My parents don’t know that I have a girlfriend. It’s not for a lack of trying. I tried to
tell them over dinner in May. My father appeared to choke while my mother thought it was a
prank I was pulling on my father. I had tried to tell them before in January when Brokeback
Mountain came out, and once in late July. Both times my parents revealed prejudices that I
wasn’t aware they held, and wish I could hide myself from again. Sometimes I wonder how much
they are hiding my girlfriend from themselves. After all, I lived with her for an entire summer,
in the same room, in the same bed.
It’s not like I can come out and say “I’m gay” as some sort of preface, or a permanent
announcement. I don’t identify with that term, or any other term that I’ve come across to identify
sexuality. They don’t seem to fit. I also don’t want to hear my parents call it some sort of
phase. So I invented my own term for a while. I am a “Christine-osexual.”
It’s so hard for me to tell them because I feel like it’s the first time I’ve
actually failed them. They were eventually okay with the hair, the major, the school, the possible
career. I’ve never gotten a grade below a B-. I joined crew in an attempt to do something
they said I couldn’t, but now I feel like if I’m not in the varsity boat during the
spring semester I will have disappointed them more than myself. They know I’m injured,
but that doesn’t stop my mother, the nurse, from discussing how I will be in the “A
boat.” They used to do something similar when I focused more on music, but it’s faded
as I’ve stopped auditioning for things.
I’m not sure I can truly be successful until I stop feeling guilty every time I do something
I’m not sure they’ll approve of. I’ve always had to be the good girl, because “my
behavior reflected my parents and their parenting skills.” I’m sure my parents made
this comment because my brother and I fought constantly when we were younger, but it haunts
me to this day. Not to mention that I’ve always been compared to two of my cousins, Lydia
(four months older) and Gretchen (one month older). When Lydia went through her rebellious
teen years, I was upheld as the “good” kid. With Gretchen, it was trickier. We lived
closer together, and we participated in many of the same activities (graduating top ten in
our class, played instruments, currently play Div. III sports and attend women’s colleges).
I was constantly hearing our parents discuss how “wonderful” their daughters were,
when really they were trying to say which one was better. All this competition has led me to
believe that I somehow have to uphold my family’s honor: I’m so close to being even
with Gretchen, but every failure leads me closer to Lydia, which means being a “bad” girl
and letting my family down.
I wish I could escape from these expectations and ideas but I’m not sure I really can.
I’m not even sure these expectations are even really what my parents are thinking. They
could be something I’ve made up based on years of accumulated offhand comments and actions.
I just wish they weren’t stifling me so much.