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Posts Tagged ‘family’

Birthday blessings

Yesterday was my 35th birthday. It’s a bit of a milestone, but nothing that would warrant a big to-do or much fanfare. My partner asked me what I wanted to do to mark the occasion, and I said I’d like to have some friends over for a pot-luck games night. Nothing fancy: just good times with good friends. Which is exactly what happened, but to me it was so much more than that.

It ended up being a very interesting mix of people, from friends I’d known a few years, to some I’d known about a year, to a couple of people I’d never met before. It’s always a risk, bringing people together from different sectors of your life, but in the end it was a good mix. Not to mention we were pretty well-matched in our game playing. We each won a game of Outburst, with less than a five-point spread between teams each time.

MC and I have been busy the last several weeks, and hadn’t had guests over in ages – probably since long before the xmas holidays. The bus strike has also put a damper on the social lives of many Ottawans. So it was a real pleasure to host so many close friends (and a couple of strangers). I guess it’s silly, but I just felt incredibly grateful to have all these great people around me on my birthday.

This feeling of gratitude was amplified by the fact that my parents didn’t contact me at all on my birthday. No phone call, no card. This is very unusual, especially since we haven’t spoken since the xmas holidays. My brother at least sent me a card. It’s strange. In high school, I remember my mother being jealous of my friends and telling me that the only people you can really count on in life is your family. In reality, it’s my friends who have always been there for me, who celebrate my life choices and accomplishments, and my parents (my mother in particular) who are the first to judge and criticize and generally let me down.

Maybe they were busy yesterday. Maybe they thought I would be out on my birthday since it fell on a Friday night so they didn’t bother to call. Maybe they’ll call today. Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about it.

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Escaping family

What is it about family that makes me shut down and run away? Sometimes talking to family members makes me want to sit on the floor, close my eyes tight, cover my ears with my hands and sing “I can’t hear you!!!”

I’m pretty sure I love them – if one of them were to die, I would be very upset. Devastated even. But they feel tangential to my life. I do cultivate a certain distance with them (OK, maybe a chasm) both geographically and emotionally. And I don’t really look forward to talking to or seeing them – some of them, anyway.

Tonight, for example, I was writing to one of my younger family members (now in his early 20s) who suffered an injustice from the rest of the family a couple of years ago. He hasn’t really received a proper apology from everybody yet, and I fear he may never get one. I can tell it bothers him, and to be honest I haven’t fully apologized for my role in this debacle yet, either. But I just dread dealing with it. I just want to throw my little fit on the floor and make everything go back to the way it was . . . I hope what I wrote to him today will help in some small way.

Incidentally, I came out to this same family member tonight as well. He may have already known, but I wasn’t sure, so I told him. And it was still difficult to choose the words, though it gets a little easier each time. But there’s still that fear of rejection, the terror of the look of disgust on his face (despite the fact I can’t see his face; and haven’t seen his face in about three years now).

All this just reinforces my dread of the xmas holidays. Maybe I can hold my breath until it’s over . . .

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One of my oldest and dearest friends sent me a card recently to congratulate me on coming out to my family after spending a ridiculous number of years in the closet to no one except them. It was a lovely gesture. Like she says: Nobody bakes you a cake when you come out, but they should! 

She also sent me this comic cell, in response to my comment about bisexuality NOT being a stopover on the way to Gay Town. Maybe next time she drops in at Vonny’s Vag she could give us the source. Is that Superman on his way to Gay City?  (gasp!)  I never knew, and my gaydar is pretty good . . .

So it occurred to me to provide an update on the whole coming out process. Since coming out to my parents in early July, they have called me precisely once, to wish me a happy Thanksgiving. Which is something. On Labour Day weekend I brought my partner down to my hometown to meet the family. We stayed with my brother, who dealt with the whole thing remarkably well, considering. My parents were civil, but clearly uncomfortable. They made no effort to initiate conversation with my beloved, but they were friendly to her when she spoke to them.

On the long drive home, I tried to look on the bright side. My 70-something parents have probably never met a gay person in their lives. (At least not knowingly.) At this point, it was important that they see that I’m still the same person, and that my beloved is not a green three-headed monster. Mission accomplished.

Now we have to figure out where we’re going to spend xmas — our first xmas together as a couple. My parents will be upset if I don’t spend it with them, and my partner’s family will be upset if she doesn’t spend it with them. But neither of us wants to spend xmas apart, especially since it’s our first one together.

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After staying closeted to my family for nearly 20 years, I finally came out to them in July. I knew my parents wouldn’t take it well. Whose parents do, really? But mine are devout Catholics, both well past retirement age. The question was not if they would react badly — it was a question of how bad, and what sort of relationship we’d have afterwards.

I’d known since high school that I was bisexual. (As an aside, I maintain that bisexuality is its own orientation, and not “a stopover on the way to gay-town,” as some would have it.) Not being that close to my family, I rarely shared with them when I was dating anyone at all, regardless of gender. In my late 20s, I had a committed relationship with a woman for four years. All my friends were aware of it; only my family remained (and remains) in the dark.

Now in my mid-30s, I am once again in a committed same-sex relationship. And I probably would have kept this one a secret from my family as well, were it not for two things: 1. More than I ever have in the past, I feel quite certain that I have met my life partner; and 2. My parents told me they were coming for a visit in early July and that they expected to stay with me. I had no choice — we had been living together for months already. I couldn’t hide it. And I realized it was stupid to try. I called my mother and told her.

She didn’t yell or cry. She said she was disappointed, that she didn’t approve of my entire lifestyle, and that she was worried about my soul. I told her that was for me to worry about. I also said I would understand if they didn’t feel comfortable coming for a visit, but that they should take some time to think about it and let me know. After two weeks with no word, I finally called my older brother who was supposed to come with them on this fated visit to find out what was going on.

He said they told him my news, and that he tried to convince them to come for a visit anyway, but they outright refused. And they couldn’t bring themselves to call and let me know. In fact, even now, more than two months later, they still haven’t called me once. I did see my parents on Labour Day weekend at my brother’s annual family BBQ. At my brother’s invitation, I also brought my partner. My parents were glad to see me, and were very awkward with my partner, but at least they showed up and were polite.

They’re making an effort, but they’re clearly upset by the whole thing. I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t have been easier coming out to them in high school. Coming out in your mid-30s means you’re flying in the face of years and years of your family thinking of you a certain way. Coming out in your teens, when you’re discovering who you are, would perhaps be less of a shock. At the same time, I imagine it’s harder to be taken seriously. Adults usually think teenagers don’t have enough life experience to make decisions of that magnitude. But there are some things you just know, regardless of age or experience.

At least my brother has been supportive. He welcomed both me and my fabulous partner into his home. Because I’ve never been very close with my parents, this isn’t a devastating situation. My mother was 35 when I was born, my father 40. We are from entirely different eras, and have never understood each other. My style, my sense of humour, my choice of friends, my career choices were always met with disapproval. So I gave up trying. I stopped telling them about things I knew would upset them, and stuck to safe topics like the weather. Now is their chance to get to know the real me, if they’re interested.

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