As some of you may know from reading my past posts, I am a server in a restaurant at a concert venue, and therefore the crowd that we draw in each evening varies drastically with the performance that is to take place later that night. Last night, the first table that I was given was two women and a young boy. I had a pleasant conversation with them, and they revealed to me that the boy had just graduated fifth grade. As they were sitting down later in the night, I noticed that the boy pulled out a chair for one of the women. I was so excited, I said to him, “what a gentleman!” And the woman smiled at me and said that he pretty much has to be like that, what with two moms.
It hit me at that moment that it hadn’t even crossed my mind that this might be a couple and their son. I smiled and laughed, and as the evening progressed they were one of my kindest most easygoing tables.
As I told my mom about this, she said carefully, “When I see anyone with good manners, I am careful to say ‘what good manners!’ so as not to offend anyone.” I was so surprised by this because I hadn’t even realized that calling this little boy a “gentleman” could have been in any way harmful.
I realized after this conversation that I had encountered two of the points that Shoshana Devora made in her article “3 Ways to Talk About Nontraditional Family Structures Appropriately.” The first two points that she mentioned were language and reactions. While I had prided myself on my reaction, I fit right into everything she said about not even noticing when we’re doing it, and I realized that I will need to make an adjustment to the way that I speak to people in general.
As I read Barbara Ehnreich’s sarcastic “The Mommy Test,” I realized that one or both of the mothers of this boy must be employed. The article argues that women can do the same jobs that men can do at the corporate level, which I certainly agree with. I believe this family embodied exactly what Ehnreich was talking about: they could afford to see Riverdance at WolfTrap and eat a meal for three at Ovations beforehand, as well as raise a kind and well-mannered fifth grad graduate.
Finally I was watching the Stephanie Koontz video “On Marriage” earlier today and she explained that in her studies and experience, it is intellectual respect and friendship that make a marriage strong. While she only talked about the relationship between a woman and her husband, my mind wandered to my interaction with these women and their child, for in order to face a society that is not entirely accepting and to raise such a respectful child amidst that is a feat that I believe could only be accomplished with sincere solidarity and trust.
Devora, Soshana. “3 Ways to Talk About Nontraditional Family Structures Appropriately.” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 13 May 2014. Web.
Ehrenreich, B. (n.d.). The Mommy Test (Vol. 562). The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Retrieved from Working to Place Family at the Center of Life.
Poptech. “Stephanie Coontz: On Marriage.” YouTube. Stephanie Coontz, 04 Jan. 2011. Web.