Of course, the title of this post is rather preposterous. The only variance in our relationship has been its natural progression from dating to engaged to married. However, this post highlights the relationships we’ve been through the eyes of others around the globe.
Let’s start this roulette wheel of relationships with the most benign assumption: Just Friends. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact situation of where people have seen us as simple travel buddies, but that’s likely because some people just don’t care enough to delve deeper into what we mean to each other. Granted, there was that one time passing through immigration in Abu Dhabi, UAE, where we announced that we were simple travel companions. Seeing as homosexuality is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, we decided to stay in the closet for that 3-day layover.
The next relationship we’ve been from the perspective of strangers is that we’re Sisters. Although we personally can’t see any family resemblance when we look in the mirror, there have been studies that show it’s difficult for people to distinguish differences in appearance of individuals from other ethnicities. Perhaps that’s the reason an exit immigration official in Nepal mistakenly pegged us as siblings. He even asserted that we have the same nose, a fact that couldn’t be further from the truth!
Here’s where our relationships begin to get more interesting. We remember our trip to Belize, relaxing on the front porch of our beachfront bungalow, when a local man kindly struck up some conversation. His eyes darted between the two of us as he raced to come up with a correct relationship status: “Friends?” No. “Sisters?” Nope. “Mother & Daughter?” Our mouths both gaped wide open, and it was obvious to everyone involved that the conversation had come to an abrupt end.
Along a similar vein, there have been two other times that Ligeia has been viewed as my mother: at the Jerusalem central bus station speaking with an Orthodox Jewish woman; and heading to the Manila airport in a taxi. In these two cases, however, our friendly strangers saw us as Mother & Son. We ended up chatting with the woman in Jerusalem for a few minutes, coming out to her and hopefully dispelling any misunderstanding about lesbians. The taxi driver, however, misinterpreted our shock as an insult to my age and adjusted his assumption so that I became a “young man” instead of Ligeia’s son. We left the cab before we could decipher whether he believed we were a straight couple.
One of the most astounding relationships we’ve been occurred while we were in a mosque in Bethlehem. This time, though, was different because we actually transformed ourselves in order to fit the assumption of the imam we were speaking with. For the first (and hopefully last) time in our lives, we became Husband & Wife! Those 7 minutes, waiting for Ligeia to pray in the women’s only section, wearing the head covering given to her, were excruciating. I stood there with the kind Muslim man, constantly hoping he didn’t ask me a question forcing me to answer in a clearly non-male voice. We both breathed a huge sigh of relief when Ligeia returned the hijab and in my lowest register, I mumbled “Shokran” (thank you) and we bolted!
It goes without saying that there is a comfort when people see our relationship for what it really is, like the time in Lesbos when the hotel owner eagerly explained that they would happily move the twin beds together for us. Or perhaps it’s even simpler than that: when a stranger knows that we’re both women, like in the Gili Islands when a man greeted us with “Good evening, ladies”.