Surgery Surprises for Same-Sex Pseudo Spouses


About two weeks ago, my girlfriend G had surgery. It wasn’t an emergency procedure, thank goodness, so we had plenty of time to arrange kid transport to and from school (thank you to the family and good friends who helped – our village rocks), and just generally prepare for what is a stressful experience.

In addition to the customary anxieties that accompany impending surgery, we had a unique set of concerns.

With same-sex marriage not making the legal cut in New Jersey, we wanted to make sure I’d be able to see her in the hospital, get surgical updates from the doctor and make medical decisions on her behalf in the unthinkable event that something went horribly wrong.

Sign Up for E-News

A few days before, G executed her living will, making me her health care proxy. We got the papers witnessed and notarized, packed an overnight hospital bag, and headed out at 4:45 am on the big day.  

It turns out none of these “unique” things proved to be an issue. We got to stay together until they wheeled her into the OR, and immediately upon completion of the surgery (actually, while G was being stitched up), the doctor called me on my cell phone to say that all had gone well (you might be wondering how the doctor was able to stitch and dial at the same time…I was too.). About a half hour after that, the doctor came out to talk to me and kindly answered all my nitpicky questions.

So far so good; I got to hear directly from the doctor and there were no gut-wrenching decisions to be made.

That just left my having post-op access to G, and this is where the story gets odd.

They brought her into recovery after surgery, which is normal, but what wasn’t normal was the overcrowded state of the hospital. The dangerous flu season caused a bed shortage and made for a packed house. Family members were told we could go into the recovery room for five minutes every hour, no more.

When it was my time, I went over to the woman who facilitated recovery visitation, a gatekeeper of sorts, and asked for permission to walk the long corridor to G. She made a call to mission control and said that G’s daughter would like to come back. I looked at G’s mom, who was in the waiting room with me, because we both thought we heard the same thing. Her daughter? With all the worrying we did about our same sex-ness posing obstacles, we never even considered that we might be mistaken for a mother and daughter.

There’s more.

Once G was settled in a room, we settled into her very small bed to watch a DVD. When the nurse came in, she referred to us as sisters. What? I have a sister, and we’re very close, but G and I couldn’t help but wonder about the likelihood of me crawling into bed with her if she was in the hospital.

How to explain these mischaracterizations…was it the fluorescent lighting, which makes it impossible to tell if it’s day or night, a couple or a couple of siblings? Preoccupation with not getting the flu? Resistance to considering that two women lying together are in a romantic relationship or simply not having that possibility on the radar?

This was New Brunswick, after all, home of Rutgers University, a college town smack in the middle of a blue state where the doctors and nurses looked to be from every nation, race and creed.

We were virtually undetectable, and not for lack of trying.

This is good news for the same sex partners in West Virginia or Tennessee. Their access to each other in a health care setting could very well be more unfettered than they think, if the expectation is that they’re each other’s parents, children, sisters, brothers or cousins twice removed (no red state mockery intended).

Liz Kingsley lives in Westfield with her girlfriend and their five children. During the day, she teaches Special Education and Basic Skills at a local elementary school, writes poetry and columns about her family, and directs The Writers Studio. At night, she collapses from exhaustion.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Providence

The Ducks Are Here

May 22, 2018

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Just arrived. Over four thousand little yellow rubber duckies, ready to swim their little webbed feet off for their adoptive “parents.”

Ducky adoption tickets are just $5 each and available throughout Berkeley Heights oAm Bagel, 7-Eleven, Stop n/ Shop, and out front of our town post office to find and adopt as many duckies as you’d like.

Field Hockey Is On the Rise in Berkeley Heights and Mountainside; Fall Registration Open

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Berkeley Heights PAL has opened registration for Fall 5/6 and 7/8 travel field hockey teams, as well as a second through fourth grade Fall clinic and a Summer clinic for current second through eighth graders.   Visit the PAL website,, to register. Please indicate if you need to borrow a stick.

The PAL Field Hockey program ...

Congressman Lance To Hold Annual Service Academy Information Fair

FLEMINGTON, NJ – Congressman Leonard Lance, U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, announced he will hold his annual Service Academy Information Fair for high school students.

"I look forward to the Service Academy Information Fair every year and meeting the talented and poised young leaders from our district,” said Congressman Lance.

The ...

How the Holi Color Festival Came to Summit; Event Planner Shares Her Story

May 21, 2018

Back in India, Holi was a holiday observed by almost all states. The holiday would be declared at all educational institutes and offices. It's a two day spring festival also known as the festival of colors. The festival signifies the victory of good over bad, the arrival of spring with the fragrance of flowers in the air and aura of warmth and happiness.

Holi festival is the time ...

Fallout Continues from Lawsuit Against Mountainside; Police Chief on Administrative Leave

May 19, 2018

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Police Chief Allan Attanasio is the latest member of the police department to suffer repercussions from a complaint filed against the borough on May 11.  Attanasio, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was “placed on administrative leave,” on Thursday by Borough Administrator and former Police Chief James Debbie, said  Lt. Joseph ...

Video Shows School Board Member In Altercation With Police at Traffic Stop in South Orange

May 16, 2018

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - South Orange Maplewood School Board Member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad got into an altercation with a South Orange police officer who stopped her for speeding last month, in which she used profanity, complained when she was issued a ticket and called South Orange Police Chief Kyle Kroll “a skinhead cop.”

Lawson-Muhammad also appeared to suggest that she would ...

Coach Bottone Tribute

May 19, 2018

2017 Pioneer football players took on a tall task of filling a lot of open spots with not many returning players. We had 30 kids on our football team who all wanted to be there. With a new head coach who just came on board in late April, we had a lot of things to do without much time. Most people would say being on a 1-9 football team would be no fun and, at times, it wasn’t, but it was the ...

Upcoming Events


Wed, May 23, 8:00 AM

Providence Health and Fitness , New Providence

Barre Intensity

Health & Wellness


Wed, May 23, 8:00 AM

Providence Health and Fitness, New Providence

Mat Pilates

Health & Wellness


Wed, May 23, 9:00 AM

Providence Health and Fitness, New Providence

Lean, Cardio, Strength, Tone and Stretch

Health & Wellness


Wed, May 23, 10:00 AM

Providence Health and Fitness, New Providence

Pilates Reformer

Health & Wellness


Wed, May 23, 12:00 PM

Passaic River Park, Berkeley Heights

The Ducks Are Here

Arts & Entertainment Giving Back


Wed, May 23, 7:00 PM

Providence Health and Fitness, New Providence

Restorative Yoga

Health & Wellness