My son’s new preschool has a bulletin board right by the front entrance where everyone is asked to post a family picture. It’s a sea of Typical Family Portraits: a mom, a dad, a kid or two, and maybe a dog. We’ve now been there for over two months and the teachers keep bugging me to get them our family portrait.
I’ve totally choked.
Let me preface this by saying that I have a way of completely overthinking EVERYTHING. Even a damn picture. I could, of course, produce a Typical Family Portrait. That would be the easy and simple. We are not out as poly to preschool or my son’s friends’ parents and, to borrow some phrasing from my beloved queer friends, we “present” as a monogamous couple. We attend birthday parties with just us and our son. We gloss over the poly parts of our lives by using phrases like, “a friend of mine” and “a person we know”. When my boyfriend comes with me for pick up, we don’t hold hands or brush up against each other. The Typical Family Portrait would just be an extension of what we’ve been doing already. Avoiding it and playing it safe. Not lying, but also not revealing.
But the radically honest person in me is cringing with self-loathing.
I believe strongly that if one CAN come out she should. Not only for her own mental health, but also to aide in progressing polyamory to be a more accepted and understood lifestyle. If we all came out, we wouldn’t be considered so weird. But this–my son’s preschool–is the first place I’ve had doubts about whether or not I SHOULD. It’s not as simple as just “you can take me or leave me just the way I am, and your loss if you if you don’t like it.” It isn’t really about ME at all. It’s my son’s space, and it feels like opening up my innocent son to the potential for discrimination. What if birthday party invitations stopped coming? What if the other parents stopped talking to us, or told their kids to stop talking to him? Heck, what if the preschool called child services on us? Seems really unlikely–we are in Chicago after all–but do I really want to take the risk?
Most friends I talk to think I’m probably totally safe–my neighborhood and this preschool are not known for being intolerant–but I’ve already experienced that rejection first hand and it’s made me a bit paranoid. My boyfriend lives in a more conservative suburb, and most of his friends are devout Catholics. Though they are nice to my face, they certainly don’t agree with our choices and they’ve told us that we are not allowed to bring either my son or my wife to their houses. Essentially, if we want to be friends with them we must play the part of monogamous couple and there is only “so far they can go” in accepting our lifestyle. To paint a broad stroke, my being poly has resulted in my son being discriminated against: he’s not allowed in their houses or to play with their children. (Thankfully, he’s too young to know the difference and has never met them so it really doesn’t matter. Still, not a pattern I want to continue.)
We are new to this preschool and the stakes are so much higher. We are still getting to know the parents, and we have no clue how socially conservative they swing. I know that one day I’m going to have to bite the bullet and come out to at least some of my son’s friends’ parents and deal with their reactions. I know I am delaying the inevitable.
Still, it pains me to admit that now simply is not the right time. I know it’s a little manipulative, but I want them to know us and like us first so it’s harder to reject us in the future. I don’t want to cut off those relationships before they even get started. Our Typical Family Portrait is still true, it’s not a lie. We are, knowingly, privileged to be in a relationship that “passes” as monogamous, so this form of manipulation can actually work. Who’s to say being patient and waiting for the right time may not make a bigger difference in the long run? Maybe people who would have outright rejected us at first will be more open when they know us a people first before poly.
But the idealist on my shoulder keeps yelling at me to shut up and stand up for myself and others who are less privileged. Push buttons! Fight the good fight! I have to stop myself, take a deep breath, and keep reminding myself that this is for my son, not for me or anyone else. Sometimes my principles about doing the right thing for him must supersede other principles.
After all, it’s just a freaking picture, right?