My family is weird. We mostly communicate in writing, which frankly, is just fine with me. I hate talking on the phone and I really don’t like being interrupted and condescended to when I have something to say.
When I came out to my mother years ago, I did so via e-mail. That may seem like a cowardly approach, but, again, we communicate mostly in writing. It gave me time to put my thoughts together in a coherent manner.
It took my mother two weeks to reply to the message. When she did it was a multi-page email riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions which I dismantled one by one.
I don’t remember much of the email anymore, except for the part which said, “I’ll have nothing to do with anyone or anything that puts your name and the word homosexual in the same sentence.”
A loaded statement to be sure.
I responded with two salient comments. “I am putting my name and the word homosexual in the same sentence. Will you have nothing to do with me? I’m prepared for that if that is your choice, but I will not be the one to walk away over this.” Followed by, “Are you telling me that if I should find myself in love with someone with whom I want to share my life, I cannot bring him around to meet my family? Do you really believe that given the same ultimatum, my sister would choose you over her husband and children? I guarantee you she would not.”
It took another couple of weeks for her to reply to that message and all she had to say was, “I love you very much.”
Sounds sweet and touching, right? We have never spoken of my sexual orientation since. That was seven years ago.
When I made the decision to come out to her, knowing that she would not approve, knowing that she would judge and condemn, knowing that she would react pretty much exactly the way that she did, and knowing that I was choosing to disrespect myself, in order to “respect” her. I made that choice willingly so that I could live my life more fully, more openly, and, I thought, more honestly.
Last year I met the love of my life. I met a man who was everything I wanted in a boyfriend and future husband. I fell hopelessly, desperately, completely in love. Beyond that, I believed I had received a message from the God I used to believe in, telling me that this was THE man I would spend the rest of my life with. I was over the moon.
I didn’t tell my mother about Alan, not because it was a secret, or because I was ashamed of anything, but because we don’t talk very much, we live 1800 miles apart and there was simply no opportunity in which it made sense to say anything. We hadn’t discussed my sexual orientation in 7 years. Hell, we hadn’t discussed my sexuality in 43 years.
Alan, turned out to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and ultimately, he destroyed me. The end of our relationship was a tumultuous ride which I won’t get into today, but suffice it to say, I was strung along for months, and I bit, hook, line, and sinker. He unraveled me to my very core, and in the end, he just dropped off the face of the earth, leaving me to try to pick up the pieces while refusing to give any answers or explanations or offering any sort of insights that could help me make sense of what happened.
The final, final blow came in early February, and I was a wreck. My life fell apart around me. Everything that had mattered, everything that had been good, was just an empty shell of vague relevance which I didn’t care to protect. I wanted to die. I couldn’t get through a single day without falling to pieces, and my eyes were in a perpetual state of bloodshot puffiness. I cried, I thought, until there could be no more tears, and yet, as I write these words the tears are brimming. I sat in therapy just yesterday and wept over his disappearance from the only source of connection that remained for me.
Within a few days of that final, final blow, my mother and I had a text conversation. I don’t remember what it was about. It was not especially relevant. We finished the conversation and resolved whatever we were discussing, and then suddenly, she called me. On the telephone!
I steadied myself and answered. “I just wanted to let you know I hadn’t forgotten about Christmas,” she said, after we exchanged the customary pleasantries, “I’ve just been really busy and haven’t had time to do anything about it.” Her boss was writing a book, she told me, which basically means that he was scribbling notes long hand on legal pads, and she was writing a book. She’d been so swamped with deadlines and re-writes and all the other day to day stuff that already filled her life that she hadn’t had time to even think about the holidays, long passed.
I told her that she didn’t need to worry about it. Since I made the decision to leave the corporate world and pursue an entirely different career path that is still in it’s infancy, I’ve been pretty broke and giving gifts was the farthest thing from my budget, let alone my mind. I’ve never been comfortable receiving gifts when I’m not able, or inclined to return the favor. It was just as well that she hadn’t done anything, and didn’t need to.
“Well,” she said, “I’m your mother. It doesn’t matter if you give anything in return. Besides, if that’s how things are right now, it sounds like the best thing I can do is just send you some money.” It’s worth noting that she never did.
She continued, “Other than that, how is everything?”
There was a moment of deafening silence as I tried in vain to put my thoughts in order and figure out how to reply. How could I respond to the woman who told me she’d have nothing to do with my sexual orientation when the only thing that mattered in the world was that my heart had just been ripped out of my chest, hurled to the ground, danced upon and set on fire by the MAN I loved. How could I tell her that every breath is a struggle, climbing out of bed every morning is like climbing Mt. Everest, and every smile I fake for the sake of my clients and coworkers cuts a little deeper and makes me feel a little more dead inside.
In that split second of deafening silence, I opened my mouth to speak the truth, and the only thing that came out was a sob.
“Oooh. Loaded question,” she said.
“Yes… And not one that you want to hear the answer to.”
Without missing a beat she said, “Okay. Talk to you later. Bye!” and hung up the phone.
We haven’t spoken since.
Recently, I found out that in the only conversation they’ve had about me since my life fell apart, my mother told my sister that she (my mother) seems to have “fallen off of [my] ‘acceptable people list'”, an ironic choice of words, I think. There have been a few half-hearted attempts on my mother’s part over the months to contact me, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to respond or engage. Naturally, my mother, who I have come to realize has some narcissistic tendencies of her own assumes that for some reason I’m mad at her and giving her the silent treatment. I suppose she’s not entirely wrong. I am mad at her. I’m mad that in the most critical moment of our relationship, she couldn’t find it in her to set aside her bigotry and judgment and just be there for me.
But that’s not what the silence is really about.
It’s been almost ten months since my world stopped moving. My earth is standing still on it’s axis and I am on the dark side of the planet during a new moon. There is a power outage. The clouds are heavy and the fog is so thick, I can see no stars.
Nothing matters. I still struggle to take every breath. I climb the highest peek every morning I have the misfortune of waking up again. My body aches, my heart hurts, my mind reels and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to make it stop.
What I do know is that only I can. And she definitely cannot help me.
The silence is me trying to figure out how to take care of myself. Trying to figure out how to heal and come out of this anguish better than I went in. The person I was before is gone, never to return. And thank god for that, because that guy was a loser who was easily manipulated and taken advantage of, as evidenced by the fact that Alan was not the first emotionally deficient man with a personality disorder to get his hooks into that guy. No, that guy cannot be allowed to return and I have to figure out how to destroy him for good. One thing I know for sure is that I won’t heal and I won’t come out of this better than I was by focusing on making other people feel better.
I spent my entire life trying to be what other people want me to be, to the point that I don’t even know who I actually am. This is the time to find out. I don’t know how I’m going to do that. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I know that I don’t yet know how not to be that same simpering, pathetic loser I was before, so I steer clear of situations that invite him to resurface.
And that includes talking to my mother.
So for now, I stay radio silent