"Are you sure you're gay?"
"I thought you were into Mel Gibson."
"It's more like Mella Gibson."
"Really?," I asked
"Really," my mom said.
It was 1992. I was twelve and suddenly my mother was gay. Clearly, I imagined that she must have been the only gay person in our New England town. This town was built on sailboats, Fourth of July planning committees, and grandmothers who went to high school with your grandmothers. Except for my grandmothers. They lived in New York. The city my parents left to start their married life and now here we were and my mother was gay.
As I was twelve, I had to tell someone. And since the recipient of this news was twelve, she had to tell everyone. This made me an easy target for words connected to shame and rejection, which up until this point were foreign emotions. My mom and dad raised me on love and acceptance so the response from my peers didn't make sense. It would have been easier to jump on the reject bandwagon and have a steady seat at the lunch table, but my loyalty was to my mom. She was my best friend and if she was brave enough to live her truth, I was brave enough to stand by her.
Apparently today, having a gay mom gives me more credibility. At parties, I'm more interesting and words like cool and lucky are thrown around. It's true. It is cool and I am lucky. I'm also lucky that even though my parents were dealing with their own issues around my mother coming out, and their divorce, they continued to raise me with a belief of being with whom you love. As an added bonus, they both chose new partners who were supportive in the love-who-you want-to-love department. This set the stage for an open dialog while I tried to navigate relationships.
Up until my 20s, I had only dated guys and when I started to date girls, too, the age-old question of nature versus nurture would pop up. Truth is, I don't know. I fell for a boy in homeroom in high school, but also had a thing for Michelle Pfeiffer in middle school. Both were blonde. My dad had a thing for blondes -- and so did my mom. When you do the math, maybe I've got the thing-for-blondes gene, more than the Gay gene. Although, it was college when they collided.
I called my mom.
"What's up, Honey?"
"I think I have a crush on this blonde girl."
"That makes sense. Your father likes blondes."
"Mom, your wife is blonde."
"Well, I guess we all have something in common then."
The blonde theory went out the window when on a cold Manhattan night in 2004, a woman with jet black hair came racing down the stairs of the Bowery Ballroom. I've never been hit by a truck, but I imagine this is what it feels like.
"Hi," she said.
She smelled like matches and patchouli and in that instant was "The One". Forever.
As our story goes, Forever clocked in somewhere around an on-again-off-again eight years. This included her fully executed John Hughes marriage proposal with a boombox, Peter Gabriel, and our friend Theresa's trench coat. Unfortunately, Forever was not our future. Whether it was timing, location, or the way I loaded the dishwasher, it wasn't destiny.
I called my mothers.
"Hi Honey, hold on your other mother wants to listen."
"I'm sorry I'm calling about this again."
"It's OK, we're here. Go on."
"Did you guys watch Scandal this week?
"Oh my God, I can't even with Olivia and Fitz. It's like, so your dynamic with her."
"I know. Like, when she answers the trash phone?"
"I don't know what to do."
"Honey, you just need to deal with it," my other mother chimes in. "Pull up your big girl boots and walk through your shit."
As a former chain smoker, I can say quitting smoking is easier than walking through your shit. It helps to eliminate established coping mechanisms and stay pure through the process to own your feelings with certainty. For me this meant the following items were illegal to partake in: booze, smokes, sugar, gluten, French fries, records from 1984-2012, online shopping (negotiable), overbooking, over-planning and over-explaining. I would feel every raw emotion and get the relationship out of my system.
My mom calls.
"How's it going honey?"
"Good, there's progress. I'm ready for Gelson's."
"Ugh, I love Gelson's."
"I know you do. But the music in there really does a number."
"If I make it to checkout without losing it to Linda Ronstadt, I'm on track."
"Maybe don't wear eyeliner."
"I'm definitely wearing eyeliner."
"Then you're definitely making progress. Stay in your truth."
Stay in my Truth. Ok. Truth. At this point, this is not how I thought it would be in relationships. I thought, you meet "The One" and they identify you as "The One" and this "Oneness" would be enough to be successful through all obstacles. Maybe I watched too much television as a kid, but facing a future without my "One" was not part of the plan. This is where my real struggle stemmed from.
My mom's voice pops up: "Honey, the only plan is there is no plan."
She's right, as most mothers are. One day you'll be somewhere else and someone else will smolder you by surprise and open you to a future worth letting go of your past for. It might be something lasting -- or it might be just a glimpse -- either way it's there and will be worth giving your mothers a call.
"Are you sure you're gay?"