Loving Beyond the 5C Bubble

For fall break, my boyfriend and I went home to Chicago to attend my cousin’s wedding. He had met my parents once before over Some Crust egg sliders, and once a cousin over probably too many glasses of wine, but this was different. It felt serious. Despite collective nerves, he hit it off with my mom, mingled with my relatives, and danced his way to yet another cousin’s heart. But this weekend meant so much more than that. Being together outside of the context of Pomona College brought other facets of our situation into focus. We’re young and gay, so we have to fight against both societal discrimination and a constant questioning of the seriousness of our relationship. The gravity of bringing somebody home to meet my parents represented, in some respects, a personal declaration of the importance of our identity. Above all, we were able to explore what it meant to be together beyond the context of Pomona College.

My boyfriend and I have now been together for over a year, and our anniversary happened to be the date of my cousin’s rehearsal dinner. Even though I tried to qualm his anxieties, such as his fear of having a boxy sport coat, by telling him that the weekend was about my cousin and not us, I definitely took some private pleasure at imagining the dinner as our own little celebration. After all, we had triumphed over 12 months chock-full of 5C parties, backpacking to hot springs, late nights of studying, homemade spring rolls, heart-wrenching distance, broken trust, and rebuilt bonds.

A vast majority of this time has taken place on the campuses of the Claremont Colleges, but there we were, visiting cultural hallmarks of my hometown, spending time with my family, and tasting a bit of what (admittedly unburdened) life is like outside of Claremont. As a 20- and an almost-21-year-old, when a college year can seem to encapsulate so much more, a year is a hell of a long time. If we ever decided to partake in the notorious institution of marriage, we’d have to wait until we were in our 30s before we were as old as my cousin. That’s a decade away, but it seems inordinately closer after a year together.

Though it came up in conversation with some family members, my parents never remarked that last Friday marked 365 days from the official beginning of my own relationship. Since my unfortunately contentious coming-out, I have never been quite sure how much to share. The “gay thing” found strange ways to manifest itself over break. It stung when my father would introduce my boyfriend as my friend, but I knew it was not the “gay thing” that compelled my parents to prevent us from sleeping in the same bedroom. I resorted to quips in light of the former and understood the rationale behind the latter.

Once my cousin offered me the opportunity to invite my boyfriend to her wedding, it was my call. I had to evaluate the seriousness of our relationship, putting him in the position of meeting a whole bunch of family members and putting my parents in the position of making him feel comfortable. Watching him and my family get along was more than the colliding of worlds. It was my boyfriend’s acceptance of where I come from and my family’s acceptance of where I am now, as a young gay man living in the modern world. It was the people I love the most accepting me and enjoying that I had brought them together.

Having my boyfriend spend a weekend at my home and bringing him to my cousin’s wedding all felt like culminations of an ongoing process of acceptance, both societal and familial, which doesn’t even factor in on campus. Once we arrived back Tuesday night and sat down to do homework over pizza and Cinna Stix, that was all firmly sequestered in the past. We were back to long nights, our plot at the farm, and the inexorable approach of Harwood Halloween. In all its complexities, fall break was not lighthearted. In its own way, it was an adventure, an exploration of our young, gay, and context-crossing relationship. At the end of it, I am ready to keep chugging along as a team, ready to face whatever the outside world has for us.

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