Mother

Mother: You never were afraid of me. Your sister and your brother, I think they are still afraid of me. They are so conventional. I frightened them into conventionality. So afraid of making a mistake. I had to be careful not to push them.

Me: You weren’t frightening. You were never angry at any of us. I think [brother] and [sister] are just timid. And you do have an overpowering personality.

Mom: They did things right because they were afraid of what I would say or do if they did them wrong. They were perfectionists in a by-the-book way. Not you. You were never like that. Never afraid to make a mistake. Never afraid to challenge me. Never afraid to challenge anyone. I don’t think you ever cared what I thought.

Me: That’s not true. I cared very much what you thought.

Mom: Nonsense. You did things right because you got pleasure from doing things right. Pleasing me never entered your mind.

Me: No, I was never afraid of you. There was never anything to be afraid of.

Mother: But you were so afraid of me about the most important thing in your life.

Me: I wasn’t afraid of you. I was afraid of losing you. Of losing our family. It’s the most important thing in the world to me. Well, now it’s the second most important thing in the world.

I just knew what you believed. The Church doesn’t accept it and you wouldn’t accept it.

Mother: Was it just the Church? That I would follow the Church? I wasn’t happy when you left the Church, but I accepted it.

Me: No, it wasn’t just the Church. I knew how you felt about it yourself. We were in Seattle –

Mother: Oh, no! The women kissing! I said something, didn’t I? I regretted it the moment I said it. Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.


Me: I’m sorry. I underestimated you. I never thought you would accept that I am a lesbian. I should have come out years ago.

Mother: You didn’t underestimate me. I wouldn’t have accepted it.

Me: But you did.

Mother: I never would have accepted it in the abstract. If you had come home any time and told me, “Mother, I’m a lesbian,” I would not have accepted it, even last year. I can’t say what I would have done, but I know that I could not have accepted it, not as I have. I doubt that I would ever have agreed to meet one of your girlfriends. It would have been forever a wall between us.

But meeting CA changed that. She put a face to it. Sitting here, talking all afternoon, having dinner, seeing what a wonderful woman she is, seeing what she means to you, having it slowly dawn on me that you two are in love. Having her so forthrightly admit her love for you. How can a mother resist that for her daughter?

Me: So stop regretting anything! If I had come out earlier, I never would have met CA.

For Mother’s Day

I’ve had more serious conversations with my mother since coming out than I had in my whole life before coming out. After 20 years of building a wall, I’m tearing it down. And I’ve found a friend on the other side.

I’ve never called my mother, “Mom.” Always, “Mother.” Until now.

She’s no longer forbidding, distant. She’s become a friend. A confidante.

For Mother’s Day: Mom, I love you.

August

She’s gone.


My Love has always spent August at her parents’ ranch. She helps with the August work: cutting, raking and putting up hay; riding fence; chasing strays; doctoring cattle; working on trucks and tractors and implements.

She rides her horse back into the wilderness. She honky-tonks with her high school friends.


Her whole family – parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins – gets together for a big cookout. Steak for the adults, burgers and dogs for the kids, potato salad, green beans, corn, tomatoes, cucumber slices, berry pies with home-made ice cream, home-baked bread.

In years past, the main sport at the cookout was teasing my Love about her lack of a love life. At last year’s cookout, she came out to her siblings. The next day, her sister outed her to the minister of her church – the minister who had been counseling me. The minister set us up a few days later.


My Love left for home on Friday.

I’ll join her out there this coming Friday – the first anniversary of the night we met. We’re having dinner at the same restaurant.

Her family cookout will be Saturday.

Everybody will be there this year: brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, grandparents, uncles, aunts, great uncles, great aunts, cousins, second cousins, even some third cousins. They are coming from three states.

Everybody wants to meet the girlfriend. (That would be me.) My family is coming, too.

My Love’s family is unusually close-knit, even out to second and third cousins. They are also hilariously boisterous. Should be a lot of fun.


After the cookout (and Sunday services at my old church), we’ll spend a few days at a “luxury guest ranch” in the mountains and the weekend with my parents. I don’t know what the sleeping arrangements will be. I’m not going to push it.

I’m less than 6 months into my new job; I can’t take off more than a week. My Love will come back with me and play Suzie Homemaker for the rest of the month.

Annoying words

I struggle with the aesthetics of words.


Homosexual is an ugly word. It sounds ugly. It has no euphony, no harmony.

It has the antiseptic ugliness of medical jargon. It sounds like a heading in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Which it once was.

It’s even got an ugly etymology: faux Greek spliced onto faux Latin.

And it’s the word that the intolerant love to use.


I’ve never liked gay as euphemism for homosexual.

It’s not as ugly as a word. But it was a delightful word that I used to describe myself – before I realized I was gay. I hated that it was appropriated to describe something that took the gaiety out of my life.

Even now, I have a hard time with gay  – and particularly gay woman – to describe myself. Yes, it’s up there in the header (“God-fearing gay geek girl”), but for its alliteration. But I think of gay as a word for men.


When I was in the closet, I didn’t like lesbian, either. I’m not sure why. I thought it sounded ugly and antiseptic. Not as ugly as homosexual, but ugly. Not as antiseptic as homosexual, but antiseptic.

Maybe it was just the baldness of, “I’m a lesbian.” No matter how firmly I say it, it sounds like I’m admitting to a sexually transmitted disease. (My Love likes to joke that if you ask a Harvard undergrad where he goes to school, his answer will sound like he’s admitting to a sexually transmitted disease.)

But I’m reconciling to lesbian. I’ve come to like it. I like the sound of it, now. I like the baldness of, “I’m a lesbian.”


Then there are queer and dyke and faggot. I hate those words, absolutely.

I understand that people use them self-referentially to denature them. I understand that people use queer to encompass the whole range of non-heterosexuality.

But they are plain ugly words, hateful words that I’ve heard, spittle-flecked, through clenched jaws. Maybe I hate them out of shame that I protected my closet by not objecting to them.


The funny thing is, this blog is the only place that I regularly use any of those words. It’s not that this is the only place I’m comfortable with them.

I’m fully out of the closet. I’m not ashamed of what I am. I’m happy to admit it, to confirm that I love – am engaged to marry – a woman. Everyone at my firm knows I’m a lesbian. Everyone in my family. All my friends.

I don’t make a point of it. I don’t need to. I don’t feel a need to correct people or to get annoyed at heterosexual assumptions. After all, heterosexuals outnumber us somewhere between ten to one and fifty to one, even here in New York.

Perhaps this blog is the only place where it’s an important part of my persona.

At work, the primary element of my persona is engineer. Lesbian or even woman is irrelevant. To my landlord, the primary element of my persona is tenant or rent. At church, it’s Christian or member. To my Love, it’s fiancée or sweetie. To my family, it’s daughter or sister.


I look back through the posts on this blog and see that I am becoming more and more comfortable with lesbian. I’m beginning to like it.

Maybe it’s that I’m only now beginning to think that I’m entitled to use it. It’s been less than a year since I first allowed myself to think of confessing my secret to another woman. And now that woman is my fiancée.

Maybe it’s that other bloggers that I follow – or that follow me – are so comfortable with lesbian. You’ve been using it a lot longer than I have. You seem happy with it. You seem happy to let me use it.

Thanks.

Dad

I should have posted this yesterday, of course. Dad will never see it (I hope!), so I’m not sure that matters.


In my memory, Dad lives in my Mother’s shadow. Mother is a force of nature. Dad is quiet, quietly amused at the passing parade.

But the older I get, and the more I look back at my life, the more I see of Dad, the more he becomes a main character.


Dad’s response to almost everything my Mother says is a slightly ironic, slightly exasperated, “Yes, my dear.”


Dad started me in Engineering. When I was little, we built things with wood blocks. He got end scraps from the lumberyard, mostly 2x4s, but lots of oddities, too. We built bridges, railroads, skyscrapers. He taught me about thrusts and vectors, corbelling and arching, catenary and centering, friction and balance.

He’s not an engineer. He’s got a college degree, but not in a scientific or quantitative discipline. Our discovery of engineering was purely experimental and empirical.

He gave me my favorite toys – wooden Brio trains. The Brio box has been in every place I’ve ever lived. I currently have a track set up in my Love’s apartment. I learned lattices and graphs and curves and grades.


Dad taught me the most important thing about Engineering and life:

When I was very young – maybe 5 years old – I was upset about something that had gone wrong. (A common experience in my life. If I start to wonder about what would happen if I did X, I normally try to find out. Experimentally. One of the nice things about having learned Physics, Math and Engineering is that I can get a first approximation before risking life and limb.)

Dad showed me a video tape of Galloping Gertie: The Tacoma Narrows bridge shook itself apart under a wind load. It’s studied by every engineer and physicist in the world. (Really: Please watch the video: It’s amazing. Think of how that would impress a curious 5 year old.)

Dad explained to me that we all make mistakes. Not all of them have results as spectacular as Galloping Gertie. Blame and guilt and fault are irrelevant. They are about the past, and the past can’t be changed. The important thing is to learn from our mistakes and use them for a better future. And engineers and physicists have learned a lot from Galloping Gertie.

I learned the most important lesson in Engineering before I started kindergarten.


When I was in kindergarten, the principal called my parents. I was engaging in some experimental activity. (I may have conscripted some other children as experimental subjects. My memory is hazy on specifics.) The teacher told me to stop, I would get hurt. I told her that the best way to learn was from your mistakes and she was stupid if she didn’t let me make mistakes.

I had to sit in the principal’s office while he explained this to my parents. On the drive home, Mother told me off. Dad just grinned. Mother chewed him out for encouraging bad behavior.

Dad: “Yes, my dear.”


Lindsay at Solo Mama reminded me of another event with Dad.

In catechism and confirmation class, I was a trial to our priest. The priest told my parents that I was refractory and that he would tell that to the bishop.

I said (to my parents) that the priest was an ignorant fool and, if the bishop backed him, the bishop was a stupid jackass.

Mother called me “Young Lady” (the highest level of censorious address, worse than being called by my full name) for only the second time in my life, then sent me to my room to consider how I should confess and apologize.

The last thing I heard before I closed the door to my room:

Dad: Well, he is a stupid jackass.


Dad was raised Catholic. My Mother was raised Protestant, but converted to marry Dad. The old saying, “Converts tend to be zealots”? That’s my Mother.

Dad has always been an indifferent Catholic. Mass every Sunday. Kids through catechism, first communion, confirmation. But it has always been a bemused (and, I think, amused) detachment at my Mother’s heartfelt Catholicism.

I knew how my Mother would react if I came out of the closet. (In the event, I was wrong, thank goodness.)

I didn’t know about Dad. I assumed he would not be happy. I assumed that he would back Mother. And he did.


I didn’t come out to Dad. Mother outed me to him before I got the chance. After my Love outed us to Mother, Mother took me back in the living room.

Mother: Your daughter is a lesbian. That was her girlfriend.

Dad: Yes, my dear.

Mother: Don’t “Yes, my dear” me. Your daughter is a lesbian.

Dad: Yes, my dear. I knew it the minute they walked in the door. Anyone could tell those two girls are in love. I’ve spent the last six hours trying to guess what you were going to do when you figured it out. If you don’t give her your unconditional love, I’m filing for divorce.

Mother: I gave her my blessing, and I don’t want anyone giving her any trouble about it.

Dad: Yes, my dear.

My Love: Medical paperwork

Last week, my Love called me from her GYN’s office. She was laughing.

Me: What’s so funny?

My Love: You know that long form you have to fill out every time you go to the doctor?

Me: Yeah. I hate them. Bad engineering. Should be a central record and you just need to update it.

My Love: You know where it says, Birth Control?

Me: Yeah. I always put, “None”.

My Love: I’ve always put, “Virgin”. This time, I put, “Lesbian”.

My Love: [Maniac laughter]

She’s weird.