Wedding: A Family's Coming Out Story

Overview

Two people meet and fall in love. Over time, their relationship grows and they decide to spend the rest of their lives together. They plan a wedding, a formal binding into a permanent relationship with family and friends on hand as witnesses to solemn but beautiful vows. It's an occasion people dream about for most of their lives, though it is often joked that the wedding is more for the parents than the children.

But what if they're gay?

...

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Overview

Two people meet and fall in love. Over time, their relationship grows and they decide to spend the rest of their lives together. They plan a wedding, a formal binding into a permanent relationship with family and friends on hand as witnesses to solemn but beautiful vows. It's an occasion people dream about for most of their lives, though it is often joked that the wedding is more for the parents than the children.

But what if they're gay?

Andrew Merling was a graduate student in clinical psychology when he met Doug Wythe, a television promotion director. Their relationship continued for three-and-a-half years before Doug formally proposed marriage to Andrew. Together, they agreed to have a traditional affair for family and friends.

While Doug was not as close to his extended family, Andrew came from large, tight-knit Jewish family in Montreal. When he announced his engagement and the couple's plans for a traditional Jewish ceremony and a festive celebration, it was then that previously unacknowledged prejudices and hidden concerns suddenly reared their contentious heads.

Typical wedding conflicts over money and manners paled next to worries over whether Andrew's parents would find themselves ostracized by their conservative community. Then, just two months before the big day, the family had to decide if they were ready to perform the ultimate act of "coming out," when ABC-TV News asked to profile them as part of an episode on Turning Point, and bring national attention to their personal struggle.

The first book to speak to both sides of a controversy that is altering our society, this fascinating chronicle follows Doug, Andrew, and his parents Sheldon andRoslyn on the rocky road from engagement to understanding. With the impending wedding as a catalyst, they embark on a painful, joyful odyssey of discovery, struggling both to be heard and to find acceptance from each other, their friends and communities. Their four distinct voices blend to create a unique depiction of one family coming to grips with the reality of being a gay couple in today's world.Two people meet and fall in love. Over time, their relationship grows and they decide to spend the rest of their lives together. They plan a wedding, a formal binding into a permanent relationship with family and friends on hand as witnesses to solemn but beautiful vows. It's an occasion people dream about for most of their lives, though it is often joked that the wedding is more for the parents than the children.

But what if they're gay?

Andrew Merling was a graduate student in clinical psychology when he met Doug Wythe, a television promotion director. Their relationship continued for three-and-a-half years before Doug formally proposed marriage to Andrew. Together, they agreed to have a traditional affair for family and friends.

While Doug was not as close to his extended family, Andrew came from large, tight-knit Jewish family in Montreal. When he announced his engagement and the couple's plans for a traditional Jewish ceremony and a festive celebration, it was then that previously unacknowledged prejudices and hidden concerns suddenly reared their contentious heads.

Author Biography:

Douglas Wythe is a television producer and writer, with his own production company in Manhattan. His most prized honor is a national Emmy award for his work as Special Segment Producer for ABC News' Turning Point.

Andrew Merling has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Yeshiva University (Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology) in New York. He is on staff at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan and has a private practice.

Roslyn Merling has her Masters Degree in Social Work from McGill University in Montreal. Along with a colleague, Roslyn runs psycho-educational groups for parents of gays and lesbians. She has been happily married to Sheldon for over forty years. Together, Sheldon and Roslyn are parents of four children and the proud grandparents of seven grandchildren.

Sheldon Merling has a Bachelor of Arts Degree and Bachelor of Civil Law Degree from McGill University in Montreal and has been a practicing notary in the Province of Quebec (equivalent to a real estate lawyer). He has been happily married to Roslyn for over forty years. Together, Sheldon and Roslyn are parents of four children and the proud grandparents of seven grandchildren.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It took something like a village to write this unusual book. Meet the Merlings: upstanding members of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Montreal. Sheldon (a real estate lawyer) and Roslyn (a social worker) have a loving marriage and four grown children. Meet their son Andrew: a psychologist living in New York City. He is in love--with a TV producer named Doug Wythe. Andrew loves his parents and his parents adore him right back, but when he and Doug decide to get hitched (the old-fashioned way--in front of hundreds of invited guests and a professional photographer), the Merlings, liberal and loving though they are, freak out. Told in chatty, rotating, first-person narrative chunks, this collaborative memoir recounts, with surprising candor, the events and emotions leading up to Andrew and Doug's wedding. Sheldon explains how he went from being the Bad Guy (who opposed the idea of a public ceremony) to bankrolling the lavish affair; Roslyn, the tear-jerking star of the book, writes poignantly of her die-hard support for her gay son; and Andrew and Doug take us through the world of gay wedding planning--from choosing a rabbi to registering at Bloomingdale's. Straightforward and even-handed, this four-way confessional case study makes an interesting addition to the growing literature on gay marriage. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380976911
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/1/1900
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.54 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A Risky Proposition

Doug, Andrew, Sheldon, and Roslyn

January 1995

Doug:   I was dead set on finding an engagement ring by Andrew's birthday. It was just a week before we had dinner reservations at Sign of the Dove. You know, the one in the commercials where they served unsuspecting customers Folger's coffee. When you read about it in restaurant reviews, like the Zagat guide, it's invariably called a "favorite place to pop the question." I certainly hope that the genesis of our journey wasn't my reading that line in Zagat and saying to myself, "Gee, why don't we become the first gay couple to get engaged there!" Actually, I'm sure we weren't the first or the last.

Dinner was set for Saturday night, and here it was Wednesday, and not only didn't I have a ring, I didn't have the slightest idea what kind of ring I was looking for, or where to get it. Just weeks before, we'd been to dinner with our friend Rachel, her current boyfriend, and a friend of theirs, Carl, who's a jeweler. Now I asked Rachel to hook us up again so I could ask his advice. She gave me his number, and he offered a few suggestions, sending me to a gold wholesaler in the diamond district. Forty-seventh Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan is the largest concentration of gold and diamond merchants in the world, and many, if not most, of those merchants are either Orthodox or ultraobservant Hasidic Jews.

By the time I went to the store he recommended, it was Friday. The saleswoman wasn't the intimidating type, yet I still broke into a sweat over my surroundings. I asked to see a simple gold ring with a comfort-fit band,per Carl's instructions. As I tried it on for a test (though I had no idea if Andrew and I wore the same size ring), it occurred to me that it might be odd for a man to be trying on a gold band. Is this what straight people do, or is it obvious that I'm buying this for another man? I wondered. Do women buy them for their husbands or what? Even though it was perfectly possible that straight men buy their own rings, it suddenly seemed that the store's Orthodox personnel had peeked inside my bedroom, and frowned.

Once I had the ring, I went to see Carl, who has a business nearby. He said he'd buff and polish the ring as a favor, and I took him up on the offer. We talked about my plans to propose to Amdrew. Even though this was a much more personal conversation than the one I had in the store, I wasn't uneasy. The difference was, I think, that he was an acquaintance rather than a total stranger. Also, I knew he wasn't an Orthodox Jew.

At the time, I couldn't possibly know this would be the first in a long series of interactions that shared a key element. For the next two years, many of our decisions would be directly influenced by the degree of religious conservatism that we faced at any given moment. For a largely secular Jew like me, this was a new and not entirely welcome feeling.

Carl wished me a sincere good luck, and I called Rachel when I got back to work, to thank her for helping me accomplish my mission so quickly. She sounded excited for us, and sent me off into the weekend with a wide-eyed, tingly anticipation.

Saturday, Amdrew's twenty-ninth birthday, I went out to buy him flowers. I wondered if he had a hint of what I had up my sleeve. Since I have the polar opposite of a poker face, it seemed possible he might read my hand. But as we got dressed for dinner that night, I was confident he had no idea.

We took a cab across town to Sign of the Dove, and when we entered from the snow and chilly wind, the room was warm and inviting. I hoped we'd get a corner table for a little more privacy, but we wound up front and center in the corner dining room. We weren't the only gay couple in the room, but we were more of a minority than usual in this city.

Dinner sped along like any other, albeit with great food, but by the time the waiter asked if we wanted dessert, my butterflies were working overtime. I planned to take my chances with the everpopular hiding-the-ring-in-the-dessert number, despite my fears that if anyone could wolf down a ring with his dessert, it would be Andrew. It's not that he has a sweet tooth . . . It's more like a chemical dependence to confectioner's sugar and chocolate.

But I hadn't addressed how I'd approach the waiter about the arrangements for the ring. Would I slip him the ring and ask him to slide it under the dessert, or would I chicken out and attempt to distract Andrew while I did the dirty work myself?

The choices for dessert weren't what I would have hoped for. In fact, the only one that appealed to Andrew was a pear tart, which happens to be one of the few desserts I'm not fond of. But after all, I thought, if we're about to enter into a lifetime filled with give and take, isn't it appropriate that it start with a compromise?

After the dessert was ordered, I excused myself from the table, caught the waiter, and gave him the ring. I'd decided he was probably gay, and if not, judging by the rest of the staff, he undoubtedly had some gay comrades. He smiled sweetly and said it would be taken care of.

My palms were moist with sweat by the time the tart arrived. At first I didn't see any of the gold poking out from under the front "V" of the tart, as I'd requested of the waiter. Visions of sitcom farce loomed before me as Andrew cut a piece from the tip and stuck his fork in. Would the ring wind up under another patron's dessert, the scene ending with my forced announcement to the room . . .

The Wedding. Copyright © by Douglas Wythe. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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