My personal struggles with my mom are no secret. In a recent column I detailed how her rejection of my sexuality led to one of the lowest points in my life — a time when I wrestled daily with thoughts of suicide.
What I haven’t talked about, though, is how my mother and I overcame all of these difficulties and forged a new bond. In other words — I haven’t told the story about how I met my mother.
When I left lawyering at the end of 2008, I had a sit-down — down South. I told my mother I wanted to build a company like Playboy while she stared blankly at me in her sunny sitting room.
“But what about your law degree?” she asked, her voice at an almost-whisper.
The delivery of this message about my career was one of the many moments in life when my decisions ran headlong into a collision with her big dreams for me, and I could see just how much I had disappointed her.
It hurt like hell.
I have noticed that our battles over my personal choices run a three-year course:
Year 1: I tell her the truth (for example, “Mom, I am gay” or “Mom, I am a pornographer”), and a very bad reaction from her follows — usually crying, possibly guilt-tripping, or general malaise.
Year 2: We follow a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I talk to her over the phone and circumvent discussion of uncomfortable topics. This method leads to a very fragmented and empty discussion of things happening to me, since I cannot discuss either the good or bad parts of the unmentionable offending areas.
Year 3: I get tired of keeping quiet, and I am really proud of my
choices and the ways in which they have impacted my life. I feel sad
and sorry that she missed out on so many things, and so I decide to have
a confrontation. I tell her that I can’t handle her ignoring key parts
of my life, that she’s hurting my feelings, and that I must have her
support. The confrontation temporarily results in her totally freaking out
and telling me that I “don’t understand what it’s like to be a mother”
(which I don’t), that she “only wants the best for me” (perhaps that’s
true, but why does the best have to be what she wants for me?), and that
she “is embarrassed and ashamed” regarding the brazen and ball-grabbing way in
which I live life. However, within one to two weeks of the big
confrontation and squelching of my ego, she comes around. She calls and
says she’s sorry for making me feel bad and that she is proud of me,
and she does want to be a part of my life.
As much as we have
struggled, I truly have to give the lady credit. She really has evolved
as a person. When I was young, she found my brother’s porno stash and
made him burn it in a bucket in our driveway. She came out of the
racism and homophobia of the Deep South and has emerged as my biggest
supporter and one of my closest friends — someone I call whenever I have
problems and need advice. She is now a kind voice and a sweet protector
and the kind of mother I have always wanted. The kind of mother
If you’re facing a rough time with your mom or dad, don’t give up. As much as it crushes you not to have immediate
acceptance, hang in there. I think it’s better to leave the lines of
communication open while still guarding yourself against the hurt. Who
knows, maybe it will take less than the three-year standard for your
loved one to come around.
After all, I have given her far more
than a normal amount of controversy to deal with, and my mother still
loves me. Yours does too.