Finding Your Voice
I’m a feminist…that much is probably clear from many of these posts. And when I got married 5 years ago, I got it into my head that it was sexist to be walked down the aisle by my father and handed to my husband (which to be fair, it is – in essence, it’s a patriarchal passing on of goods. The only thing missing is the goat dowry). And so I told my dad that we were cutting that part out of the wedding ceremony. At first he tried to hide his disappointment, to accept my decision, but it quickly became clear that he was devastated. Eventually he admitted that he had dreamed of walking me down the aisle since I was a baby – that that’s just something that dads of daughters dream of and look forward to. In my haste to embrace what I believed to be right – the mores of my own particular time and place – I forgot to pay attention to the world that I had grown out of; the world I had come from.
This is the same journey I’ve seen Kurt on for the last few weeks, and tonight it came to a head. The relationship between Kurt and his dad is one of my favourites on the show. Of course Kurt is hurting because his dad is spending so much easily spent time with Fin. And of course Kurt’s dad wants to spend that time with Fin – both for Fin and for himself. I mentioned last week that each perspective in this mess is fair and understandable and even right – which is what makes the situation so difficult.
Tonight they named this tension perfectly when Kurt’s dad shared his dreams of taking Kurt to baseball games and talking about girls. Kurt, with hurt and anger, responds that he’s sorry to be such a disappointment. But he has misunderstood what his dad is saying – as his dad points out. He’s not a disappointment. But he has grown up in a way that doesn’t fit the narrative of desire his dad had for him. That doesn’t mean he needs to fit his dad’s narrative to be loved. We saw what a Mellencamp-mess that made! But he does need to let his dad acknowledge that narrative, grieve it a little, and move on from it. He can’t force his dad into this new story, but he can help him so that they can work together to construct something new together…which is precisely what they’re doing. Familial love isn’t easy (just ask my dad!). It takes work and sacrifice by everyone involved.
In the end, my dad walked me down the aisle and I was thankful for it. But we also honoured my desires by extending the ritual to involve my husband, my mother and my husband’s parents walking as well. Instead of my dad handing me over – the part of the ritual that most offended me – we all met in the center of the room together. Instead of a patriarchal passing, our actions symbolized the coming together of our two families. And so with a little compromise, we all got what we wanted and, thankfully, created a new story together.
If I learned anything from this episode of Glee, it’s that what we desire, what we love, is what matters most for creating who we are – for finding our voices. Sue had a point when she asked Kurt if he’d ever kissed a boy or kissed a girl…my generation and those younger do tend to be obsessed with labels. We’ve grown up through crises of identity politics where anyone outside of the male, white, heterosexual norm has had to claim safe space as well as the right to define what is true, good and beautiful in that space. And sometimes our obsession with labels – absent their associate experience – does end up boxing us in more than liberating us.
On the other hand, even without the consummate experience, Kurt knows his desire. He knows what it is he longs for – and it’s not Brittany. The trick to remember is that what we desire is defined by so much more than what we desire sexually. We desire friendship, family, authenticity, spirituality, vocation, purpose and human connection, and so much more. The problem with Kurt’s label “gay” wasn’t that it wasn’t true. The problem with it was that he thought labels like gay and straight – labels associated with sexual desire – had to order all his other desires.
Quite beautifully, it’s his dad who got to show him the error of his ways. Who we are can’t be summed up in one song – it takes many! Yeah, ok, that’s corny – but isn’t that the beauty of Glee? It gives us profound life lessons wrapped up in corny little packages.
You’ll notice I’ve totally skipped over talking about the ludicrous Puck/Mercedes storyline and Rachel’s new quadriplegic friend who manages to shrug his shoulders while singing even though he can’t move his hands. Rather than let this get too long, I thought I’d leave the comments area for you guys to share what you thought about those other storylines. How did you like tonight’s musical numbers? What song would you sing if you were asked to find your voice?