The Tribal Council


Nearly twice a week the adult members of my tribe, usually at that quiet time once the kids are finally asleep, sit down sleepily with a nightcap in hand and our latest Genius list to amuse and delight our ears. Inevitably, especially after a series of really good days, a collection of horizontal lines creases up my forehead like a tiny, fleshy accordion.

That’s when the male member of my tribe will gently trace a finger over my brow and softly ask “what’s on your mind”? And I will sigh heartily, and muse silently about whether or not to have the same conversation we’ve had about 1000 times already. Then, because I believe communication will be paramount to this relationship, I launch into my familiar litany:

Will I have to remain a secret forever?
How and when do we tell the girls?
When can we stop pretending that I sleep on the couch?
How much do we care about what outsiders think, and how open can we be with our displays of affection when we’re all together?
How worried are you about other people thinking you are having an affair?
If we decide to have another child what/how do we tell the girls?
Will I ever be able to appear at family functions? Will my family accept you at ours?
What will we do when family members start trying to set me up with other people?

At this moment, I have a three and a half year old in my lap who is licking me like a puppy…

Both of my partners listen patiently. Then we talk through possible scenarios and what ifs. We usually laugh together, and get a bit pensive. I apologize for ONCE AGAIN having to talk about all the same things, but nobody is mad at me. My male partner tells me that only through talking about my fears are we all able to address our worry, and put it into context, and take away some of its power. My female partner usually sits silently listening, but will then look up at me and the calm, quiet of her gaze says all of the words that I need to hear.

In this relationship, more than any other in my life, I am positive that I will realize everything I’ve ever dreamed of. Though we three are all very different, we have the exact same approach to life, and we all want the same kind of experience of the world. We love the same things, from music to food, we’re committed to seeing as much of the world that we can, we realize that beyond family and close friends there isn’t much else that’s truly important. When you take the lid off and look inside, it’s a really ideal diorama. However, the problem with lifting off the lid is that the rest of the world can squeak in. Some of the rest of the world isn’t so thrilled for us.

Something that I read last night stated that what we are doing is challenging thousands of years of the tradition of marriage. I think this was worded more like “flipping the bird at” but I really couldn’t disagree more. In my own Schnooie head, we are kicking it WAAAY old school. Like pre-Christian old school when tribes came together and lovingly raised children collectively. People in those days didn’t claim ownership of children. They were gifts from the gods, and a very serious responsibility for everyone. Am I naive to think that this model has a place in our modern age?

I have a lawyer friend who specializes in family law who is near drooling whenever I talk about my relationship. She says proudly that we are setting a new precedent. After years and years of helping heterosexual couples weed through messy divorces and child custody battles, she believes that we are brave and enlightened.

Last week my partners hosted a dinner party for some of my oldest, closest friends. He cooked a truly elaborate and spectacular Thai feast and she assisted, and turned the house into a lovely, tidy little haven. The girls were at their most charming, and everyone was cast in warm light, smiling and laughing together like old friends. I can’t remember the last time I was so happy.

One of my girlfriends, who has borne witness to my last two big relationships, told me last night that she has never seen me so still, so calm, and so committed. Not even to the man who I went on to marry. She doesn’t comment often on my relationships. She usually is a great ear, but will only give her opinion if pressed. Last night she offered this freely.

I think of my gay friends who have had to deal with outside scrutiny for their whole lives. Who move forward with life and love despite the popular opinion that their existence is ‘strange’ or ‘abnormal’. From the time I was very wee, I realized that I wasn’t like the other kids, and only now, at 33 am I beginning to understand exactly what that means. My new realizations, my new choices don’t change who I am. I feel like this is the next essential layer on my path to self-realization. My life feels ‘normal’ now. The restlessness I’ve always fought with has dissipated. Perhaps it will come back, but for now I’m enjoying this great sense of peace, and this near-overwhelming sense of happiness and belonging. I suppose everything must come with a price, and negotiating the judgements and criticism of the outside world is nothing new to me.

On Sunday I planned and executed the six year old’s first official birthday party. It was a huge success, and I met many of the parents of her school mates, who all seemed like warm, lovely people. We offered no explanation about our relationship, and when two of the moms asked my female partner what our relation was, she said “Schnoo is a very, very dear friend.” The both smiled and shook their heads ruefully and said “Where can WE get a Schnoo?”

I like to think they’d be even more eager to acquire one of me if they knew how my love extends well beyond party planning.