Notes & Queeries: A Wal-Mart Wedding

For my mother, who has always been supportive of me but, I would guess, has often found this gay thing a little weird, Ellen is comforting in her normalcy. Every once in a while, my mother mentions something she has
heard about Ellen or something she has seen on Ellen’s talk show. It’s her way of acknowledging that she knows I’m still gay, and she’s OK with it.

During the sixth-season premiere of The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Sept. 9, Ellen showed a video montage
of her wedding day. We saw Ellen greeting her mother, Betty DeGeneres, with a kiss. We saw Portia exclaiming over how beautiful the dinner table was. We saw Ellen and Portia seeing each other in their wedding clothes for the first time, their faces alight with a tenderness that laid them bare. No one could mistake their affection for anything but romantic love.

Ellen and Portia also released several photos from their wedding; they are as elegant and restrained as a Tiffany box. In one, Portia kisses Ellen’s cheek while Ellen looks up toward the ceiling with a cherubic
expression on her face. In another, Portia kisses Ellen’s hand, raising it to her mouth as if she were a knight asking for a lady’s favor. That photo, turning tradition on its head, is more unusual than seeing two women kissing, these days.

There is no wedding photo of them kissing in the way one might expect they kissed after hearing, “You may kiss the bride.” In the past, I might have thought this was caving in to mainstream pressure, a decision not to make things too strange for straight folks in Middle America who might not know any gay people in real life.

But I would have been wrong. It’s not giving in. It’s pushing forward. Ellen’s approach may not be as strident as some activists would like, but she is fighting her battle at Wal-Mart, and in that arena, she has won.

Last week’s announcement that Ellen has become the new face of CoverGirl Cosmetics — an all-American brand widely available in drug stores and, yes, at Wal-Mart — was mind-boggling and revolutionary. Ellen may have been brought on to appeal to older women rather than teens, but that is arguably an even stronger sign of progress. Women who have a gay daughter or niece might soon find themselves looking to a 50-year-old out lesbian for makeup tips.

After talking to my mother, I wanted to get my own copy of People; it would have historic value, after all. But although I know where to buy a copy of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review or The Believer in my neighborhood, there are no Wal-Marts in San Francisco. I ended up going to Rite-Aid, where People was stuffed into magazine racks mounted beside the front registers. At last, I picked up my own copy for $3.99.

The cover was glossy, but thinner than I remembered from my last visit to a doctor’s office. The paper was closer to newsprint in weight than I expected, and some of the photos seemed a little blurry. But there it was: “Ellen & Portia’s Wedding! The rings, the cake, the flowers!”

It has never been clearer to me how important — how influential — the entertainment industry is. Through celebrity, we find ways to talk to each other about subjects that have no other shorthand.

For more on Malinda
Lo, visit her website.

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