The Book

My mother and I speak on the phone three times a week.

Three times a week we hash over three repeated themes.  Work.  The weather.  Our family.  We’ve unconsciously agreed that these are the safe subjects.  The comfortable ones.  We do not deviate.

Even she is aware of the repetition.  Once she pretended to be a recording.  We laughed about it, but by the next call we were back at our old stand-by.

When I came out as a teenager she made it clear that she didn’t want to hear about that part of my life.  So I grew accustomed to changing pronouns and omitting big chunks of my history when I related it to her.  I’ve edited out half of my life.  Romances.  Relationships.  Heartbreaks.  Dreams.

Even now, 15 years later, I don’t know how to talk to her.  I can say, “Carlos and I went out for breakfast.”  But I can’t say, “Carlos is my boyfriend.”

I’m afraid to go through the pain of rejection I went through when I came out a second time.  But I want her to know me.  All of me.  I want to be able to share with the people who raised me the person I want to spend my life with.

So I made a picture book.  I found a company online that allows you to arrange pictures with a story and print it out in a nicely bound, hardcover print with glossy pages.  I put together pictures of my odyssey from Los Angeles to Seattle.  The coffee shops and restaurants that I frequented.  Pictures of my friends.  All of the places she’ll never see and the people that she’ll never meet.

I told the story of how Carlos and I met in a coffeehouse.  How he was waiting for me at the finish line when I ran the marathon.  The two of us eating sushi.  Us going out for drinks.  Hiking.  Our anniversary.  The two of us smooching.  Sweetly.  Eyes closed.  Smiling.

I thought if she could see what my life was like, the other half that we don’t speak about, then maybe it wouldn’t be so alien.  Maybe we could actually have a real conversation about something meaningful.  Maybe she could see me, all of me, and have the opportunity this time to accept me.  To love me for who I am, instead of insisting on rejecting all but a portion of me.  The bland and inoffensive bit.

I mailed the book to her three weeks ago.  I sent it with a handwritten inscription that though it may not seem like it, my life is really full of happiness and beauty, and that I hope someday we’ll be able to talk about those things too.

I waited nervously for her response.  Would she think it was sweet?  Would she be disgusted?  No matter the response, at least it would be a conversation starter.  A chance to talk about something real.  A door to an authentic relationship.

But every conversation is the same as all the ones that passed before.  Work is fine.  It’s raining today.  How’s dad?  Grandma isn’t doing well these days.

I guess I should have been prepared for it, but it never occurred to me that she wouldn’t mention it at all.  The book, like my relationships, my hopes and dreams are things that just don’t exist to her.  It’s disappointing, but if she can’t accept my sexuality, at least I can accept her limitations.  And love her anyway.

18 thoughts on “The Book

  1. GEEEEHEEEEZ that fucking SUCKS man! MAN! MAN MAN! UGH it sounds like it’s tough but that you can cope with it, but who wants to cope, right? RIGHT!

    Man I wish my mom was alive still, she’d love you so much and ask you all about your romantic interest. The best thing would be that she would cluelessly do this in front of your mother when we all went out for brunch! She’d say “OH my Lance is so handsome, and his partner is too – you must be SO proud of your son and happy to have inherited such a loving son-in law… now I say, put him to work making tortillas in your kitchen! That’s what Latino son-in-laws are for! HA!”


    HUGS Lancebot!

    • I thought about you when I was writing this, Ducky. It seems so unfair that you lossed a Mom you had such a great relationship with. Carlos’s mom sounds a lot like your mom.

  2. Wow. Your life is richly beautiful and I’m so saddened that she doesn’t want to know that. The last line of your blog struck me the most. No one could ask for a better son. You truly love her. I hope she is able to appreciate that very soon.

  3. even jaded old queen that I am I teared up. I was literally tossed out onto the street for just getting my ear pierced. The word gay was never spoken, it seems like a billion years ago, they are all dead, but as the adage says where there’s life there’s hope….life your life with no regrets.

  4. Sending a book is such a kind, caring idea. It always astonishes me how forgiving and patient most gay people are when their parents fail at such a fundamental task – showing their kids love.

    But sometimes parents, like the rest of us, say and do stupid things that push their kids away, and then don’t know how to fix it. It’s possible that the book, and your relationships, don’t exist for your mother. But it could be that she has no idea what to say to you after so many years.

    It’s only sensible to fear her rejecting you a second time. But it sounds like you feel rejected right now by what’s happening between you, so perhaps it’s not rejection you fear so much as confrontation, and guilt about having asked her to face up to reality.

    You can’t make your mother accept you, but you can decide whether you are going to continue to censor yourself to avoid conflict. Although you’re trying to protect your relationship with her, your self-censorship has obviously hurt you, and it allows your mother to delude herself that her lack of acceptance is not a problem. And you pointed out yourself that your connection with your mother has become formulaic, presumably because there is no space for intimacy or truthfulness when you are hiding such an important part of your life.

    Why not continue what you started with the book, by telling her a little bit about your life with Carlos – just a sentence or two, perhaps, in each conversation? Months will probably go by where she goes quiet and changes the subject. OK – that’s her prerogative. But one day she might surprise you.

    When my wife and I first met six years ago, she censored herself with her mother just the same way you do. But in the end her mother came to our wedding, and yesterday her mother and I chatted on the phone for half an hour about all sorts of personal things. When all the screaming and yelling was going on for the first few years that my wife started talking about “the gay stuff” (her words!), I would never have believed my wife’s mother would one day acknowledge my existence – never mind walk my wife down the aisle, or chat to me cheerfully about such personal things as her relationship with her own parents, and her dream of starting a new career after retirement.

    I know that many people are never so lucky as my wife has been. But I also know that some parents need more of a push than others. If you can be brave enough to keep going this way with your mother, letting her into your life whether she wants it or not, you might find that she shuts you down and asks you to hide your life away again. But you might find that she draws inspiration from your courage, and finds a way to be brave herself. Good luck!

    • I think you’re right on the nose. I’ve always been afraid of confrontation. But I have already been doing what you suggest by trying to bring up Carlos/my friends in every conversation. I’m still optimistic that our relationship will improve.

      Thanks for the thoughtful response and kind words!

  5. Hi Lance,

    I would consider myself “gay friendly” having grown up with a gay best friend in Hollywood my entire life. I always just thought it was natural. While I am not like most people in this country, I think it is important for everyone to keep hearing stories like this. How else are we supposed to grow as a socially conscious society?

    Thanks for posting your story.

    • Thanks for reading (and being gay friendly.) If there’s every going to be real equality, then it will be due in large part to people like you who support the rights of the minority. So for that, you rock!

  6. Just out of curiosity, do you even know if your mother looked through the picture book?

    I also wasn’t clear if you’ve been ‘out’ for 15 years, or that you’ve been with Carlos for 15 years.
    I’ve been ‘out’ for a couple decades, and have been with Steve for 17 years (married 3 years). The thought of my mother refusing to hear about my personal life would be unacceptable. You said that you didn’t want to be rejected again. But isn’t that exactly what she’s doing to you every single day? She doesn’t want to acknowledge that she has a gay son, or that you have a boyfriend. I’d call that rejection. (Sorry to be a Debbie Downer.)

    I’m not sure what the best method is for getting through to her. (I don’t know how much time she’s had to deal with your sexuality.) Perhaps cutting phone calls short by saying, “Well, since you don’t want to hear about my personal life, I really don’t have anything left to talk about. I’ll call you tomorrow. Bye, Mom.” That would reinforce the idea that her rejecting of part of your life has actual consequences, and that you’re hurt by it. (It was just a thought. Take it with a grain of salt… and good luck to you and Carlos.)

    • To clarify, I came out as a teenager which was about 15 years ago, so she’s had that much time to come to terms with the fact. I’ve been with Carlos for a little more than 2 years now.

      Congrats to you and Steve. Hearing about that kind of longevity in a same sex relationship always makes me happy and gives me hope.

      I also don’t know what the best way of getting through to my mom is, other than to forge ahead and hope for the best.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  7. Lance,
    When I first came out 45 years ago, my mother acted like it was the latest thing I had thought up to annoy her. She wanted that same edited version of my life that your mother appears to want. After indulging her for a few years, I confronted her and explained gently that she would have to accept my whole life or see very little of me. I had to show her I was serious by missing a Christmas or two, skipping a couple of family events, and speaking my “truth” into her silences and evasions, She did not reform overnight, but as I forced the issue repeatedly, she slowly came around. In 1981 she came to live with me, and I took care of her until her death in 2005. My siblings, relatives, and gay cousins all helped, too, because they modeled the loving acceptance that is possible. She did not live to see me marry my partner of 18 years, but she would have been happy to celebrate that event with my bio and my chosen families.

    My message is that you DO need to be brave. The biggest step is to take Carlos when you go to visit. Make him real and hard to deny. Talk about him when you speak on the telephone, and make sure to mention how much he means to you — use specific examples of how he makes your life better, send her a picture of the Valentine flowers. Tell her about your struggles to live an authentic life and how much her support would mean to you. If she does not already know, make sure she understands that your sexuality is not her fault. Send her relevant reading material and then ask about them — don’t wait for her to bring them up. If you have supportive family and friends, enlist them to help in your campaign.

    I wish you luck, and every happiness.

    • Thank you for your comment and kind words. I’m sort of overwhelmed that so many people saw my little post and felt compelled to share their own stories and words of solidarity.

      I’ve thought about taking Carlos to meet them. I’ve met his parents who are wonderful. His mom sends me Christmas presents and asks about me, which is something that, at present I can’t imagine my own mother doing. But I’m hopeful.

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