“You know what Miss Feldman told us today,” said a conspiratorial voice from the back seat. “She’s gay… EWWWW!!!”
At the outset I have to say I have changed the names here to protect the guilty. The girl who made this pronouncement — let’s call her Maria, shall we? — was my daughter’s most recent BFF. Apparently their fourth-grade teacher had come out to them at school. Maria felt it was her job to broadcast this slightly shocking newsflash to anyone she felt would listen.
Beside me sat my partner of five years, Claudia. And my daughter Saadia sat deathly quiet in the backseat, wondering what I would say to this bit of news, which she and I had of course known all along.
I briefly considered screeching to a halt and throwing this horrible child out into the intensifying snowstorm. And I fantasized about it for some time afterward. But getting arrested wasn’t going to help my daughter much, even if ridding the world of this obnoxious child would.
Which brings up the general feeling I have about parenting. The what-the-hell-am-I-doing feeling. The why-am-I-drinking-a-beer- and-shoveling-in-potato-chips-after- bedtime-when-all-the-other-mothers- are-making-cookies-and-playdates feeling. Call me the parenting imposter. Maybe it’s because my daughter did not come to me until she was five years old. Maybe it’s because I have a rather odd blended family –two mother-child pairs, squished together into one not-very-big house. Maybe it’s because I still am not sure, at age 37, that I’ve grown up enough myself to actually be parenting a child who is now as big as I am. Scratch that, last week she officially became bigger than I am. She’s a freakishly tall kid. So at times like this if I manage to stop my knee-jerk reaction (i.e. throwing this kid in a snowbank) I try to imagine what someone who really IS a good parent would do.
“There’s nothing gross about being gay, Maria. In fact, Claudia and I are also gay, did you know that?” I didn’t think the child could handle the word lesbians.
I probably should mention the looks I was getting from my partner at the time. Call us a stereotype if you will, but we love women’s basketball. We were on the way to use our season tickets to see our local college team play. We get them cheap, real cheap. Anyone with season tickets to the men’s games can get as many season tickets for the women’s games as they want for a buck. We just pawn them off of those folks. Clearly Title IX didn’t legislate equality in fan base.
But Claudia did not want to go to this game. Maria was no one’s favorite child. But, desperate, I had begged… I did not want to be alone with these two. So at this moment Claudia was looking daggers at me, because she, she wanted to remind me, would much rather have stayed HOME. I was getting no help from that front.
“EEEEWWWW!!!!!” I heard from the backseat. Still silence from my daughter’s side.
Some mush came out of my mouth about loving people never being wrong, but my mind was on other things. Why is it that my daughter doesn’t tell her friends that her mom is a lesbian? Those tweeny-bopper magazines she reads say you’re supposed to share your deepest darkest with your BFFs. Apparently Saadia viewed my lesbianism as even deeper and darker than Lindsay’s alcoholism and Britney’s topless romps with her preschoolers looking on. I could see no answer to this question. She’s been to kids-of-gay-parents summer camps. And clearly had the support of a lesbian teacher. And she’s close with other kids with two moms. Yet she wouldn’t talk about her feelings with me, her friends, with anyone.
Fast forward a few months. My daughter’s in fifth grade now. Much to my relief Saadia and Maria are now in different classrooms, although they still spend every free minute together.
Saadia and I were recently walking to the local health food store after school to pick up a snack. I was leaving the next day for my annual pilgrimage to Baltimore, where I meet my own two BFFs (although we 30-somethings call them our homies) who also fly in from different parts of the country. We drink a lot, eat even more, ogle women, and I do my very best to forget my parenting responsibilities. Saadia was clearly worried because Claudia would be picking her up at school.
“But my teacher doesn’t know who Claudia is!” (Imagine these words spoken with adolescent outrage.)
Seeing my opportunity to once again deal with her discomfort about my queer ways, I asked her, “Well, what should we tell her?”
I got the adolescent shrug. The ‘I dunno’ without words.
Okay, thought I, remember those adoption classes. “Children can’t always put their feelings into words,” the handout had informed us. “Naming feelings for them will help them begin to express themselves.” I suspected instead that this was a vicious case of PMS, but hey, at least I had a strategy.
“Are you uncomfortable with telling her that your mom has a woman partner?”
The shrug again.
“Well,” said I, “you could tell her just that. Claudia is my mom’s partner.”
“No! She won’t know what that means!”
I could feel myself losing patience with this. “Why don’t you tell her Claudia is my girlfriend?”
The image of what the good parent would do deserted me. All I had left was the evil part of me that had wanted to chuck that obnoxious child out into the winter’s night.
“How does ‘Claudia is my mom’s lesbian lover’ sound to you, eh?”
Well at least I got her talking.