A Slate reader asked Mallory Ortberg for some advice. Her letter is just awful.
My 27-year-old daughter and her best friend, Katie, have been best friends since they were 4. Katie practically grew up in our house and is like a daughter to me. My daughter recently got engaged to her fiancé and announced that Katie would be the maid of honor (Katie’s boyfriend is also a good friend of my future son-in-law). The problem is that Katie walks with a pretty severe limp due to a birth defect (not an underlying medical issue). She has no problem wearing high heels and has already been fitted for the dress, but I still think it will look unsightly if she’s in the wedding procession limping ahead of my daughter. I mentioned this to my daughter and suggested that maybe Katie could take video or hand out programs (while sitting) so she doesn’t ruin the aesthetic aspect of the wedding. My daughter is no longer speaking to me (we were never that close), but this is her big wedding and I want it to be perfect. All of the other bridesmaids will look gorgeous walking down the aisle with my daughter. Is it wrong to have her friend sit out?
Ortberg’s response is great. “A limp is not a fly in the ointment; it’s a part of Katie’s life,” she wrote to the reader. “It is not only wrong to have asked your daughter to consider excluding her best friend over this — it is ableist, and cruel, and it speaks to a massive failure of empathy, compassion, and grace on your part.”
I can’t help but see a relationship to how straight people can react to queer love, both in the daughter’s plight and how Katie is being treated.
For Katie, the link is clear: we’re ashamed of you, part of who you are is ugly, please hide yourself so that I’m more comfortable.
For the daughter, it’s how the mother has an idea of how her wedding should look – of how her life will unfold, really – and doesn’t care all that much about the feelings involved. Just like how “I want grandchildren” or “I don’t want my daughter to be gay!” can trump “I want my children to be happy,” here an idea about what the daughter’s life should be like is a reason to reject what the daughter’s life is actually like.
Weddings are supposed to be celebrations of love, and that includes friendship. The letter-writer is really superficial here, but her way of thinking about her child is a lot more common than it should be.