This Way, Not That: A Letter to My Mom

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I remember sitting in the car with you, and you were talking about my future, and how you wanted me to be this way, not that. What you meant by these phrases, you never fully explained, but I remember you putting your point across by flipping your hand back and forth. And that flip-flop of your hand spoke louder than words to me, because in that one clumsy gesture with the flick of your wrist, you summarized to me what it meant to be gay.

And I remember feeling awful for both of us, and how difficult it must have been for you to even broach this subject considering the fact that you couldn’t even say the word out loud. So instead of saying it, you flipped your hand over and over again, knowing that I would know what you were talking about, because I knew where you were going with this conversation, and because I knew your daughter.

Maybe you couldn’t say the word out loud because saying them would make it true. And I know that to this day, you want so much for the opposite to be true. Maybe you regret ever bringing the topic up in the first place, like ignoring the problem would have kept the issue away.

I also remember not knowing what to say, or whether or not I should lie to you, someone that I’ve never lied to before.

So I decided to say nothing. As you were talking, I wanted to hold your hand and say to you that your daughter would turn out to be more than just okay, she is a caring, decent, thoughtful human who is in the process of possibly becoming a fine adult, and that this, the word that you couldn’t even make yourself say, it doesn’t matter because it shouldn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, it is a defining attribute but is also the least important attribute your daughter has been blessed with.

And I also wanted to say that I know you are worried about her because she lives in a society where there are people who would think of her as abnormal and weird, for something that she has no control over and that differentiates her from the majority of the population. And that worry you have only comes from your love, but that it doesn’t change the fact that your daughter would rather have you support her because, at the end of it all, it is only when she accepts herself for who she is, and when the people she loves accepts her, will she be truly happy with her life.

And I wanted to say that you did not make a mistake with parenting, that you did not do something “wrong” to make your daughter feel “that way” about girls, and that she is simply who she is.

But instead, I remained silent. Because, to this day, you would rather believe a lie than to hear the truth about your own child. Your only child.

And so we continue to live our lives, my thoughts a blur, you in your seat worrying what you did wrong to make your daughter go “wrong”. Yes, the world can be a terrifying place to live in, but it is even more so when the people who claim to love you the most are the first to reject you for the person you are.

What It’s Like to Fall In Love

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First step. The two of you meet and it’s amazing. There’s lots of conversations and laughing with each other and it seems like there’s no end. She’ll spend all night with you and the two of you talk until the sun rises. You two talk until there’s no talk left. You two talk until both of you are struggling to keep your eyes open. And after that you two talk some more.

Second step. She’ll leave in the morning and you realize how much you miss her. You’ll pick her shirt up from your bed and breathe deeply. It smells like her perfume mixed with the lotion she likes so much along with her natural smell. Your foot begins to tap as you count the hours, minutes, seconds until you get to see her again.

Third step. You sit throughout dinner staring at her. You stare at her as her eyes light up when she tells you the story of how her sorority sister did something silly on pledge week. You watch her lips move and curl as she talks, only thinking about how it would feel to kiss her again. She stops talking and you panic for a second. Did she ask you a question that you didn’t hear? You were too busy daydreaming about her lips again. In an effort to cover up your mistake, you nod and say something like, “Yeah, that sounded like it was fun.” She nods with a smile and continues with her story. Phew. You’ve dodged a bullet to daydream another day.

Fourth step. You’re hanging out with friends and you tune out of the conversation. In your mind, you’re playing a game with yourself as you try to remember what she looks like. You will close your eyes and remember the patterns you traced on her skin, her face when she’s still sleeping, the stray strand of hair on her face. You’ll think about how her arms would feel when you’re tired and she cuddles you. Your friends get up and you guys move along to the next destination. You’re so hopeless. At this point you’re not even pretending to pay attention to what’s going on. You stalk her Instagram. You scroll all the way back to see what she looked like three years ago. You accidentally double tap and see the heart symbol appear over a selfie she took in her dorm room. You don’t hit unlike.

Fifth step. You come home from work. You go into the bathroom and stare at her towel and toothbrush. You make your bed and wait for her to come home from work. She takes longer than usual today. You go back to the restroom and pick up her shirt. Her scent is mostly gone but it sort of lingers in your nose. You hear her knocking on your door. You run across the living room to see her. You open the door and pretend to be tired. She asks, Did you miss me. Eh, a little. This entire time you are staring at her and the way her lips move as she talks, and that blouse that you know will smell like her for the rest of the day.