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”.
10 thoughts on “All the Relationships We’ve Been”
When Elena and I were first traveling in India though we received a bit of shock early on when everyone assumed we were married and we’d correct them… eventually we gave in and just started telling everyone we were married.
It was a bit of a shock last month at a market in Chiang Mai when a older Thai man came up to my mother and I and assumed we she and I were married… My mother is 70 years old. I was a bit bothered by that mostly because it was within days of my 41st birthday.
It’s totally different for SS couples as OS couples. No doubt about that. It’s interesting to hear the stories.
Mindy & Ligeia
Oh my goodness Jon! I recently turned 41 as well and I’m sure that would give me a big surprise too! We had not thought of the opposite, whereby an actual mother-son was mistaken for a married couple! How hilarious and yet how disturbing at the same time. We have difficulty in determining ages of Thai people and so I suppose the opposite might also be true. 🙂 A couple of year ago a Thai colleague of mine thought I was in my 50’s and I was only 39! Yikes! 🙂
Ligeia, remember when we were in Poland, and you, I and Dawn explored a couple of cities there? I’ve traveled all sorts of places with Dawn, and there has frequently been a noticeable pause as other folks try to work out our relationship when we first meet. Mother/daughter (probably the most likely, due to our ages)? Friends traveling together? Perhaps sisters (which is being very nice to me, given that I am quite gray and she is in her 30s!). It usually comes up when we’re looking for housing for the night: what kind of bed(s) do we need?! So I can empathize.
OMG, I laughed out loud at this posting. So funny! You guys crack me up. Mindy is the biggest girl especially when it comes to bugs and that tiny voice of hers. I remember someone you encountered calling her Mr. Mindy which is also hysterical. Love and miss you both!
Jo (The Blond)
haha so funny! I can’t understand why people view you as mother and daughter!
I’m sure being gay and living in Thailand is so much easier.
I actually have had a few funny stories while traveling with friends. Of course traveling with a male friend everyone will assume we are romantic partners and we have to explain nope, just friends. But while traveling with a female friend with short hair in Peru we had to explain a few times to prying strangers that we were again, just friends! But the most awkward was when I was traveling with one of my best friends who happens to be 15 years older than me. Someone asked if she was my mom! Don’t think that went over so well…
First off — you two absolutely have the EXACT SAME NOSES. I can totally see that. 😉 And, Ligeia, I don’t know how anyone wouldn’t think you were Mindy’s mom. I mean … really. I loved this post! These stories are adorable and eye-opening. It isn’t something I have ever thought about, then again, I don’t travel with anyone so I never have had to. It must be nice to just be YOU in places.
I remember the Globetrotter Girls also sharing their experiences in Central America and how I had been completely unaware that this would even be an issue. I live in Toronto so same sex couples are quite common here but going into other countries, especially those with strong religious influences must be tough.
Mindy & Ligeia
We could completely relate to the Globertrotter Girls’ experiences in South America. We lived in Toronto for 5 years and we must admit that it was one of the easiest places to be a same-sex couple.
It was the biggest insult when a stranger mistook me for my elderly father’s wife (an anecdote dad just loved to retell)… until I was mistaken for yet another man’s wife – and this guy was even older 😬
I’ve never regretted my decision to stop colouring my hair and let the grays on through… but assumptions like that do give me pause.