Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Check the Box

This morning I took my son, Dante, to a doctor's appointment. When I went to check him in at the front desk, the secretary handed my a clip board, and asked if I would please fill out the forms. She then added, "they are important in case we need to reach you or your partner." I found this kind of odd. I don't remember ever having Michael to go the medical appointments. Maybe his name was on prior forms, or it could be that she had an older copy of Dante's insurance card that listed both of our names. In any case I found it odd.

It's kind of funny. At first I wondered why she assumed I was gay. Was it the way I was dressed? Was it that I'm not as butch as I'd like to think? Maybe she is one of those rare straight people who have a well developed gaydar (gay radar). What ever the case may be, it kind of threw me for a minute. I was caught off guard, and then sat to think about how I miss being part of a couple. I also thought that Dante must miss having his second dad around. Being that Michael was the kids' step-father, it has likely been easier for them to deal with losing him than if it had been me, who they have known, and depended on all of their lives.

After regaining my focus I went to work on the forms. The first was a standard form about patient rights, so I just signed it on Dante's behalf, and moved on. The second asked for the parent, or guardian's, name. Just below this was a heading that said "Relationship Status." Below that was a selection of possible choices, and little boxes next to them in order to identify your situation. They were as follows:

  • Single
  • Married
  • Domestic
  • Divorced
  • Separated

Wait a minute! Where is my box? None of these adequately describe my current relationship status. Well, at second glance, I suppose I have identified, or can identify, with 4 out of the 5 choices. I guess many would say that I am once again single. I was married, but some may say that the marriage ended when Michael died. We were domestic partners for a year prior to being granted the right to marry. And, unfortunately, I do find myself separated from Michael, permanently.

What's a widow(er) to do? Fortunately for me, there was room in the margin to write in my own category.

  • Widowed

I thought that this situation was a shame. There I was, as valid a person as any other parent in the room, yet some how I didn't feel like they expected me. If there isn't a category for me, then how can they address concerns that my relationship status might have on my child? I did appreciate that there was a category for domestic partners, as I have gone most of my adult life without that having a place on such forms. I have to assume that they might ask this in case my child is having some problems, or concerns, that might be related to his parents' status. In any case, what it did was once again make me feel like the outsider.

Maybe I should have put a small asterisk, with a note saying,

* "Thanks for assuming I was a gay man, but didn't you notice the black veil that coordinates with my brief case, and hides my grief?"

Well, maybe not.


  1. How odd that there was no check box for widowed! Guess that never happens to anyone, eh?

    In recent years, when someone gives me a form to fill out and it omits important questions that should be asked such as, "Have you ever had to wait more than an hour to see a doctor in emergency? -- or leaves out check boxes that better apply to my situation, I've taken to adding them to the questionnaire - more questions with my answers, or making a box and a caption and checking it off.

    Occupation: check box - Anarchist - check!

    Well, you see what I mean. I like to imagine the person who has to go over these forms and enter the info into a computer, deciding whether to enter "Anarchist" into the system. (o:

  2. I wonder if the receptionist said "partner" generically. 15 years ago when I started working in social services, the licensed folks referred to everyone's partner as "partner," regardless of orientation. It was the easiest way to be non-specific, include everyone, and not inadvertently offend or leave out. I picked it up, using it for the next many years working in schools and doing public lectures. When I spoke of Matt as my partner, he always just smiled and said "babe, people will assume you're gay, or they will just be confused." Certainly, after he died, when I said "partner" to a few people, they thought I meant business partner. It's funny language for some.

    Anyway - so maybe she was being orientation-neutral. Still doesn't address the no box to check. I would be clueless as to how to answer anything. Matt and I weren't legally married, so I am not Legally Widowed. I always felt weird checking "single" before he died, knowing I was not. Haven't had to sign any forms lately, but I think I will go anti-establishment and check "widow" anyway. I have written in, in the line for employment, "just trying to survive these days, and it takes all my time."

  3. "Widowed" is a hard enough box to check, when it is there as an option. When the line for "widow" is not even there and you get to think about it some more, oh great. Crying in the waiting room. A-f***ing- gain.
    What's worst is when you have steeled your heart to answer "widowed" and they just move on from there, no I'm sorry for your loss or whatever...not that that is any consolation when some receptionist says that because it's what you're supposed to say.
    There is just no way to make this any easier, I guess.
    Megan, if you are not a widow, then why has this year been so hard. Girl, you are clearly widowed. Check the damn box all you want.