This morning, for the first time in my life, my mom and I had a conversation about relationships and sex.
My mom is not a very articulate person, so our arguments are never arguments — in that they’re not linear, goal-oriented dialogs. They’re more like her scattered lamentations met with either silence or resistance.
Mom: Okay then I want to meet his parents. I want to talk to this guy and I want to talk to his parents. Your dad also agrees with me. What kind of guy would do this sort of thing, take you to his place to stay the night?
Mom: YOU’RE A GIRL, how can you do these things with your body? You’ve only been going out for a short while and you give yourself away like that? What if one day he says he wants to break off, then you’re on the losing end!
Growing up, my mom was the person who took me to the wet market so I could learn that the pretty root vegetable in my soup was lotus root, and it came from mud. She organized my sleepovers and endured my questions while she made cookies in the kitchen. My dad and I shared car ride after car ride of Westlife sing-alongs. He taught me how to play basketball and bought me all the fudge sundaes my mom didn’t let me have. He was my special friend, my penpal, my life coach, the good cop.
I’m saying this pre-emptively because I’m tired of being told to be more forgiving. I’m tired of giving people a free pass at bigotry, just because we’re connected by blood, just because they’re older, just because they mean well. I need space to say things and be angry, even if I’m interested in working things out with my folks eventually.
And when I’m being treated in a way that violates this truth, damn right there will be resistance. I deserve to scream my “fuck you”s at a meet-the-parents exercise that assumes my partner needs the approval of anyone else but me. I will display my “fuck you”s as much as I want because nobody is good enough or not good enough for me — I am not a prize, I don’t have a price tag — and even so, I will be the judge of what I’m worth. I will be as cheap or as fucking pricey as I want.
She’s perfect. She’s a medical student, a leader in the church she goes to, a great dancer, a popular person, and one of the nicest most compassionate people I know. She’s never had a problematic relationship with my parents, and they trust her and listen to her.
I was the one who became distant when I grew up and tossed almost everything they believed in about love, life, people, and authority. I refused to do science in junior college. I got into a relationship with another woman. I started volunteering for queer organizations. I dropped out of law school. I got a tattoo, a tongue piercing (which I later removed), dyed my hair blue. And while I did all that, I was decidedly not a good virgin. I was the disappointment and the punishment.
That’s just the way it is. My sister’s values coincide smoothly with my parent’s, so she’ll never know the frustration of being insubordinate. And I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t give care about my parents and their approval. I cry alone because I’ve tried so hard to live in their universe, but they’ve never given mine so much as a cursory nod.
I also cry because I want everything. I want my body to be left alone, I want to make my own decisions and I want my parents to accept them. I feel that these aren’t too much to ask for, but I’ve learnt that reality doesn’t give a shit, and that part of growing up is getting used to making unpopular choices.