I thought I was over this kind of blogging when I forcefully withdrew myself from my mother’s spotlight. I tiptoed around big issues, like how it’s likely I’ll never provide biological grandchildren for my parents to swoon over and my affinity for the Democrat party, but the gavel cruelly fell anyway. And I wasn’t prepared for it.
We were sitting on the couch together, watching some random rerun of Reba. Tipsily, because apparently she’s drinking wine again, my mother links the topic of tonight’s episode (pregnancy and the unsteady love that comes from being a parent for the first time) to real life. As I was the only victim in the room, I got the full brunt of her ruminations:
M: You know, it’s all about love, it really is. Someday, when you find a, uh, mate, and start a family, and—
S: A mate?
M: Oh, give me a break. A life partner or whatever. Anyway, when you have children, you’re going to look at them and love them with all your heart.
S: Say man. When I find a man.
M: Ugh. Fine. When you find a man.
— Minutes pass —
M: You know, you and your brother are lucky to have your father and I in the same house. That we haven’t divorced and made the two of you get used to that kind of dysfunctional mess. I think we’re all doing pretty well together.
S: …we have our fair share of dysfunction, mother. Everyone does.
M: Oh, well, yes, we do. Sure.
— I get a sideways glance and a raised eyebrow —
S: For instance, you can’t say that I’ll have a husband someday. Then you tell me to “give you a break” when I take offense to the fact that you can’t say I’ll be with a man.
M: Oh, Shawon, stop it. Give me a break, please (an agitated sigh).
And so it goes. The rest of this dialogue is much less pleasant, so I’ll spare you the finer details.
I’m at the ripe young age of 24 and the world is my oyster (I’m full of crappy adages tonight). I fortunately have it a lot better than some of my LGBT peers, who have been summarily cast from their own homes because of their existences, but I’m not sure I’m faring any better living in this house.
It isn’t always like this; because there are lots of ups to go with the downs, I’m living with the tragic irony that my mother puts on a happy face and feigns understanding when she’s sober, but when her good friend Franzia stops in for dinner, the truth will out— and it’s always a very bitter revelation for me. I get so used to the mom who casually sidesteps conversations about my love interests and refuses to acknowledge that I will (hopefully) have a happy future with a nice man. I’m lulled into a complacent stupor and my guard falls, because who doesn’t want their mother to accept them?
Straight Baby Brother has a girlfriend, you see, so Mother can dote on him and praise his good life choices. She can laud him for finding someone so young in such an oppressive environment, and she can worry about whether he’s using protection (he wouldn’t want to start a family right now, would he?) and all is good in her faux Stepford world. I don’t get to play in those reindeer games. Ever. Not even when I (stupidly) start those conversations, whenever I’m craving motherly affection.
Let’s go there for a minute. Shawon isn’t making the right decision because he’s dropping out of his MA. Shawon isn’t thinking clearly about moving to Boston. Shawon should be happy, but why isn’t he waiting to get his degree first and then moving? When the topic of Shawon’s future family comes up, it is always an amorphous, sexless “life partner” or “mate” and never a husband or a man, and what does Shawon expect to find outside of Potsdam that he can’t get here? But, whatever happens, he should be happy, of course, that’s the biggest factor! Happiness! Above all, be happy, but still… think of those other niggling details a little harder, won’t you? For me?
[A boyfriend, a career, the MA here is not for me, I’d be wasting money here, I want to get away from this place, I’ve never lived anywhere else, a boyfriend (dear God, I hope I find a boyfriend somewhere else), there’s more in the world than Potsdam, NY, and on, and on…]
On and on.
It’s kind of like one of the forms of abusive relationships I’ve read about, but forgot the clinical name for; the abuser convinces his or her victims that the abuse is fabricated and untrue, and that the victims themselves are the cause. If only you were straight, Shawon, are you SURE that you aren’t? You just seem so unhappy here, so I don’t know why you don’t just change back… I love my mom, I truly do, but I am not sorry for who I am and I will continue to correct her vocabulary. I also understand, very well, that she may never truly accept me for who I am, and I’ve given myself over to that painful reality. I also realize that I probably won’t ever be free of the negativity she unabashedly doled out since I came out, but whatever. Someday I’ll buy a therapist a really cool car.
Because I’m 24 and have, over time, developed a very potent defense mechanism, I know now that I do not need to live my life in a way that will make other people happy.
Even if that person gave birth to me.
Through it all, if I ever decide to get married, I’ll send her an invitation. My personal vindication will come from sticking her at a table with all of my delightfully flamboyant gay friends.