Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Engagement at Sears

Posted By on July 1, 2009

Engagement at Sears
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

We decided to paint the bathrooms, and found ourselves meandering through Sears on Saturday afternoon, looking for a shower curtain. We are passing by the jewelry section, my partner our son and myself. I said, "Hey, honey lets go look at engagement rings!" "In Sears?" she said — with a kind of pinched look on hir face. "Yes!" I said, emphatically, "We are just looking, okay?"

I know that some people get married before they have children (though this has never been as popular as cultural mythology would suggest). I, however, was very clear that I would not marry anyone until we had our children first. Not being a fool, I wanted to be sure that we could really "do" this together. My partner and I actually became lovers after my son was adopted, and we have been planning on having another child, if only the fertility gods would comply. Whether by adoption or pregnancy, we are planning to have at least one more child, so the prospect of "marriage" is becoming ever more real.

When we first fell in love (like 3 weeks after we fell in bed) she asked me to marry hir. (Can you imagine?) She wanted to buy me an engagement ring, but I protested — wasn’t that just too het? She bought me a beautiful engagement bracelet that I’ve worn with love and pride. Over the past few months though it has struck me that no one knows what the bracelet is and suddenly it has been haunting me that I really do want an engagement ring!

So, this is how we found ourselves waylaid in the jewelry department on our way to buy the shower curtain in Sears. First of course we had to placate the baby (OK, so at 3 1/2 he’s not really a baby anymore!). We did it in the best parenting spirit — we bribed him. We promised him we’d go to the play in the appliance section of Sears. Before you think us evil parents, you need to know this is more to his liking than candy, or movies or any toy in the world. Large grown-up size stoves are for him what Disney World may be to another kid. (Actually his favorite part of Disney World was Minnie Mouse’s House, with the large sized appliances in the very pink kitchen–he fought through the hordes of other children who had the illusion that is was their turn.) He often begs us to not go to the park, but cries to play in the Sears appliance section, where the store workers recognize him and politely ask him, "What’s for lunch today?"

Excited about playing with the stoves, he sat quietly (unknown to us he was actually germinating Chicken Pox, his silence part of the Pox meditation). We began to look at the rings when a sales woman came over. "Can I help you girls?" she said, politely. For the record this is not the best way to address either this feminist femme or my partner the butch. Making direct eye contact, I said, "Yes, we are looking for engagements rings." Without blinking an eye she said, "OK hun, and what styles are you thinking of?"

We spent about twenty minutes looking — and learning about engagement ring styles (somehow I must’ve missed this class during my young adult days in hippie communes, women’s studies classes and anti-war rallies). Twenty minutes is of course the outer limit for a 3 1/2-year-old, and — if I’m being honest — kind of pushes my attention span a bit too. But my love is just getting interested – -comparing details and making me try on like 800 rings — so I am clutching the checkbook (which has just enough money in it for a shower curtain) for dear life.

Just as I’m getting ready to move the family along to the shower curtain department, the sales woman says, "Are you both wanting rings?" We smile at each other, and my partner says, "We’ll both get wedding bands, but she’ll wear the engagement ring." (On cue, I flutter my eyelashes to the sales woman.) And, again without missing a beat the saleswoman says, "Oh, some couples do it that way, and some like to both wear them."
My only response is in the raising of my eyebrow, and more very direct eye contact. She smiles. "Oh," she says, "We have lots of gay couples come in looking for rings. I sold five this month alone."

Well, what do you know? Femme/Butch white lesbian couple with handsome Black son in tow — just your normal American family shopping at Sears for engagement rings and shower curtains on a Saturday afternoon. The things I never could’ve imagined growing up in Brooklyn.

The sales woman was respectful and engaging (excuse the pun). This was initially a lark -not the marriage, the trip to Sears. I’d never really considered buying an engagement ring at Sears; we’d planned a big trip down to NYC to the diamond district, a serious outing, if you will. Yet the attention and respect of the saleswoman came close to convincing me, that yes we could buy our engagement ring at Sears. Why not? We have a credit card in both our names!