Friday, June 24, 2011
I'm Still Her Daughter
It was around midnight on June 19, 2011—Father’s Day. And there I was thinking, “What better way to celebrate the day than to come out to my mother...” Well, that wasn’t really what I was thinking. It was something more along the lines of, “Mother, do you not realize I’m trying to steer this conversation I engineered somewhere? Don’t get distracted! I’m trying to tell you I’m gay for heaven’s sake!”
Since I went home for the summer, especially within the week before I came out, I sought out some advice from friends about coming out to my mother. Well, I didn’t exactly seek out advice, but this is one of those topics/situations where people volunteer advice whether you like it or not. I heard how and where I should do it. I'm surprised none of my gay boys told me what I should wear. Opinions on the issue ranged from “Not to be controversial, but... don’t do it yet” to “She’ll be fine because she loves you” to “Bitch, I just need you to stop freaking out all over the place so tell her so you can calm your face down.”
I was stressing out over it. My usual ‘7’ on the neurotic scale had been bumped up to an ’11.’ Every minute I sat in the same room with my mom, all I could think was that I wanted to tell her or I was thinking how I could steer the conversation towards this end. And that's no way to live your life!
We had just gotten done watching our usual 4-5 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy (which in retrospect was a terrible idea because way to taint the show for your mom, idiot...).
(Note: All of my dialogue was perfectly formatted indentation-wise/HTML-wise and then Blogger decided to shoot me in the foot and make it all ugly and not indented... And I'm too lazy to make it more readable, soooo deal with it).
“Other Brother and I talked a lot when we went out to lunch today,” I said, starting in before she had the chance to get up off from the loveseat and go to bed. (Side Note: My “Other Brother” is not my real/actual brother, but he is like my brother and my parents pretty much treat him as their own).
“Oh?” I knew she was intrigued. Because a. Who doesn’t like some good gossip? (if you don’t, we probably wouldn’t make for good friends... no offense) and b. She’s worried about Other Brother and always likes to know what’s going on in his life.
So, yeah... There I was. Sitting on the couch, trying to steer the conversation in the direction I wanted it to go. That’s pretty much the story of my life, actually... I often feel like I’m trying to steer a conversation a certain way. Because God forbid I be direct or assertive.
I’m not a perfect person. Obviously. Along with that, my memory isn’t perfect either. Furthermore, the conversation that my mom and I had was disjointed and hopped around a lot. Sooo, I tried to piece to it together in a way that makes sense...
“I don’t like being lied to. All my kids lie and I don’t get it because your dad and I aren’t liars. Maybe we didn’t punish you enough for lying,” my mom blurted out.
I thought for a moment. “We didn’t lie to avoid punishment, well, I didn’t anyway and I can only speak for me. I just didn’t and don’t want to disappoint you or make you sad. When I lie to you now, I’m just trying to spare you any negative feelings,” I said. And this is the truth. For me, being afraid to come out to my mother wasn’t about avoiding any personal negative consequences like getting kicked out of the house or her punching me in the face (hehe). It was simply about not wanting to break my mother’s heart. And, I guess it was about avoiding personal consequences because I didn't want to ruin our relationship. “Mom, you really are my best friend. And not telling you things is hard for me,” I continued. “And I think there are some things you’d rather just not know.”
“No, I want to know.”
With that response, I thought she knew that I am gayer than the day is long and finally wanted me to admit it to her. But, I put it off for a little longer... “Dad and I talked today. We talked about church and politics and whatnot. Although it really felt like he was holding some stuff back though.”
“I think he’s afraid of offending you.”
“I think he even thinks that; however, I don’t believe so. I think it’s more... he’s scared of what he'd find out.”
“Maybe so,” she agreed. “That’s how he is—ignorance is bliss.”
“Is that how you are?” I asked, giving her one more out.
“No, I want to know.”
I sat there, quickly trying to muster up the courage before she excused herself to go off to bed. Story of my life again... Once again, God forbid I be direct and assertive, and volunteer such information. No, I have to use meaningful looks and ‘...’s until I’m pushed into coming out with it (pun half-intended).
And my mom did indeed ask the right question. “I just have one question: Are you straight?”
Without a moment of hesitation, I responded with, “No.” What followed was a lot of weeping (done by me) and apologizing (also done by me).
At first, I wasn't positive if she even understood that I’m a lesbian and not just bi. She didn’t say the word 'gay.' She said, “With men like that...,” “In those kind of women...,” “That girl from church was ‘that way’...” (Side Story: “That girl from church was ‘that way’ and then she married a man. Why is that?” To which I responded, “I don’t know her life!”)
It wasn’t until she asked, “What about bi people? Are they a lot different from you?” that I knew that she knew I’m not just “not straight” but “not even half straight.”
What came next exactly... I’m not really sure. The chronology of it all is hazy to me. There was an “I love you and I will always love you” from her, along with a big unspoken “...but...”
I know that soon after answering that life-changing question, I asked if she had her suspicions about it. Surprising everyone, she told me that she didn’t even have an inkling. (Seriously? I mean... Seriously.)
“Why did you know to ask if you didn’t have any suspicions?” I asked.
“Because it’s my biggest fear. It’s the one trial with my kids that I didn’t know if I would be able to handle.”
She also asked if I had had relationships (I really don’t know what she meant by ‘relationships’... Because usually Mormon parents equate ‘relationships’ to ‘sexytime lovin’ are the same thing when it comes to gay people. Because, you know, being gay is a sexual sin...). I responded ‘no’ to this because I knew she definitely wasn’t ready for that business.
Even though she affirmed that she wasn't ready to hear about relationships and such, she did say, "I just want you to be happy."
And I held my breath as I waited for it. The cliché Mormon follow-up of, “Wickedness never was happiness” and “Only obedience to the commandments will bring you joy.” It didn’t come. And I couldn’t tell if it was implied or not... Well, that night I couldn’t tell...
I did work to make it relatively clear, while still padding the delivery, that I do not plan on living my life as a good little celibate Mormon lesbian.
And then the worst part of the conversation followed...
Being adopted, certain things in my life are a bit different. As a Mormon, my family and I went to the temple to get sealed when I was about 18 months old. This wouldn’t happen with children “Born in the Covenant.” Also, I don’t have to spend fifteen extra minutes at the doctor’s filling out my parents’ and family medical history.
With coming out, my mother had to do the whole, “It would have been so much easier if you hadn’t been adopted by a Mormon family,” “Do you wish you had another family?” and “Why did you have to come to the strictest, most conservative family?” (Let’s get real, my parents are not the most conservative... We drink caffeinated soda, watch TV on Sundays, play with face cards, and occasionally swear like the heathens we are... And the strictest? I never had a curfew growing up.)
I had to assure her that I had no desire to have other parents (because I really don't. I still think my parents are more awesome than everybody else's), but said she probably wanted to trade me in at the Island of Misfit Kids. Her response, “I wanted to do that since the day you started sassing back at me.”
Overall, our first little conversation was good. I went from constantly feeling like I wanted to throw up or throw myself in front of a train to feeling… lighter. Unfortunately, that feeling was short-lived...
Best: We were still able to make jokes and laugh to break the tension in our little chat.
Worst: She stopped wanting to watch Grey’s Anatomy and doesn’t know if we will ever finish it. Worst. Outcome. Possible.
Our next talk was later that day.
She came into my room when my dad was taking a nap and asked me the questions I had been expecting the night before. “How do I know?” and “Remember those times you dated dudes...” I had prepared for these questions and was able to address them.
Once again, things weren’t too terrible. I mean, I didn't want to go do cartwheels after...
Worst: “I don’t want [your dad] to feel as awful as I do right now.” (Yeah, no child wants to hear that...)
Best: “This does explain why you hated kissing boys.” (Doesn’t it though?)
Chat Number Three came later in the week.
I was minding my own business, standing at the stove like a flamingo and making a tortilla, when my mom started in.
“You know, there was gal that I worked with many years back that I just really wanted to be friends with and was attracted to her personality. How do you know if you are gay if you’ve never even kissed a girl?”
I had no good response to this. Because, yeah, she still wasn’t ready for this bomb to be dropped on her head (since, what, maybe three days had passed?). I asked her how she knew that she was straight without ever kissing a boy. She didn’t need to kiss a boy to know that’s what she wanted. It’s just when the kissing does happen it makes you think, “Yeah... this is for me. Definitely.”
Worst: “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said.
“I think you need to do what you need to do to deal with everything.”
“I don’t know if I can be in your life when you’re older.”
Best: “It’s like in Fiddler on the Roof..."
Oh my gosh, if I were a gay boy, this would be hilarious. And it’s still kind of funny.
“I always felt terrible for the third daughter because I had a bad relationship with my mother and I’m the third daughter. But now..."
And she runs off with someone her father doesn’t approve of and he shuns her and you totally get that... Well... shit.
For our next chat, I had told her I wanted to talk to her. We hadn’t watched any Grey’s Anatomy and I knew why (Going from 4-5 episodes a night to zero... Well, the message was clear. It was my bad for coming out after the we watched and mentioning it in our conversation... But still... doesn’t she want to know if Izzie dies of cancer and if Meredith and Derek actually get married?!) So, I wanted to casually pressure her into wanting to watch again. And I also wanted to give her some options of people to talk to (because God forbid she does what I did, as in go on the Interwebz... because she does not need to stumble upon my blog/Twitter).
At this point, I had noticed that our chats have been getting progressively worse. Most of the conversation I don't even remember because sometimes not remembering is the best thing you can do.
Worst: She is undecided about whether she would want to see me dead or see me living my life with a woman. Ideally, I would be celibate and still in the Church (well, ideally I would be straight, married, with a litter of children). (In her defense on that statement, I think she just doesn't know which is worse in the eyes of God...)
Best: She is going to go back to a therapist that she really likes.
Best of the Best: The therapist is a lesbian. And she used to be Mormon. (I’m putting my trust into this woman that she will not RUIN MY LIFE.)
So, that brings up to today. Parts I feel may be overshare, but... I almost feel like I have responsibility to share it and not to sugarcoat things. (Also, that's what Mormons do... We overshare... Have you ever been to Testimony Meeting? Lordy, the things people say...)
Everything my mother has and will say is tempered in my mind with the fact that I do know that my mother loves me and all of her words and feelings do in fact come from a place of love. Like Arizona said in Grey’s… I’m the one who changed the game. And I did. That perfect eternal family that my mother has dreamed about since she was a kid is being broken apart. All of her ideas for the future are being dismantled. She's always told me that the one thing she wants to see in life is for all two (well, now three because she includes Other Brother) of her kids to be in the temple with her again. And I just told her that that's not happening...
Yes, I know of people with parents who also had negative reactions, but who now have learned to embrace it. And that's awesome. But it doesn't always happen. And of course I am sad that I can't tell my mom about all of the exciting things in my life, and if I did, she wouldn't be excited with me. I'm sad that I lost my best friend. I don't expect things to get better. I hope that they do. I hope that my mom comes around. But I don't expect it.
(In other news, YAY about New York, eh?)
(And thanks to my husband for the title suggestion... Because I came up with "Happy Belated Father's Day to All the Mothers Out There," which just isn't pithy)