…my mother asks me over brunch, immediately after I tell her that I was really in DC to attend Catalyst.
Let me rewind for a minute.
My mother is a medium (like John Edwards, not like oil paint), which I don’t really buy into at all but she does so I’m supportive. When she first started going to meetings and workshops, she didn’t really tell anyone other than my father and sister (well, and me). She kept my grandfather and the rest of our (extremely religious) family in the dark, not because she thought what she was doing was wrong, but just because she didn’t quite know how to explain it or how anyone would react. She needed time with it to herself before she could share that part of her with others.
That’s how I explain lying about Catalyst to her.
I tell her briefly about Catalyst, namely that it’s a sex-positive conference for sexuality educators, relationship experts, and the like. I also drop the word “feminist” somewhere. I forget where. Her eyes narrow, but she says nothing. And I mean nothing. I had been expecting questions, lots of them, some of which I was prepared to answer.
Instead, she thinks about it for a second and says, “Oh, ok,” before turning back to her crepe. More silence.
Her silence makes me nervous. Silence always does that. If you want to know what I really think (about anything) just don’t say a word and it’ll ramble out of me at some point. This is no different. To make sure she doesn’t feel completely outrightly lied to, I point out that the friends I had told her I was meeting in DC did, in fact, meet me there. And for a while it’s all Ashley this and Tasha that and we had such a great time and I loved seeing them and then we did this and ate at this place and did this thing and then, boom.
There it is.
“Kate, are you swinging both ways?”
She’s looking at me when she says it, but is quick to look away when I look up at her. I’m dumbfounded for a moment, and I start laughing (as I am also prone to do when made extremely uncomfortable [this ends up being a mixed signal more often than not]).
The word, “No,” flies out of my mouth before I can stop it, and because it’s easier, and because I’m a dirty lying liar who lies. She laughs, says ok, and we move on. We really don’t, though. It’s weird now. Goddamnit Mom you made it weird. It’s a weird question to have to answer, from a weird person, with a weird connotation. And I have a real fucking low weird threshold.
My mother will swear up down and sideways that she wouldn’t care if I weren’t straight. But it’s kinda like that Louis CK “Of course, but maybe,” bit.
“Of course!! Of course I accept my daughter the way she is, and want her to be happy no matter what, and will love and support her forever because she’s my daughter, and have no problem with anyone outside the heteronormative construct…. But MAYYYYYYYYYYBE I’d just prefer she be straight.”
My mother is very accepting, in general. And as far as older, Very Irish, Very Catholic people go, pretty open-minded. But not entirely. And worse yet, she thinks she’s the most open-minded accepting person this side of the state line. It makes it rather hard to get through to her, actually. She’s all for birth control and reproductive rights in theory, but thinks abortions are “yucky.” She supports marriage equality, but just really wants everyone to stop talking about it. You get the idea.
My point in all of this is that it was the first time I had ever been challenged directly regarding my sexuality. How do I respond to a question I have no idea how to answer? The phrasing itself suggests that it’s a yes/no situation, which couldn’t be further from the truth to begin with. And we all know where I’m at, as far as identification goes.
There’s a line from the movie The Brothers Bloom… “The perfect con is one where everyone involved gets just the thing they wanted.” My mother didn’t want an answer, she wanted reassurance. And I didn’t want to explain myself, I wanted out.
I guess we both got just the thing we wanted after all.