№7 Hypocritical, Self-Righteous, Kowtowing Closet-Case
Two years ago, when our daughter, Tashi, was 12, the whole family was invited to a Bat Mitzvah at the synagogue where she went to elementary school. She was in 7th grade at that point, but all her former classmates would be there, which sent Tashi into a panic. She had trouble falling asleep the night before. She didn’t say why, but I knew. Tashi has two moms.
Tashi was on a basketball team that year and asked my wife, Vicky, not to come to her games. I am Tashi’s biological mom. Tashi was three when Vicky joined our family, so Vicky was the one she wanted to exclude. Tashi said flat out she didn’t like having two moms. She cried. She said she wanted to quit basketball.
Vicky considered staying home. Her logic: Tashi didn’t ask for lesbian moms. Vicky struggled with coming out herself; she grew up Catholic in Venezuela; she knew how hard it was, even as an adult. But we realized that if Vicky didn’t come to her basketball games, Tashi would wield way too much power over how we present as a family and she might believe having two moms was shameful.
I pride myself on being completely out. I never hide. Vicky is out to most of her clients, but not all and we’ve gotten into many arguments about it. Vicky is a financial advisor with a very Latin clientele. And while I know the financial world is conservative and that Latinos can be homophobic, I have zero tolerance for the closet.
Early in our relationship, Vicky invited me to a work event. I asked if she would introduce me as her partner. She said, “What do you want me to do, stand up and say, ‘This is my lesbian lover?’”
“You don’t have to stand up,” I said.
When Tashi finally got to bed, I asked Vicky what we should do? Vicky said, “Nothing, we go to the party.”
After Tashi got dressed in the morning, she paced the house. Vicky and I put on dresses and heels. Nothing that would embarrass a 12-year-old, I didn’t think. We’re lesbians, but we know how to dress for a party.
Tashi wanted to get there early. So we did. She wanted Vicky and me to wait outside. She wanted her brother, Sebastian, to stop running around, but he’s five years younger than she is and impossible to pin down.
She’d already lectured Vicky on what Vicky was not allowed to do, which probably included walking, eating, and breathing. So, I knew I’d get my lecture. She sat me down on the bench outside the synagogue and said, “Please act normal. Please don’t dance. Please, please don’t dance with Vicky.”
I was totally tense at the party. I ate little; had one drink. I barely saw Tashi the entire three hours. I caught a glimpse of her dancing in a pack of kids, then later running with three girls out of the social hall.
I took off my shoes and danced even though dancing was on my do-not-do list. But I danced in a group, far away from Vicky. On the dance floor, Alex, the father of a kid Tashi went to school with, leaned in because the music was blasting and asked if he could ask me a personal question.
Alex is the fraternity boy type, but he’s smart and sincere and fun, and he has a dimple in each cheek. He has asked me personal questions before, like who in my relationship acts more like the man? Dumb question, but I really like Alex and so I said, “Well, if you’re asking who takes out the garbage, that’s Vicky. But I’m the initiator.”
Then like we were frat brothers, he told me he hands his wife aspirin before he tries to make a move. “You know, for her headache.”
On the dance floor, I said, “Of course. Ask me anything.” I thought for sure it would be dirty.
He said, “Okay, I’m only asking this because you know I love you and think you’re fierce.”
I got worried. He said, “So when you came out, it was probably hard, right? And now, it’s a lot easier, I would think. So why aren’t you dancing with your wife?”
I tried to explain. I babbled something about how I was respecting my daughter’s wishes. Alex said, “Isn’t it our job to embarrass our kids?”
I felt caught and so embarrassed. I don’t know what was worse, kowtowing to a teenager, looking like a closet-case, or realizing I am a self-righteous, hypocrite. And maybe worse than all that, missing the chance to dance with my wife.
A few weeks ago, a boy Tashi’s age asked to see pictures of our dog. The boy was with his dad, who had just shown us pictures of their dog and the rest of their family — his wife (the boy’s mom) and his daughter (the boy’s sister). Tashi and I were on a volunteer mission together — like the boy and his father — in a foreign country, far away from the rest of our family. I imagine it’s a relief for Tashi to be away from home with just me; to appear as if she has only one mom.
I scrolled through my phone and came across pictures of our dog and also pictures of my son and my wife. I showed the boy our dog. Then I stalled because Tashi was sitting right next to me. Do I show off my family, like they did? Do I out Tashi? I panicked inside, then I showed the pictures.
This is №7 in the #weeklyessaychallenge I gave myself when I turned 50. #weeklyessay.