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How I Met My Mother

How my mother and I overcame all of our difficulties and forged a new bond.
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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.

Hello, It’s Nice to Meet You…

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.

The Agony Associated with Disappointing My Mother

Really, 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 my mother 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.

Our Relationship Is Unique

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 everyone wants.

My Advice? Don’t Give Up

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.

Originally published in The Advocate on Feb 7, 2011

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