Here in Los Angeles for a week or so, I was looking at the Christmas cards that my parents and (by extension, I suppose) I received this year. Most of the cards are accompanied by photographs of families, smiling together at me from glossy paper. The photographs are especially important when new additions have been made to these families, so far away, or so busy, that we don't see each other. We haven't yet been able to picture the new family members, spoken about, perhaps, in letters exchanged or telephone conversations, but with a photograph of the family, new addition welcomingly included in the happy fold, we are able, gratefully, to put faces to names.
I was browsing quickly through the letters and cards--caring mostly for the photographs and less for the notes, with their usual litanies of the year's accomplishments--and I started to wonder about spinsterhood a little. When daughters and sons marry, their spouses are added to the list of family members--this has happened for my brother and his lovely fiancée in our family--and included in the photo. I am terrified, of course, that I won't have anyone to add to the photograph for a long time. But I also wonder whether, if by chance I were to stumble upon a young man who wanted to be my boyfriend, mine would be added to the family along with everyone else's. Certainly he would be... eventually. I wonder, though, how long it would take. Marriage not being an option in most locales, my folks would just have to take my word for our commitment to one another.
I envision a huge scene with an ultimatum from me (one that probably would not turn out in my favor). Or perhaps I wouldn't care at all about being included in the photograph and ask, politely to be excluded, anticipating the inevitable and heading it off at the pass like making the gay joke before the rest of the table does so that I can control how much it hurts.