Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Home visit

Written December 27, 2012

Visiting my parents is always extremely hard, and has been since the first time I visited after leaving for college.  I thought this time would be easier. I just finished graduate school, something I feel very proud and relived about. For the first time in 2 years, I have no secrets from them. I'm out to them, they know that I'm in a serious relationship with Elle. I thought I'd be going home feeling weightless and free to be me and would openly and comfortably talk to my parents in a way I haven't felt able to do in years.

Welp. That didn't happen.

I very quickly, and completely, felt (subtly, passively) shutdown, impotent and invisible in that space, the space created by my parents in their home. Some of this is due to the particulars of my parents and family. Some of it is just the southern-ness of it all. It was very "Stranger in a Strange Land." No me gusta.  I somehow felt more alien, outside and black sheep-y this time, as my out-ish (only my parents and brother know, not my extended family), newly degree-d, fairly happy and comfortable-in-my-skin self.

Why? Well....that's the hard part to explain. But I'm going to try, if only because I can't afford therapy right now, so, this is it. SIGH.

My family culture is one of silence, passivity, and repression.  This has resulted in me being fairly outspoken, assertive, and explicit in my life and in my...being.  I SAY things. Maybe not immediately (I was raised to be quiet, after all), but eventually, I will say it. Even if it's hard and uncomfortable. It's often most hard and uncomfortable for me. But I will say it.  This is the way I have worked very hard to be, this is what I encourage others to do, and this is what I have seen do great things for people, when they stop keeping everything in and just SAY IT. Have the conversation, make the opinion known, make the concern known, make the caring known, make the hurt known. It is amazing what words can do, and fix, and heal.  So I say things.

Once I walk into my parents' home, I do not.  The air hums with the message "sssshhhh. Don't shake anything up. Don't." And it is silent.  Terrible.  So I retreat into myself, and wait for it to be over.  I sit there, and smile and nod, and make polite conversation and answer the questions about what it's like to live in New York ("oh, yes, it's cold up there! Yep, so expensive!") and watch as no one around me talks about anything real, really.

A few times, I tried to go there.  I asked each of my parents, separately, if they had any questions for me about Elle, since we hadn't had a chance to talk about her much yet.  When I asked this I sounded casual, but had just psyched myself up to broach this actual, real topic with them, and was nervous and scared about what would happen next. I had yet to talk to them in person about my gayness. This was some new shit.  And what happened was what usually  happens, and what I always fear most in interactions with my parents. That is to say, nothing. My mother said, basically, "No." My father said "well, I don't want to pry by asking you questions about your personal life."  Yep. To be fair, my dad did then ask where Elle was from. Okay, that's something. But each of those "conversations" left me wanting to cry.  Don't they want to know? I'm their daughter. How do they not have questions? Aren't they curious? And if they are, how are they so, so very uncomfortable, or proper, or...I don't even know what, to break through their discomfort and ask me something. Anything. 

As I rode the subway home today, after my flight back to NYC, I was listening to the new Macklemore and Ryan Lewis album, "The Heist." Now, I don't know if this album is actually as moving as I found it to be this morning, on little sleep and day 3 of my period, but I fought back tears the entire way home, and cried, full out, once I got home. Why? Relief, I think, at being home. At being out of there. But also, out of grief that I feel so relieved to be out of there.

They were also tears of loss. Of mourning.

Every time I'm home, I have to see and face, again, that my parents are not people who will know me, are not people who I will know, and are people who don't even really know each other.  I know that both of my parents carry around deep pain and heartache, and actually learned on this visit the truth of that. They don't "go there" with me, and they don't go there, to the real stuff, the pain, the fears, with each other.  It's painful to watch, painful to have to participate in. When I'm there, I think I lock all of this sadness away, and am left exhausted at the end of it. And so I cried.

I've always thought that the hardest part would be getting my family to accept me.  But it's starting to look like accepting my family for who they are, and who they aren't, is actually my hardest challenge. And I'm really not sure how to do it. How can I fit in to a silent, repressed world when all I've done for so long is figure out a way to be loud and real??

And the real question is, do I want to?

1 comment:

  1. Woah. Big stuff. Kudos to you for talking to your parents even within that environment.