Tag Archives: Mother

“sometimes you gotta walk away and let em grow.”

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.


My Mama and Me

This Mother’s Day was a bittersweet one for me, as my relationship with my mother can best be described as “complicated.” And at worst, we are estranged — indefinitely. Last year for father’s day, I left my dad a you’ll always be the best man I’ve ever known message on my parents’ answering machine. My mother replied jokingly, but more seriously than she meant to let on, that I “never say that kind of stuff” to her. I never thought much about why I didn’t. In my mind, the bottles of perfume, and the iPod, and the shoes I’d bought over the years, meant the same thing I’d said to my father. But it didn’t to her. And in all honesty, it never occurred to me that she was receptive to sincerity in that way. As a matter of fact, when it does occur to me to describe my mama’s character, sincere just doesn’t come to mind.

Lest I seem too critical of the gorgeous woman that gave me life, I do acknowledge the sacrifices my mother made early on so that I could be anything and everything I dreamed I could be. I appreciate that she pushed aside her personal ambitions to ensure that I had the chance at a better life than hers. My parents nudged me gently, but unmistakably in one direction — up. They encouraged aspiration as opposed to complacency, and brilliance when good enough would do. I knew with absolute certainty that I was my mama’s “pride and joy.” I was her greatest accomplishment and her biggest investment. And I’m pretty sure she cheated on something to get me into Head Start early. But such is life — early bird catches the worm, right? Even if said bird is shady than a mug…

When I was little, my favorite books were The Cat in the Hat and Ferdinand and the Bull. My mom read one or the other to me every night. And although by about time 20, she was over Dr. Seuss and all his carryin on, she kept up our nightly ritual. In part because I was her little girl, and you can’t deny your little girl. And I mean, have you seen my little girl eyes? They really were undeniable. But also, my mom got a kick out of me memorizing the words, and “reading” to her like I knew what I was doing. I think she really just got a kick out of me too. She used to tell me that I used words way too big for someone aged in single digits. So you see, I talk fancy in spite of myself. I’s bo’n this way; can’t help it one bit.

My mom was always so proud of me. She cheered hard and loud at my basketball games, and boasted the way parents do when I excelled at the academic stuff, too. I know my mama loves and cherishes me. Because at 30 years old, I still have trouble saying goodbye at the airport without choking up. In fact, I usually lose my inner gangsta completely on the final embrace, just before we part ways at the security check-in. She may get on my nerves when I’m home, but that last look into her eyes before I leave gets me every. single. time.

But love and pride were never our problem, mine and my mama’s. Since I left for college, we’ve been stuck at acceptance. It’s been difficult for my mother to accept that I grew up, that I’m not the snaggle-toothed kindergardener on her wall anymore. And since I came out, we’ve really just been stuck. Now, I love women in a way that my mother doesn’t, and I’d be frontin with y’all if I pretended not to understand the massive weight of such a revelation. But my degree of gayness is merely part of our overarching issue, which can be defined quite simply. Fundamentally, my mama and I are completely different types of women. While I accepted that fact long ago, and although I suspect that my mother has always known it too, “coming out” as the polar opposite of who she is, has emblazoned our differences. And every day since August 17th 2010, she can’t understand them; she can’t overlook them; and she won’t accept them.

One of my very good friends often challenges my anger at my mother’s stubbornness. I may be oversimplifying his point, but it seems to me that he thinks it permissible to be “disappointed” and to lash out because the morals we cherry-pick are compromised in some way, or because of the romanticized aspects of our heritage. But I’m from the same place they’re from, and I managed to pull my head out of my ass. Is it really too much to expect that others could do so also?

But let me not pretend that “others” are who I really even care about. This is about my mama. And me. And why I didn’t call on Mother’s Day. I did send a card because, despite all that’s happened over the last year, I’m grateful that my mama still lives and breathes, and smiles a beautiful smile. However, I cannot escape the hurt and anger I feel that she can’t accept me as I am. And in my understanding of family, “home” is the one place where acceptance isn’t subject to if-then equations. If you are who I want you to be, then we cool. Home love is supposed to be unconditional, save some really exceptionally foul shit. And for me, being gay simply does not rise to that level.

It hurts that I haven’t spoken to my mama in nearly two months. I know she misses me because I miss her. The reality is, however, that she has dug in, and so have I. I can’t rationalize the things she’s said, the callousness she’s shown, and the choice she’s made to step out of my life. I am her only daughter — her only child. That alone should curry enough favor to get me a ‘I don’t understand, but let’s see where we can find common ground’ conversation. I mean, shouldn’t it? Life is short as fuck sometimes. It is a pity to waste time over issues so small. And we don’t get this time back. And we can’t take the words back.

This is the first time in my life I’ve ever had to stand up for me — in opposition to the folks who created me. I didn’t ask to be born into our family. And, as another very good friend would say, “but I got over it.” I didn’t shun my family fuck-ups. I don’t speak of my own disappointments with family folks who turned out to be, or to not be worth a damn. In my view, being in the world everyday offers enough criticism. My job is to provide support, to exist among the roots and branches of our family tree.

It took me a long time to understand why it was so difficult for my mama and me to connect. The compassion and reason that I give so freely has never really been reciprocated from my mother when I needed it most — when shit was hard, and when compassion was challenged by reality. When I totaled my first car; when her favorite photo from her first cruise flew out of my car window; and when I told her that I was gay. For this reason, I know for sure that my spirit is my father’s. He gives of his time and attention, and his talents because he believes doing so is the right thing to do spiritually, humanly, and universally. He is a good man — not just a great father, but a genuinely great guy. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve recognized how difficult it is to be genuine and sincere and decent in a world that thrives on something else. I respect my father’s ability to remember to extend a little grace. He isn’t perfect, and he’s certainly had his share of asshole moments. But who hasn’t? I’m not still mad about when he snapped, “don’t nobody care about your bullshit phone calls!” when I asked him for a pager in 9th grade. Yes, I am. He aint hafta say that shit like that.

So yeah, Mother’s Day was bittersweet for me. I can’t not love and appreciate my mama. But I can’t sacrifice my dignity, or my self-respect, or my confidence in the woman she taught me to be either. I’m so comfortable in my own skin. I won’t give that up. I can’t be who she wants me to be because that’s not who I am. My hope going forward is that one day who I am is enough for her. My work going forward, however, is accepting the possibility that that day may never come.

So yeah, this Mother’s Day was a bittersweet one for me.