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Oedipus Wrecks

Oedipus Wrecks


When his mom started dating women, writer Brett Berk was amused. But now she's gayer than he is -- and he's confused.

When I came out to my mother over 20 years ago, her response transcended typical maternal empathy. "As a girl," she said, "I had crushes on female teachers." Aside from this being a shocking example of her skill at steering conversation toward herself, it was simply shocking. After a long marriage to my dad and a five-year trawl through the singles scene ("Honey, I've spent more time on my knees than a maid!"), she was then married to her second husband. And though she had a crew of best girlfriends, their idea of bonding stopped well short of Bound.

But since that marriage collapsed, she's been, as I like to say, going with girls. Initially, I thought it was just a phase. "I don't fall in love with a gender. I fall in love with a person," she said, explaining her infatuation with her first female lover, the addled ex of a famous closeted actress. But with each successive woman, she's plunged deeper into the muff. And when she recently announced her intention to marry her current partner, I made a realization: My mom is trying to out-gay me. Here's the evidence:


While I live in New York City's West Village, the original epicenter of gay life, my mother, since igniting her sapphic torch, has resided in the queer pot of gold at the end of our nation's rainbow: Key West. Her most recent roommate there was a drag queen, and before that she lived with a guy named Gay Bruce, who literally answered their phone, "Gay hello!"


My core hangouts include a cheesy Manhattan hotel bar and a hermitic lake house in a dimly gentrified county in upstate New York. In contrast, my mom spends every night closing down Key West's piano bars. In fact, her current girlfriend is a Tony nominee, now enjoying a run in an off-Broadway musical revival. While in New York watching her rehearse, my mother's been lingering in legendary show-trash lounges like Arthur's and Marie's Crisis. Until they invited me out the other night, I'd never set foot in these joints.


My boyfriend, Tal, and I have been together for 19 years, and while we support other homos' nuptial rights, we've taken a vow not to get married. We find the institution tedious. But though she's a two-time matrimonial loser, my mother is plowing fray-ward, ring finger extended, planning to make an honest woman of her girlfriend-of four months. This spring. At the Key West AIDS Memorial. Gay hello!


Tal and I aren't shy or closeted in any way. We'll kiss on the corner and nuzzle in our seats on a plane. But my mom and her fiancee are joined at the lips. Last night I watched them make out in Times Square.


My mother has recently started instructing me how "we" do things. Gay People. For example, when I questioned her about the wisdom of moving in with a woman with whom she'd been on only three dates, she told me, "It's been five weeks since we met. That's a long time for lesbians." I squinted in disbelief. "Where'd you learn that? On The L Word ?" And while we were walking together around my neighborhood last week, some gay tourists asked her for directions to a sex-toy store.

You get the point. Though I've spent decades practicing homosexuality, my newbie mom is creaming me in the Gay Games. It's enough to make Oedipus' problems look petty. Still, my mother appears happy in her new identity. And it beats her dating some loser guy. Plus, it prevents her from making good on a recent threat. When she broke up with her last girlfriend, I asked if she planned to pursue men or women. "Honey, who knows? It may just be a horse."

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