This is a difficult post to write. It's complicated family stuff; the sort of thing I tend to avoid writing about because of its emotional difficulty. What I have to do in order to get it out is tell the story the best I can.
As some of you know, my 21 year-old daughter, Supergirl One is gay. She's madly in love with a young woman she is in college with and they've been planning to get married. Like a lot of young couples, regardless of sexual orientation, planning this very thing around these ages is not atypical. Since SG1's Beloved is a California resident, they hope to be married next summer, before graduate school, assuming that the decision there is not reversed in November due to the ballot initiative. Though we live in Massachusetts, marriage legality here depends upon establishing residency. There is no such requirement in California.
The difficult part is the family reactions or potential reactions, as everyone in the family does not yet know. My mother, 78, does not know and is likely to take the news hard. SG1 feels that she can't keep her plans secret from people and makes very compelling arguments for it. I support her, of course, but I also fear for her, as she is a sensitive soul when it comes to her heart; and this is all about her heart. I once heard someone say that when your children leave you, it's like watching your heart go out into the world. While I've always celebrated my children's independence, in SG1's case I find myself a total wreck over this.
Yesterday, Saturday, SG1 and I drove to my brother's home in Eastern Massachusetts for a family gathering. The players in this gathering are my brother and his wife, in their 50's, their grown daughter, their grown son and his wife and their two babies, my maternal uncle and his daughter, my brother's in-laws and of course, SG1 and I - the sort of black sheep in the sense of how starkly unmainstream we are in our thinking, compared to the rest of the bunch. Don't get me wrong, everyone was having a fine time, the babies are adorable and the center of attention, the food is good and many of these folks are highly intelligent conversationalists.
At one point after dinner, there were two tables of relatives chatting it up in different rooms. At the kitchen table, I ended up sitting with my sister-in-law, my adult niece, my nephew's wife and SG1. I don't know how the conversation fell on SG1 but it came out that she was in a serious relationship and engaged. Everyone was very understanding but the concern about telling my mother seemed paramount on everyone's minds, including mine. Add to the sidebar that I believe (I'm working on this) that my daughter is too young to get married, regardless of who it is she is marrying.
So, everyone around our table begins to ask SG1 questions in an attempt to explore various options that she might take in regard to breaking the news to my mother; of which one option is to not tell her at all. SG1 was clearly in the hot seat. I was overwhelmed. The others were concerned. I failed to do what SG1 was relying on me most for: a united front. Firstly, I could barely get a word in. Secondly, when I did open my mouth, I just blurted out that she and her Beloved are perhaps too young to be contemplating marriage so soon. Although SG1 knows this opinion already, she also knows that I will support her no matter what. I failed, however, to have an opportunity to say this. By the time SG1 had finished attempting to address the various options her relatives were proposing for how to (or not) tell her grandmother, she had had it and requested privately that we go home. I was more than glad to oblige and we left.
On the drive all hell broke loose. SG1 was hurt and despondent over the whole thing and terribly angry and disappointed in me for not having taken her side more. As I said, I too was overwhelmed throughout this family discussion and it would have been well with me if we had not touched on it at all. I could not get in a word without rudely interrupting and becoming defensive on my daughter's behalf. My brother and his family and I are not terribly close, and it's a chore for me to even get enthused about a visit, though I do end up usually having a good time when I do, regardless. In this discussion, I felt perhaps just as awkward as SG1, though not nearly as hurt, since I think for some reason I went into brain freeze mode and simply couldn't think straight. If I were to pick up this conversation again with my sister-in-law only, for example, I can just hear her saying, with good intentions, "I feel for you, Gina." I would hate, hate, hate to have to hear that! I'm not a stranger to being in a difficult spot with my daughter but her being in love and truly happy is not a difficult spot for anyone but them.
Backing up a bit to the drive home with SG1, she cried bitterly and expressed her utter and complete hurt that I didn't defend her. I could barely drive. I desperately tried to explain my position, including that I had only one opportunity to speak and how sorry I was that what came out was indeed not supportive. I had waited for a chance to finally say my piece but I never had that chance, I explained, before SG1 declared that she wanted to leave. The whole thing, I explained, felt like a bad dream. It was painful and SG1 looked small and frail and vulnerable and if I could have run out of the room with her, I would have. But I couldn't. We managed to hold our heads high enough, I guess, as we left. And in the car we both fell apart.
We did work it through but I wonder at what cost to my daughter and perhaps, I fear, to our relationship. I failed her. I let her down. I betrayed her. And all, perhaps, because of my own misgivings and my cowardice at not wanting to alienate my very small, extended family, with whom I am not even close with precisely because I can't be myself with them. I froze and was unable to step up to the plate.
I haven't questioned seriously who I am and what I stand for in the face of what my family thinks, in a long time. I thought I had long ago accepted the fact that my family and I are different from my brother and his. That although I love my family, even my aunts and uncles and my cousins; that their value systems and lifestyles are not what I have chosen for myself. And then something like this happens and I am asking myself, like a child: why do I have to be different? Why is it me who has to have the child with the unpopular, misunderstood and even despised situation? Why can't things ever be in neat little rows for me like they are for my brother? Why is my emotional life so damned fucking hard all the time? Why can't anyone just be happy that we are good people and appreciate us as such? Why do I have to care what they think? And how is it that their version of reality has to be one that everyone gets in line for? Fuck. Why can't my daughter's engagement be celebrated? No one even said congratulations to her at that fucking table!
It's no wonder that I have difficulty writing and discussing truly difficult personal matters. It's easier to let the confusion swirl around in my head: thoughts, snippets of conversation, "tapes" that have played in the back of my head for years: negative, painful, self-doubting but not properly articulated.
And yet I have to publish this. I need your feedback, your opinions, your advise, even. And though painful, I think I'm clearer now, having sorted through what happened. I still feel lousy but at least now I have a bit more understanding of how I came to take so many steps back when I thought I was moving forward.
I believe that the images and writing posted here fall under the "fair use" section of the U.S. copyright law http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107, as they are intended for educational purposes and are not in a medium that is of commercial nature.