Sunday, July 29, 2012
My hand were cramping as I put down the meat fork and slicing knife and I stepped back from the carving station, smoothed my apron and stood at ease, listening to the music with a content smile on my face. The long line of tables that held all the food we had prepared stretched down the high glass atrium like a silent sentinel standing watch with me. They were still burgeoning with mixed cold salads, pasta dishes, cheese and fruit trays, vegetables, rice dishes, roasted potatoes, breads and the different chicken, pork and beef dishes, though a bit depleted for the efforts of the hungry guests. I stood just out of reach of the bright warming lights of the cutting board and now that I had time to pause and reflect after twelve hours of cooking, I have to admit, at the very moment of success and elation of a job well done, my heart has never been heavier and more conflicted with the crushing emotions and myriad of feelings welling up inside me.
It had been a long and full day in the kitchens, the culmination of a week of planning, grocery and product ordering, menu structuring, recipe selection and food preparation all building up to the incredibly special night for the joining of these two families by the marriage of their two beautiful children. From the intricate canapes and delectable hors d' oeuvres passed by the wait staff during the cocktail party, to the dinner that had just been served, to the desserts and cakes that weighed down the table in the Ballroom, our contribution to their special evening had been performed without a hitch or flaw in execution. It felt so good to be back performing and executing the culinary passion that I loved.
My heart crumpled like wet newsprint and still managed to ache and shatter quietly inside me. I have never felt like such an alien and outsider in my entire life. The crushing weight and trembling inner feeling of being "other" and "different" than all of them had never truly come to bear in my mind the way that it did as I stood there confused and battered by the mingled, conflicting thoughts. All of this...these rites of passage, the mingling of families, the celebration with friends, the affirmation and acceptance of our peers, the celebration of love and marriage itself by relations and social groups is not allowed for my kind. I stand on the outside of the circle looking in.
I do not know what it is like to grow up like the vast majority of humans in my own country. I never will experience being teased by family and school friends when I find that special person and their name seems to be falling out of my mouth constantly, never hiding my attractions and worrying if others will still love and accept me. Other like me are not allowed to date openly and freely in public without the worry of violence, condemnation and confrontation from strangers. The blessing and approval of society at young and growing love does not exist for my kind. We are the "other". We are the "different". We are the "they".
Groups of those we love and are related to will not gather to feast and celebrate when we commit ourselves to each other. There will be no happy groups in churches attending and affirming our love and life time commitment to each other. The carefree strolls and public displays of affection for our boyfriend will not be accepted or allowed. By law...our love and commitment is illegal, less than, devalued, scorned and vilified. Groups of people across the country are devoted to ensuring that true equality for other humans like me is never allowed. They condemn and hate us verbally, socially, emotionally, spiritually and physically at every chance they can get. They condone this with their religion and say it is commanded by God. We are not allowed. We are not equal. We are below them and not worthy of even the most foundational institutions of human civilization. We cannot marry. We are denied family. We are forced to live on the margins. We are the outcasts.
I stood there and cried inside myself. I was so conflicted. I was truly incredibly happy for this couple and all the amazing people that had gathered. I did not begrudge them the beautiful and amazing celebration that I was witnessing, but inside of me, my heart was breaking.
I had never felt like a minority in this world until that moment.
Unclean. Unworthy. Unwanted.
Less than. Not equal. Not allowed.
After all that life, work and toil I had then been forced to carve my unprepared heart into hundreds of bloody, beating pieces and serve it, slice by slice to be devoured by those who are worthy, who do matter, who are blessed.
I had to smile and like it.
I have to do it every day.