knowing that there was a distinct chance that she would now be the one to reap all the benefits that I have wanted so badly. Or, to quietly sit and wait for her to be the one to request this of me, knowing how it would make me ache inside. Or would she know? Did she know what it meant to me? I chose silence and anger, emotions that are often conjured up on the topic of infertility. I spent the night awake staring into darkness moving farther and farther away from the person closest to me. I thought about why it is so important to me to get pregnant and why it would be so hard for me to watch her do it if I couldn’t. It isn’t the genes; I know that for sure. It’s the feeling of being pregnant, the childhood dream that I’ve had, the miracle of creating a baby in my body that I know I want more than anything. Tears streamed down my face as I pictured her birthing our baby, her being the lifeline for our child and me sitting idly by helplessly watching all the while knowing she never desired any of those things. I tossed and turned angrily for being so selfish in my thoughts. “For fuck’s sake Rosy, just one of you get pregnant already.” I resigned to discuss it in the morning.
The conversation was tight and short between us and it felt as if we were sucking each other’s air in our morning drive to coffee. I kept starting to speak my mind and stopping myself. I knew once it was out there, it was gone, the thoughts would fly themselves high up in the air and wherever they land was no longer up to me, everything was on her turf. She pulled between the white lines to park and I interrupted myself.
“Do you want to try it with the one egg?”
I was being tortured with the conversation; we were testing the water inch by inch.
“Should we?” I continued.
“I don’t know, I was emotional last night, I just couldn’t help but wonder if it was worth a try but it seems pretty silly doesn’t it to waste money on just that one after all this.”
I breathed a silent sigh of relief and punished myself again for my shameful thoughts. Kicking the floor of her car much like the moment I almost “out-ed” myself to my father I begin psychically shivering at the notion of what I had almost done.
“I don’t think it’s silly if you want to be pregnant.”
“I don’t. I don’t know,” she said, opening the car door. I was shocked at the cavalier attitude; I had played out an hour-long conversation ending in tears and possibly screaming followed by door slams and a brisk walk back home but she dropped it.
I darted around the topic a few more times throughout the day. “Are you sure? I want you to know I’d be OK with it.” Truthfully, I wasn’t that stoic. I laced many of these questions with quick “It would be tough” or “I would be sad to carry the baby” follow-ups. They were brief jabs that a naked eye might miss, or so I thought. She has stayed true to her story; it was a night of emotion that she needed and a chance to feel something that she hadn’t been in touch with before. She explained that she only really considered the option of IUI for a brief instant and as the ultimate sacrifice to me, she had no need or desire to be pregnant. It’s really quite romantic what she was offering although given all that I’ve been through it’s tough for me to see it that way.
Now, time has passed, we did not do an IUI and I can’t help but wonder if that was our one chance and we passed it by.