My family and I are experiencing a bit of a hangover. We just spent the past week in the World of Disney. A good friend got married at the Wedding Pavilion on the Disney campus in Orlando last weekend, and we made a big trip of it, including a five-day Disney Cruise and a day at the Magic Kingdom. Here are a few things that I learned during our vacation:
- Most people still aren’t sure whether they’re going to get punched in the face if they assume we’re gay.
One night on the cruise, my husband and I dropped off the kids at the ship’s amazing children’s play area where they had wonderful activities and even fed them from time to time. We bid them farewell, high-fived, and headed up to the adult-only restaurant at the back of the ship. During dinner, a photographer was making the rounds and taking romantic photos of the mostly couples in the restaurant. He first skipped our table, and then eventually came back. He awkwardly asked, “Would you like a phot0?” and when we told him yes, he said, “Individual photos?” I said that we would like a photo together, and he paused for a moment trying to figure out if he should treat us like the other couples, who he had sit together on one side of the table. He finally decided to just go for it, and had me move next to my husband. This sort of thing happened often. The last night of the cruise one of our normal servers wasn’t feeling well, and so the replacement carefully asked if our family of two dads and two kids wanted separate bills.
- Being a gay family can sometimes have its perks. Some people we met on our trip had excellent gaydar and were totally unafraid of assuming the obvious: that we are a multiracial two dad family with two adopted kids. These people were mostly the American and Canadian men who worked for the various arms of the Disney Nation, and most of them were gay themselves. These guys usually took extra care with making our family feel welcome, and some gave us some insider knowledge like where to stand to make sure we could get Donald Duck’s autograph during the insane “Till We Meet Again” party the final night of the cruise where you have precisely fifteen minutes to battle 2500 other cruise guests to get photos with the Disney characters you failed to meet during the vacation.
- Being a gay family can sometimes be tough.
Our kids are fairly social, especially our son, and when they made lots of friends on the beach or on the cruise, we tried to hook up with the parents in the hopes that we might be able to make plans to drop off the kids at the Oceaneer Club at the same time. We didn’t want to make friends ourselves necessarily; we just wanted our kids to be able to hang out with the kids they got along with. Our kids would make great friends on the beach, and soon it came time to say something to their parents like “Wow, our kids sure are getting along!” The parents–mostly the dads–would sometimes merely grunt in our directly without making eye contact. I consistently wondered if these dads were just reacting to the make up of our marriage. And then there was the awkward moment in Bingo (which I love) when B-14 was called and the self-proclaimed Mayor of Bingo Town announced the number was “the Valentine of Bingo” and told everyone sitting with the love of their life to give that person a big kiss. All the heterosexual couples around us starting smooching, so I turned to my husband and gave him a kiss on the cheek. I know this is probably more than he was okay with, so I left it at that. It was scary for a moment considering how the other cruisers would react, but thankfully it was kind of dim in the lounge and everyone was pretty much focused on their Bingo cards.
- My husband could make a million dollars if we moved to the Caribbean. At every stop on our cruise, the island women were offering to braid some white girl’s hair for $2 a braid. These little girls would sit patiently while their hair was plaited into corn rows and beads affixed to the ends. This is something my husband has perfected with our daughter’s hair over the past few years, and he’s quick and perfect with his technique. I am half tempted to sell off everything we own and open a little braiding studio for him in the Bahamas somewhere.
- My daughter is not a racist. My kids got to meet Princess Tiana (again) on the cruise. She’s the only African American princess, so she’s a big deal in our house. She was included during the Princess Gathering a few mornings on the boat and even made a few solo appearances. My daughter turns seven next week, and as she’s grown more savvy, she spent most of the week rationalizing why these characters weren’t the real characters. Each of the character greetings included a crew member who helped organize the line and such, and at one point, a black woman from the United Kingdom was helping my kids after their photo with Chip & Dale. My daughter was showing this woman her autograph book, and the woman commented on how she had seen her all over the boat collecting signature after signature. My daughter said, “Yup! And I even have Princess Tiana, see!” And she flipped to that page to show her before continuing, “You remember that, right? Because that was you, right?” I was completely horrified. Here was my black daughter making the assumption that this woman was previously dressed up like Princess Tiana simply because she was black, acting like all black people look the same. I stuttered for a moment, trying to think of how I could apologize to this woman and explain all we do to help our daughter remain connected to her black roots, and then I looked at the woman and realized it was the same person who had dressed up like Princess Tiana the previous day. She graciously tried to lead my daughter off the trail, noting the different accent she had (British versus Tiana’s southern lilt), and my daughter just smiled knowingly.
- Disney is still kind of evil, but in a sort of nice way.
I totally get that Disney is evil. I’ve written here before about the ways in which my husband and I have tried to navigate the difficult waters of inherently racist, sexist films with the social capital that comes with being intimately acquainted with their content. This was our second foray into the World of Disney, and for every racist animatron on the Jungle Cruise and insanely skinny depiction of Ariel, there’s a little something good. For Disney fanatics, there’s pin trading at Disney World where guests where lanyards covered in Disney flair that they can trade with “cast members” throughout the parks. Amidst the pin options in the gift shops is always a rainbow colored Mickey silhouette. I’m sure there are lots of ignorant folk who buy the pin because they like rainbows and think it’s pretty, not realizing that this is Disney’s subtle endorsement of our family, and it’s a small gesture amidst their cold corporate capitalist scheme. Still, it was nice to see it and point it out to the kids on our last day.