i hope y’all don’t mind if i get personal for a moment. and truthfully, i probably shouldn’t write this now because the feelings are so fresh. but alas, here we are. you’re stuck with me.
the title of this post was actually a tweet that found its way into my timeline yesterday. i’ve used it probably four or five times in the last 24 hours. most recently, i used it in reference to my parents – two people from whom i never imagined i’d have to walk away.
but alas, here we are.
all my life, my family has been a proud family of three — just me, my mom, and my dad. after graduating from college and before i left home for graduate school, i lived with my parents for about two years. in that time, i grew to cherish the relationship that we’d built. my mom and i had found common ground; my dad and i talked endlessly about politics – we loved it. it was our thing, and i began to see that my dad respected my perspective. but more than that, my parents and i grew close. we loved each other, and we enjoyed each other. we liked being around one another.
i remember the day we gathered in my bedroom and watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on the tiny 13 inch tv my parents got me when I was, like, 9. that story was one i told for years. we had the works set up in the den – stereo surround sound, plasma screen mounted on the wall, a couch. yet, there we were. the three of us. smashed onto my childhood bed. watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on a 13 inch screen.
my mom has struggled for the last two years to wrap her mind around my life. and her struggle has manifest in some foul ways. to be sure, i’ve seen the face of ignorance and homophobia real close up. and it is ugly. aint nothing pretty or pleasing about it.
but i’d come to expect blowback from my mom. i know who she is. i know where she comes from. i know the people with whom she surrounds herself. i could handle her better because i understood that her sickness was about the limitations in her life experience. her perceptions of gay people and what gay life looks like were woefully flawed. but in her view, she was spot on. and not even close proximity to one whom she already knew as so many other things – in addition to gay – could penetrate that force field of ignorance. such is life. it sucked, but i could deal.
my dad though. his rejection. that rejection hurt. it hurt like i imagine it would have hurt if i was six and i’d watched him walk away, knowing he’d never come back. i idolized my father. he was the smartest, kindest, most wonderful man. but he had his deficiencies too.
my dad’s beef wasn’t that i like girls. he actually handled that news well, and with a remarkable degree of love, support, and grace. what he can’t seem to grasp, however, is that i refuse to permit disrespect and disregard for my happiness – no matter the source. lord knows i love my mama, but when she steps out of pocket, she’s not immune to being put back in place. he knows she’s wrong. knows how vitriolic her words can be. but insists unceasingly that “you gotta respect ya mama.” no, dad. no. respect is a two-way street. you don’t hold open the door the next time for the cat who spat in your face and stepped on your wingtips the last time.
unfortunately, my dad is the product of a different kind of ignorance. one which affords you the freedom to spread your wings, to explore, and go far – but not too far. it’s like he encouraged me, and gave me all the tools i’d need in order to be amazing. but wanted me to stop just short of being amazing. he wanted me to grow up and be an adult, but he wanted me to accept treatment not even befitting a child. he wanted me to accept treatment that was beneath the person he raised me to be. no, dad. no. i won’t do it.
and so here we are.
it took me 31 years to see my parents as people – as man and woman, and not only mama and daddy. that it took so long, i think, is a testament to the strength of our familial bond. but also, i suspect that i wasn’t yet strong enough to handle life without my rose-colored glasses. i needed time to grow a thicker skin.
i love my parents. i miss them. i live a great life, and, naturally, i want them to be part of it. but i won’t negotiate respect for love; my “lifestyle” for my parents. I shouldn’t have to choose. I should never have had to choose.
but sometimes you just gotta walk away and let ’em grow. because if you make me choose, then i choose me.