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18 November 2008 @ 02:31 pm
Grandma's Dinner Part I  
ETA: This is a fictionalized version of my family in which I bring a fictional female partner home for dinner. In real life I never bothered, ended up coming out as bi and marrying a man after my mom, aunt and grandmother had passed away. Although I came out to my mom and she was completely accepting (back when I thought I must be a lesbian rather than bi) I didn't waste my time with the rest of the family. Some of Grandma's comments are from real life--she did say of my first husband "thank the lord he's white" for example, and did try to fix me up with a friend of hers while I was still married. When I wrote this originally I still thought I would indeed find a nice girl and get married. :)

Grandma’s Dinner

It was a typical conversation with my grandma.

“Teri, you’re not going to bring her, are you? Our neighbors won’t understand.” Grandma said in a warning tone.

I couldn’t help but point out that she was trying to hide her own disapproval behind the neighbors’ potential gossip.

“How will the neighbors know we’re lesbians if you don’t tell them? It’s not like we’ll be having sex on your lawn, you know!” I rolled my eyes, grateful that Grandma couldn’t see me over the phone lines. Maybe video phones aren’t such a great idea.

Grandma tried another tactic: “You know it will upset your grandpa…”

I interrupted, “Then I’ll talk to him, but I don’t think he’s the one who has the problem—you seem to be the only one who isn’t happy to see us together.”

Grandma sighed heavily. I wondered if she was glancing at her beloved Serenity Prayer plaque. For someone who revered it so much she sure had a problem putting it into practice.

“Terilyn, you know I don’t believe in your lifestyle. I’m never going to be able to sit across the dinner table from the two of you and act like everything’s normal. All I can think of is the sick things you two do with each other.”

I couldn’t resist. “Just what are you imagining—maybe you can give me some ideas!” Surely I would burn in hell for that remark!

“You’re not too old to have your mouth washed out!” Grandma said angrily.

“Actually, I am too old but I’m sorry, I won’t talk like that if you let us come for Christmas.”

“You and my grandbabies are always welcome to stay here for Christmas, Teri.” Grandma said this in a conciliatory manner as if the preceding conversation had not just taken place. I swear, growing up in my family was like living in the Twilight Zone.

“That’s nice, Grandma, but if Jessie isn’t welcome then we won’t be able to come either. We always spend Christmas together with the kids.” I decided it was time to be blunt. I realized I was gritting my teeth and stopped. I felt a familiar burning in my stomach and reached for a Tums. They were always nearby.

“Now why did you have to be so stubborn. You’re just like your mother!”

Annoyed, I made a face at the receiver. I swear, talking to my grandma reduced me to the level of a 2 year old sometimes.

“I’m sure I resemble Mom in many ways,” I said diplomatically, “But that’s not the point. It’s a shame the kids won’t be coming for Christmas, now, isn’t it?” I hated bringing the kids into it, but it was all of us or none of us. It seemed like I could never deal with Grandma without resorting to the same tactics she used.

“Why can’t you send the kids on the plane so they can see their family for Christmas? You know how Grandpa is looking forward to seeing them. He misses them so much!” Grandma was not quite pleading. “We hardly get to see them since you moved to California.”

“We’re a family and we spend the holiday together. If Jessie is welcome we’ll be there. If not…”

“If not you’ll go to her family’s again like last year,” Grandma said in her most poisonous, resentful voice.

It was my turn to sigh. “You’re right. You know, it’s really up to you.”

“Well, we’ll see what your grandfather says about it.”

Grandma wasn’t going to concede defeat right away, but I knew my grandpa well enough to know that this meant we were all invited. I was kind of hoping that we’d be joining Jessie’s family as usual. I loved her family—they always made me feel at home. Still, it would be nice to see my mom.

To be continued-
Sarahilovefucking on November 19th, 2008 01:33 am (UTC)
Just reading that makes me angry! I'll bet you felt so ostracized. How come other people, the ones we love, tend to judge us harsher than the rest of the people we come across?

When I first went vegetarian on April 14th of this year, I told my family and they couldn't understand why. It's natural to be curious, but it's another thing to be curious in a negitive kind of way. "I just don't understand....you loved steak, you loves beef jerky. Where are you going to eat now? blah blah blah"
Tapatitapati on November 19th, 2008 05:52 am (UTC)
They never did come to terms with any part of my lifestyle. Originally I faced their opposition to my being a Hare Krsna, and didn't even bother to tell them when that was no longer my religion. I didn't ever come out to anyone but Mom (who was cool)--this is a "what if" story about them--what if I'd brought home a female partner? How would they act? I suspect it would be pretty close to this story. After my mom and aunt passed away I stopped writing to my grandma. I just could never get her to accept me.
Amanda: locke scarsyko4bosco on November 19th, 2008 03:52 am (UTC)
I can't even imagine how you felt/feel. People are so controlled by bizarre and bigoted beliefs...I have fought with my mother on the gay/straight issue for years now, and I've realized, I love my mother, and although she is never going to accept the gay lifestyle, she is never mean to anyone, and she's never going to change. After a childhood in the Baptist church, she's sure the mark of the beast is imminent, the end times are upon us, and my father is certainly going to hell (he's an atheist, formerly muslim). Because my parents were different religions, my brother and I were raised without any, and sadly, I think that it was a blessing. I consider myself Christian, but all I see in organized Christianity is small minded bigotry, judgement, and hate.

As a history teacher, I have studied human rights issues, and how hard it is to overcome the uneducated and judgmental masses. I've seen how religion is used as a weapon. I've seen how normal wonderful people can believe things that are so horrifyingly incorrect that I can't even fathom how it can be possible.

I have so much more to say, but I feel like i'm not making any sense and going off in like, 15 directions.

Anyways, just know that you have straight allies out there, and your partner's family should prove that it IS possible for family to be supportive too...but some people are too controlled by preconceived notions and that's a shame. One day this bigotry will be virtually destroyed. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen. If it takes another million man and woman march on Washington, I'll be there with you :)

Sorry that was so long winded and confusing ;)

Edited at 2008-11-19 03:53 am (UTC)
Tapatitapati on November 19th, 2008 05:58 am (UTC)
I should be clear that while this piece is based on my family, it's fictional. I sat down in the nineties and thought, "What if I brought home a woman partner for Christmas dinner? How would they act?" I was in a writing class. At that point I was coming to terms with being bisexual rather than the lesbian I'd thought I was, but still really believed I'd end up married to a woman. Then I met Dave and thought I'd date him until the right woman came along--and fell in love. I'm sure my grandma would have found something to disapprove of in him too.

I did come out to my mom but not the rest of the family--it seemed rather pointless if they couldn't accept my religion or dietary choices. My mom and aunt passed away in 1990, Grandma in 1993, and Grandpa in 1997. I was written out of my grandparents' will.

Some of Grandma's statements in this story are taken from life--thank the lord he's white was said about my first husband.

The names have been changed for the story.

I decided to post this now because of Prop 8 and also the holidays are coming and many of us must visit families that aren't always the most functional. :)
Kristenraisha on November 22nd, 2008 05:51 am (UTC)
It's a beautiful story. It's also eerily realistic--fiction based on truth, however loosely, is often difficult to read because it hits so close to home. (And it's even harder to write!)

I'm glad that you chose to share it with us--the timing is, as you pointed out, very appropriate.
Tapatitapati on December 3rd, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks--let's hope everyone's holiday meals are more positive than this!