Hi oyster shuckers!
Over here in Chicago, it’s been weird-weathering for weeks.
Nothing like what you faggettes have on the East Coast, but seriously.
In January, we had a 24-hour period in which it was almost 70 degrees one day and raining warm rain—I mean I saw two kids laughing hysterically and jumping in puddles in the street without their shoes on (January!)—and then the next morning it was below zero and all the puddles had frozen solid.
Just Saturday, it was snowing fat, fluffy flakes and the city was looking all spesh and crystalline-fancy.
When I woke up on Sunday, it was pouring at 9 a.m., almost all the snow was gone, and later Jen and I saw a dead cat laying in the middle of the sidewalk in a pile of icy gray slush.
Fortunately, I’ve taken action.
1) to only wear giant waterproof snow boots wherever I go.
It really doesn’t matter anymore—work, classy restaurants, queer dance nights—fuckit, I’m basically wearing scotch-guarded sofas on my feet to all social functions from now ’til April.
2) to go to Phoenix with my sister to visit our parents.
Yes! I just got back from a week in the sun!
White heat! Blue skies! Never fly Spirit!
Phoenix. I’m starting to get it.
We wore short sleeves and hung out at In-N-Out Burger with my 90-year-old Nana.
My sister and I sat in the backyard of my parents’ pink stucco house, picking sun-warmed grapefruit off the tree and digging out the insides with spoons.
Hummingbirds buzzed around us, dipping their needle beaks into a sugar-water feeder.
We took a day trip to Sedona and hiked around the red rocks.
Back on Sedona’s main tourist drag, Shelley and I tried to get our auras photographed and I attempted to get a saleswoman at a rock shop called Sedona Crystal Vortex to precisely define for me what exactly a “crystal energy vortex” was. (She couldn’t. She tried for about three minutes and then gave up and told me they were having a sale on garnet and Tibetan black quartz.)
It was heaven.
Best trip I’ve ever taken to Arizona.
It was actually so good it was…confusing.
Guise, something amazing happened in Phoenix.
I mean really-seriously-magical-stars-shooting-from-the-heavens amazing.
And I needtotalkaboutitOMGsobad, but it’s real personal, and you’ll need a bit of backstory to understand why it was such a big deal.
I hope that’s ok witchoo.
So *WARNING* Extra-personal, feelings-type shit ahead.
I don’t know if y’allfags remember, but I sometimes have a really hard time going to visit my family.
My parents are very Mormon and very conservative and, um, very vocal about it, from their stance on gay marriage to votin’ for Mitt.
(Say ‘Obama’ in the car with them. Do it. I dare you.)
And even though I’ve been out as a homogayelle for nearly all of my adult life, our relationship sputtered and then stalled completely when I told them I was gay.
It’s been eight years.
My parents and I have never proceeded past or gotten any better than “we’re just not going to talk about it.”
Our relationship has not recovered.
My parents love me.
But they’re not ok with the ghey.
And after ages of fights, letters, crying, talking, not talking, quietly sitting through intentionally hurtful/not-intentionally-hurtful-but-really-just-breathtakingly-uninformed-opinions-about-“the gay lifestyle”…
I had, in the past year, taken a deep breath…and let it go.
As if I was opening my hand and blowing iridescent glitter from a drag show into the wind.
It was ok.
You cannot change people.
They can’t change me into who they want me to be, and I can’t change them into people who love me for who I actually am in my entirety.
I had struggled with wanting their acceptance (not approval! just acceptance! I don’t need them to agree with me!) for a long time, and I was tired, and everything hurt, and I was done.
I felt too happy with all other areas of my life to let this toxic bullshit continually bring me down.
I thought about it a lot, and then…I carefully battened down the hatches of my lil’ heart, untied my hitchin’ line, and sailed away from my parents into the rainbow sunset.
This song was playing.
I tapered off on calling them, from once a week to once every two weeks to monthly to…never.
I didn’t email.
I didn’t pick up the phone.
I didn’t visit.
It was so easy.
Quietly and efficiently, I cut the two people on the planet capable of doing me the most emotional hurt out of my life.
And at first, it was wonderful.
It was like when you finally dump a drama-terrible friend, except 250 times that feeling.
I felt fuckloads better.
Nothing could touch me!
My heart was made of that rainbow metal that baby dykes get for piercings!
Until…I didn’t feel so good anymore.
Sluts, as a kid I never used to understand how the scary old man in Home Alone could not have talked to his son for years when he obviously loved him so much.
Now, as an adult, I get it.
This was how estrangement and life-long family grudges were formed.
I was actively making it happen.
Months went by.
Then a year.
What was I doing?
This was my family.
It was so small.
Just me, my sister (who is so supportive she calls herself a “camp follower”, which I think is hilarious and also genius—did she make that up?), and my two parents.
And these two parents were the people who had raised me and reminded me to double-knot my shoelaces thousands upon thousands of times.
They’d put up with me at 15, which is the age I discovered the exact, heady power of saying, “I hate you” to the people who’d clapped and hollered at all my school plays and sewed me Halloween costumes every year.
(I said it juuuust enough to make sure one of them cried each time.)
These were the people who had forced me—fought an exhausting daily battle with me every. single. day. for two years, against all odds—to wear headgear, knowing they were saving me from a life-altering overbite.
You only get a few parents in your lifetime.
These were mine.
And they weren’t the only ones who were having a hard time with acceptance.
I couldn’t accept them.
I didn’t love them as they were, just as they couldn’t love me as I was.
All I saw is what they weren’t.
We didn’t know each other anymore.
I realized, over many months, that shutting my family out wasn’t the answer.
Shutting them out for a long while gave me time to think, however, and it gave me an idea.
I wanted to be a real person to my parents again—not allow their ideas about my “lifestyle” to be formed by Fox News.
So I started a experiment/project.
A project where, after a year of near-radio-silence, I started sending my mom and dad a postcard every single day for 100 days.
I didn’t tell them why. I just started.
I talked about what I was doing each day (obvs tooootally going to raves and snorting drugs and having drunken unprotected orgies with strangers every two seconds) and casually talked about my relationships and what was annoying me right that second and what I ate for dinner and who I was hanging out with that weekend. I didn’t do much editing—if I got drunk on a particular night, I said so, and, for the first time with my parents, I spoke with them the way I actually talk (i.e. like a mothafuckin’ sailor.)
I drew pictures and told them the weird things Timmy does when he thinks I’m not looking.
I told them about going to gay events and talked about my queer friends, and I told them about stories I was writing and all the shit I was worrying about.
I figured they could see for themselves what “the gay lifestyle” was all about.
It’s similar to their life, only with RuPaul’s Drag Race swapped in for Two and a Half Men.
And then…my mom started writing back.
Did she ever.
Pretty soon we had a little daily postcard exchange going.
Slowly (really slowly, ’cause I can’t read my mom’s handwriting) we got to know each other again.
And as I mailed the last postcard, I was really happy with my experiment.
It had gone better than I had even hoped.
I thought that was the end of it.
You know: Successful project! Re-learning to love people you are incredibly angry with! Letting go of bitterness and the past and working on the beginnings of forgiveness!
But it turned out that wasn’t the end.
I hope you’re sitting down, gaymosexuelles, because now that you know OMG THE WHOLE BACKSTORY OF MY MESS, here’s what happened in Phoenix:
My parents had been 110% better about gay shit with me during the visit. They were casual and relaxed. I assumed they felt more comfortable with me because we’d been in constant daily contact, but it was kind of strange—we were easily bantering with each other in a way we hadn’t talked since I was 20.
I mean, I’d been there four days, and no one had cried yet.
Mom was making lesbian jokes, for chrissakes.
I didn’t know what had gotten into them, but, um, I’d take it.
One morning, Shelley and I were in the kitchen, quietly discussing our plans for escaping the house that night to go to Cash Inn Country, the awesome gay line-dancing bar in Tempe where we had so much fun last year.
Mom came into the kitchen.
Mom: What are you two whispering about?
Me: Oh, Dad said we could use the car, so we’re gonna go to a dive bar later tonight.
Mom: Oh. The same one you went to last time?
Me: Yeah, it’s called Cash Inn Country.
Shelley: It’s this really fun western bar. I think tonight is lesbian night.
(I stare daggers at Shelley, because they’ll never let us take the car if they know we’re going to a gay bar.)
Mom: It’s a lesbian bar?
Me: (carefully) It’s a gay bar, yep.
Mom: Oh. (pause) …Can I come?
And that, folks, is one of the biggest things that has ever happened to me.
Shelley and I locked eyes for the very briefest millisecond.
Me: (trying to be casual) Of course you can come. We’d love that.
WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK
KNOCK ME OVER WITH A
FEATHER HOLY SHIT YES
YOU CAN COME WITH ME TO A GAY
BAR WHAT THE HELL IS
GOING ON ARE YOU SERIOUS???
You guys, my mom asked to go to a gay bar.
She hadn’t been inside any bar in 30 years. (Mormons don’t drink.)
She’d never seen me take so much as a sip of alcohol.
She put on makeup with me and my sister.
She asked us what she should wear. (ANYTHING OMG MOM YOU WEAR ANYTHING YOU WANT.)
She drove us to the bar, parked the car, triple-checked the locks, and…
nervously walked into Cash Inn Country with us.
I took her arm. I couldn’t believe this was happening.
Inside, it was noisy and loud.
Mom stood in line with us at the bar and watched me order gin from a blond, butch, muscled bartender who called me “honey.”
We were all a little on edge. All three of us walked slowly around the packed bar.
As we walked, I told Mom that was called doing a “fruit loop“, and she…she laughed.
And then it was like the tension broke, and suddenly she was asking about the gender-neutral bathrooms, asking about who leads when it’s two women dancing, asking why the bar didn’t smell like smoke.
(Answers: So everyone feels welcome to pee wherever; whichever person wants to; because smoking in bars was banned eons, ago, Mom.)
We set our drinks down on a table and watched all the homos line-dancing and two-steppin’ and generally having a great time.
I kept glancing at Mom.
It was rowdy.
Two minutes in, a young dyke couple standing directly in front of us started making out.
The taller of the two had her hand underneath her girlfriend’s shirt.
I saw my mom watching them.
The girl slid her hand down her girlfriend’s pants.
I vaporized them both on the spot with the white-hot laser beam of my telepathic thoughts, which were something like “Y’ALLQUEERS BETTER BE ON YOUR BEST BEHAVIOR, I AM HERE WITH MY MOTHER AND IT’S HER FIRST TIME IN A GAY BAR SO YOU JUST STOP THAT HANKY-PANKY RIGHT THIS SECOND.”
The dyke couple left a smoldering hole where I vaporized them.
Two other girls wandered over and started making out.
I began to hyperventilate.
GAYS WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME!! BABY STEPS!!
Shelley caught my eye. We moved to a different spot.
Mom seemed to be having a good time. She was swaying to the beat, watching everyone.
Shelley grabbed her hand and pulled her out on the dance floor.
And then, y’allfags: my mom danced to Ke$ha.
And then a Lady Gaga song.
And then Beyoncé.
Then they played country music.
And Shelley and my mom clumsily two-stepped around the bar in a sea of lesbians, bumping into people and giggling their heads off together.
I couldn’t believe it.
I stood against the rail of the dance floor taking pictures of them, my eyes welling with tears and spilling over.
It was one of the best nights of my life.
It wasn’t even my life; it was like watching something out of someone else’s life.
My tiny mom in her coral-colored sweater and turquoise pendant.
Dancing with my sister.
At a gay bar.
We can’t change people.
I still think that’s true.
And sometimes the people who love us most hurt us so badly that we can’t recover, to the point where it’s necessary, even healthy to ban them from our life of fabulousness and Real L-Word marathons.
But sometimes just continuing to try is enough.
Sometimes even just a little bit of progress takes a lot of time—way more time than we maybe think we have to spare.
Sometimes just the fact that you’re trying, reaching out, again, to say “I’m here when you’re ready, I’ve been here the whole time” is what finally makes a difference, even if the message has been rejected over and over again in the past.
Now, I don’t have any illusions that everything will be fine from now on, that it’s toooootally cool with my parents that I’m gay.
One night at a queer bar did not fix everything.
But just a year ago, my mom would have choked just saying the word “gay.”
For her, one night at a country-western homo bar with her daughters was light-years of progress.
And we can’t ask for anything more than someone trying.
My heart has never been so light.
Krista Burton is brand-new to Chicago. An ex-Mormon from Minneapolis, she writes a blog called Effing Dykes (www.effingdykes.blogspot.com), which is about activating your lesbian gaydar. She spends most of her time staring longingly at enormous dogs, riding her shiny orange scooter around town, and trying to bake gluten-free cake that doesn’t taste like gluten-free cake. She’s a staff writer at Groupon, and loves girls, inappropriate footwear, and hip-hop songs with filthy lyrics.