I was ten years old when I learned what it meant to be gay. My dad was as an interior designer, and he’d been talking enthusiastically about a home he’d been working on for a few months. One morning, he said the two women who lived in this house were going to be investing in art for their walls and shelves.
“What if one of them gets married and moves out,” I asked, wondering why they would put so much money and time into something not permanent.
“Well, they’re not just roommates,” he explained matter-of-factly, “they plan to live together for a long time.”
He didn’t label them “gay.” It took me a few more years to connect that word and the way too many people sneered when they said it to the comfortable fact of two women living together instead of marrying men. I hadn’t known such an option existed, and I liked it. I could see living in a house with my best friend and imagined how fun it would be to pick out art together for our walls.
More than two decades later, circumstances of my life came together in such a way that I ended up meeting the two women who hired my dad to design their home.
They’re successful, impressive women, but too humble to make that obvious when talking with me, and they remembered my dad — quite fondly!
“Oh, we loved that house!” one of them said and explained they’d recently moved. “Your dad wouldn’t want to come work on our new house, would he?”
I explained that he’s 80 years old, but that did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm about his artistic eye.
Then, as one woman turned to talk to someone else, the other continued smiling at me and said, “You know, we interviewed other designers.”
I hadn’t even considered this, and worried retroactively about my dad not getting the job.
“… But as we gave them a tour of our home, when it came time to show them our bedroom …”
She trailed off here, but the expression on her face left little to the imagination about how the designers might have reacted. Barely disguised disgust? Outright judgment?
“But your dad! We got to the bedroom — our bedroom — and he just nodded and asked about colors.”
I’ve always loved my dad, but I still get teary when I think about this moment nearly thirty years ago, during a time even less accepting than now, from a man whose generation certainly did not embrace anything remotely “non-traditional.”
Two women sharing a bed was a complete non-issue for my dad. All that really mattered to him — all that should ever really matter about anyone — is what art they have on their walls, what books on their shelves, what music they listen to or where they’ve traveled, and how much joy their home contains.