This story starts from the very beginning, so prepare yourself for a roller coaster.
Growing up as an only child, I was pretty dependent on my friends to get me through the day. If there was ever a rift in my group, it left me with a horrible feeling inside, as if I could show up the next day and be shunned from our usual bench at lunch. (My fear of abandonment is still real today, but in grade school, you were a loser if you didn’t bring the type of Lunchables that people wanted to trade you for or share with you. Social suicide at such a tender age. Kids are cruel.) So to keep my “social status”, I practically begged my parents to get me the lunches that the cool 10-year-olds ate, with fruit-by-the-foot and Mondo. After surviving the playground, my afternoons consisted of playing sports. Once I could start trying out for the teams in 5th grade, that’s all I wanted to do. I’d save the candies from my Lunchables and bring them to practice to share…with the popular (attractive – because society shamefully says that attractive=popular) girls. I’d pay attention whether they took the chocolate or the candy, which flavor Warhead was their favorite, etc. all in an attempt to talk to them as much as I could. Back then, I saw this as me just wanting them to like me because they were popular and everyone wanted to hang out with them. I knew nothing at this point other than I got severely jealous of their close friends, boyfriends, etc. Again, an awful feeling. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I started to put the pieces together.
In high school, I continued to devote most of my time to schoolwork and basketball, and my teammates were again my best friends – one of them becoming my first girlfriend my sophomore year. Trust me, the irony is not beyond me. This relationship was my first real relationship, so many “firsts” came along with it: first physical/emotional/sexual experiences with a girl, first love, first breakup-and-makeup, first long-term relationship. We were together for roughly 4 ½ years, on and off, and it was such a whirlwind of a relationship. I was 15 years old, completely immersed, everything heightened and everything intense. The feelings, the arguments, the learning, the growing. It truly was a relationship fueled by the unknown mixed with teenage angst, which needless to say caused tension between me and my family because we were both “in the closet” at the time and I couldn’t tell them all the things I was going through. We went through several breaks and rekindlings, that when we approached the end of the relationship within the first maybe 1 ½ years of college, it grew to be unhealthy for the both of us. This is not to say that the good times we had weren’t really good, because they were, but all-in-all, I had outgrown it and was turning into someone I wasn’t quite fond of.
I met my second girlfriend in my second year of college, during my “divorce” period with my first girlfriend. I call this a “divorce” because I feel like it took a few months to “finalize” the breakup and detach myself completely. This proved more difficult than I anticipated because potential-Girlfriend-#2 was a roommate of one of Girlfriend #1’s friends, so we were still running in the same circles. Once I was officially out of relationship #1 and in relationship #2, we moved in together and this took my experiences to a whole new level – cohabitation can either make you or break you and it definitely made us. We didn’t have too many hiccups, until I hit a huge speedbump: my dad confronted me about my sexuality. I was 19 years old. Again, we were both still “in the closet” and it was terrifying.
Coming Out – Part 1
My dad asked me to go to the grocery store with him one Saturday afternoon. This would have been a normal occurrence IF 1) he didn’t tell me to get in the car the moment my mom started running her shower, AND 2) if he didn’t take the absolute longest, roundabout way to get to the grocery store. Once he parked the car, he jumped right into it. He asked who insert screenname here was (he already knew), how long we’ve been together, and if my mom knew. His spitfire questions got my spitfire answers: “Girlfriend #2”, 1 ½ years at this point, no she doesn’t know.” My face never seemed to get the memo from my brain to remain calm, so my panic shined right through. My dad’s response: he immediately put his hand on my knee, told me to look at him, and said “Hey, it’s okay. There’s no need to panic. I just suggest you don’t tell your mom yet because we both know that she won’t be as cool about this as I am. Now let’s get some shopping done.”
With my hands still shaking, we went into the store and went on business as usual. My dad, being the extremely blunt unfiltered person he is, proceeded to randomly ask me inappropriate questions about my relationship, drill in the point of me needing to delete my profile from the home computer so all evidence was gone, and said that if I didn’t do it the moment we got home, he would ask me more inappropriate questions and force me to answer them. “Blackmailed” by my own father.
I didn’t think it would ever go this way. I didn’t have a plan, I hadn’t thought about coming out yet, I was just being the kid-away-at-college and figuring things out as they came along. I mean, to me, this relationship with Girlfriend #2 was kind of still “new” compared to my first relationship. I have to admit though, even without having a formal sit-down with him, a coming out announcement, or anything out of my own choice really, the weight that lifted off my chest was so much greater than I anticipated it to ever be. I finally had a parent I didn’t feel I had to hide all my gritty life details from.
Girlfriend #2 and I moved back to our respective homes after being away at college, and things started going awry less than a year later. No longer being able to rely on “cohabitation making us”, we started growing apart. The want to visit each other, Skype, and even text throughout the day like we used to dwindled. We were together for roughly 4 ½ years (similar to my first relationship), but the relationship was becoming one-sided and it wasn’t fair anymore. I hate to say that fighting for it wasn’t worth it anymore, but it’s the truth. We were at different points in our lives, wanting different things for our future, but although I won’t go into the details (because that’s not the point here), all-in-all, it ended amicably.
I took a break from all the seriousness for a few months, focused on my hometown friendships, went on a few (failed) dates, but really just honed in on regaining my individuality. I was 24 years old, juggling my first job as an undergraduate and being a new furmom. Things were really coming back together, in their devil-may-care fashion, and I managed.
And then there was Shedonism – Las Vegas Pride, where I first met Girlfriend #3, my current and god willing my last. Long story kind-of-short, we met through mutual friends from LA and Sacramento, we said maybe a handful of words to each other in Vegas, went home after the event, I texted her 2 weeks later on her birthday, and it was all downhill from there. We talked daily at all hours, officially got together 6 months later, and have been together ever since. We did the long-distance thing for about 1 ½ years and here we are now, living together in LA with 2 dogs, just 4 months shy of our 5 year anniversary celebration, and I’ve never been happier. I could gush about this girl, but I’ll save you guys from that, but I just want to say that it works. It all just works. The present, the future, everything. But no matter how great and grown and comfortable I’ve been in the relationship, I still had a huge chip on my shoulder: I still had to come out to my mom. I am 29 years old, and disappointing my parents is still (and will always be) such a huge deal. But I did it, and I wasn’t alone, and it changed my life.
Coming Out – Part 2
Friday, October 28, 2016 – The day I took the most nerve-wracking risk of my life (and the longest and most crucial).
So this plan had been brewing for almost a year. I originally wanted to come out to my mom around last New Year’s, but it just wasn’t the right time. I thought so long and hard about the various ways to do it because this was probably the most important thing I was ever going to do. I was finally going to be able to plan for this and do this after so many years. I could tell her in one of our daily phone calls or texts, pony up and tell her in person in a very public place to avoid the meltdown, have my dad tell her since he’s known for 9 years, or write her a letter. I opted for the letter. I felt that if I wrote it all down in a letter, no matter how long it was, it would result in some of the weight lifting off of me AND allow me to lay absolutely everything on the table for my mom to absorb. My dad, naturally, wasn’t a fan of the idea, saying “that’s like breaking up with someone via text. I think you should do it in person,” even though I explained to him that I really didn’t think I had it in me to have an impromptu sit-down. I wrote the letter anyway and left it for her to see the next morning at my grandma’s gravesite (for other personal reasons).
Anyway, I was due to visit my parents, and since they get home around the same time, you can imagine how my plan quickly devolved into not my plan at all.
My mom and I moved about the house, my dad comes in, and says “Mom, sit down, your daughter wants to talk to you.” Cue heart attack. I’ve never glared so hard at someone EVER while I said “No dad, I don’t. I REALLY don’t.” At this point, my mom is now starting to panic. My dad then looks at me, says “You’re going to hate me for this, but…”, turns to my mom and says “Your daughter’s ‘roommate’ dates women, and so does she.” Cue heart attack #2 and blackout. What’s a girl to do now that her plan had been hijacked a day earlier than expected? I held onto my consciousness as best as I could and went to sit opposite my mother. Yikes.
The first words out of her mouth were the most heart-wrenching. A phrase a child never wants to hear out of a parent’s mouth:
“I’m disappointed in you.”
I nodded my head and gave her the floor. The next phrases played like a broken record before I’d even said a word.
“Never in a million years did I think my own daughter was going to tell me this.”
And then the parental denial:
“I prayed every night that this day would never come.”
(I complimented her motherly instinct in the letter – I knew she had it in her.)
By this time, my dad is unexpectedly sitting next to me, and as much as I hated him for blowing up my plan, I am so grateful for him right now. I began by telling my mom “I’d been in 3 long-term relationships in the last 14 years, my current relationship consisting of the last 4 ½ years (funny how this number keeps coming up). I’m so tired of hiding myself and my relationships from you and this family. I’m exhausted. My dreams for my future haven’t changed: I still want that house with a white picket fence, be pregnant, have kids, and get married, which now I can, it just won’t be to a man. I’m so happy with how my life turned out, and I’m so lucky because I’ve never been bullied or put down and my friendships are so much stronger now. I’m one of the lucky ones! But it sucked having to go through every relationship and breakup I’ve had and been too scared to tell my own mother about them so that she could help me through everything.”
“The future I wanted for you was for you to find a man who would treat you as the great girl you are, get married, and have a family together. That’s what a family is.”
My dad chimes in immediately, saying “She has found someone who treats her well and makes her happy. I’ve known for several years now, and in the grand scheme of things, this is no big deal. She’s still going to get married and have kids. Your job now as her mother is to love her, not judge her, accept it and move on. She is the same loving daughter you’ve always had. Nothing has changed that.”
Now I’m crying, and I’m not sure if it’s from my mom’s comments or from the shock of witnessing for the first time my dad’s verbal unwavering support. Fast-forward through the next 20 minutes of repeated comments, my mom then has to leave to pick up a family member from work. I turned to my dad after she’s left, and said “Well, I suppose that went as expected…when I get married some time down the road, I’d appreciate it if both of you would walk me down the aisle. I’ll take one, but both would be preferable.” He grabbed my shoulders and looked me dead in the eye, “Look, I’d prefer you to date men, but I know that’s not going to happen. You are the way you are, and if you’re happy, then I’m happy. That’s all there is to it. If your mom is going to be upset at you or your girlfriend or anyone for that matter, that’s her problem. I don’t give a shit about anything else. We’re all just people.”
Coming to the end of this story now, my mom and I went through 4 days of radio silence, which equaled an eternity since she has text me or called me several times a day since I went away to college. Per my request, she did still read the letter I wrote for her, and we spoke about it while my dad was out of town. I took this chance to stand my ground more firmly, profess that I’m no longer a child, this is not a phase, and this is truly and fully who I am. It has been 3 weeks since “D-Day” and life is…well life I suppose. I’m still a little freaked out that we might just be on the brink of a mental breakdown, but I will take what I can get, and my mom still loves me and hugs me hello and goodbye whenever I see her.
The relief alone feels like nothing I’ve ever imagined. It could have gone a lot worse, and I’m slightly shocked that I am one of the lucky ones. It breaks my heart that so many people out there will not have their story play out as successfully as I did. No matter how old you are, no matter what path of life you are on, the most important things I can say to you are: Trust those close to your heart and embrace them and thank them always for being there for you. Trust yourself especially, because that is who you will always have. Be so unapologetically yourself, and demand respect in the purest way you know how. Please please please stay safe, stay mindful, and only do things you are comfortable doing. You know YOU best, so you’ll know when the time is right.
This is my story, and now I can honestly say it gets better.
Fast-forward 4 years: I am 33 years old, living in Sacramento with 2 furkids, and Girlfriend #3 became my fiancé! Even though we are in the middle of a godforsaken pandemic, I have to say my home life is pretty great and it still gets better and better.