over the christmas break, i came out to my mother. when i came home for the holiday, i drove to ypsi with k for a night before driving to flint alone to spend the week with my family. it’s an hour between ypsi and flint, and the whole drive i felt pressure building in my body and my mouth, felt the absurdity of dancing around the truth so deeply i shook with it. to be clear, i am not one of these liberal westernized queers who feels like i need to “speak my truth” in order to “feel free” in the world. i’m certainly colonized and westernized in a million ways, but the idea of outness is not one that feels significant. i have never been forthcoming with my family about my romantic entanglements, not even when i dated men. i have never felt that my relationship was so significant to my personhood or my day to day life that my family would need to know it to know me. in many ways, i still don’t feel that knowing about my sexuality garners any deeper knowledge amidst my intimates. actually, the pressure i felt driving that day was about some shallower realm of life. how silly i felt, at 33, to be lying to my mother about what day i left baltimore, evading questions about my arrival to avoid more or more vivid lying. i wanted to just be able to talk about my plans as they were, to say, yes, i’m driving to ypsi with K on this day, i will be home on the next. or to let my mother know that i planned to move within baltimore. it felt incomprehensible to me that my mother wouldn’t know where i lived. and surely, i could have told her i moved without telling her i’m queer, or without telling her about k, but then the WHYs would come and i’d have to lie, and though it may be surprising given that my romantic life is a mystery to my kin, i actually hate lying. whether witholding is a kind of lie is a debate in which i am not interested.
in any case, and for all intents and purposes, i came out to mother a few days after christmas, and two evenings before i went back to ypsi, and to k. we were sitting on my parents bed, and my father was in the living room watching TV. she was surprised at what i told her, she came back to that surprise and disbelief often. she felt, strongly, that i couldn’t be gay, that my identity was mistaken from having spent too much time with my gay friends, that i was unduly influenced by them. she felt concern about how to talk about this with my father and with other people. she felt like she had not yet processed my father’s illness and her relationship with my brother and that this was yet another thing to process. but amidst this she also spoke generously of love, of fulfillment. she wanted me to have love, something she feels like she didn’t have. she suspected her depression was due to an absence of love, passionate love, in her life. that if i could, i should take her share. she spoke of having k over for dinner, she spoke of figuring out what life might look like now.
when k and i drove back to michigan to pick up k’s dog, i made a day trip to see my parents–a trip only enabled by the fact that i had come out to my mother in the previous one. i didn’t have to lie about my whereabouts or create fictions to explain them, and that clarity actually made it possible to see my parents for the day rather than avoid them to avoid fabrication. my mother’s response echoed the tensions of our holiday conversation–she wanted me to be there, dismayed that i was only staying a day, dismayed that i wasn’t there for easter, but she also felt that i was “a nightmare [she] can’t wake up from,” a source of dread and anxiety. she felt that i was against god and nature. she felt like i wouldn’t have been this way if we never left palestine. i said, i suppose we’ll never know.
she wanted me to tell my father that night, perhaps to relieve some of her dread. it’s worth a minute here to explain, my father has parkinson’s and alzheimer’s. i have been debating how and if i can tell him about k and my life without negatively affecting his health and our relationship. i wonder–since he is not himself in many ways, how will he receive this information? can he receive it all? if our relationship is damaged, is there enough time to heal it before his illness takes his life? before he disappears from himself and from us completely? when i tell her these concerns, she says i should thank my god that he is sick. it levels me, her belief that his illness could be a blessing, something she has said verbatim, because it could protect him from the nightmare she has no choice but to face–me.
maybe it doesn’t sound like it, but my mother loves me. she even likes me. just today she asked me to come home to help her make cookies. of course it’s a joke–she lives a 9 hour drive from me. and perhaps i can imagine she wants to return to some before–before i moved out of michigan, before i came out, before i was a nightmare. but i think too, she is just my mother and she likes me around, she misses me. when i told her i might not tell my dad, she suggested it wouldn’t make sense–how else could they visit me in baltimore? she is bobbing in an ocean of uncertainty these days–between waves of love, love steeped in regret and hope, and between multiple cultural logics (christian, palestinian, heteronormative, etc) that tell her i cannot be what i am. she wants me to be happy, but she has always thought happiness was hetero marriage and kids, even as she recognizes that those things have not entirely fulfilled her. i feel sad for us, that we are lost in between these two conversations, that the love she feels for me is eclipsed by rationales neither of us actually believe. and i feel sad that i cannot make it easier or different for her, that i am just what i am.
i guess i am waiting to see if she will wake up.