My essay Father-Daughter Dance: A Note on Coming Out and Going Home is now live on The Toast, tagged “Dads.”

When my cousin invited me to her wedding, I couldn’t bring myself to repeat any of the auto-responses I’d stocked up over the years to get out of going home.

Instead, I blurted out: “I’m super happy for you, but sick of pretending like I’m Single in the City, like the love of my life doesn’t exist for the sake of other people’s feelings.”

My words surprised me. I’d suppressed them for so long that once released they seemed to reverberate off the marble walls of Washington D.C.’s Union Station, like a departing train announcement. My cousin was in town for a conference; I had just arrived from my home in Manhattan—happy to keep our visits on the East Coast, if it meant I could avoid going home, home to Iowa.

“So…” she asked, “who is he?”

She,” I choked out. “Her name is Melinda.”

My cousin dropped onto a nearby bench. I sank down beside her. After a forever-long second, I glanced sideways and was relieved to see that she didn’t appear to be plotting her escape by checking the train times, as the schedule updated—ticking and flipping—in sync with my heart.

Slowly, she turned toward me and, to my surprise, exclaimed with mounting enthusiasm: “Bring her! I can’t wait to meet her. Seriously. It’d mean so much to us if you both—” She cut herself off. “Wait. Do your parents know?”

No. That was the problem. I hadn’t yet figured out how to break it to my conservative, Christian parents and older brother that they were related to a homosexual. My parents knew of Melinda as a girl I’d met in college. They thought we were girlfriends, as in the kind Grandma envisioned, when she asked how many I’d invited over for potluck. Melinda and I had been friends for ten years, a couple, for two. I was touched by my cousin’s response, but wasn’t sure I was ready to make my lesbian relationship a family affair.

“The wedding isn’t till August.” She brightened. “You’ve got eight months.”

I was touched by her response, but…“We’ll see,” I said without much conviction.

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