Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Two Dads

(My friend's story posted with permission)

Like a lot of kids from Long Island, I was raised catholic. What most people would never know about me is that I was raised by a religious fanatic. Yes, thanks to my mother, for my entire childhood I believed every tiny indiscretion of my life would be a one way ticket to eternal damnation. Even when I was 14, and less completely reliant on my parents to make decisions for me, I kissed a boy for the first time and immediately started crying because I felt like the slut my grandma claimed I'd always become and God would soon smite me.

My mom is completely nuts. She says she hates everyone and everything, and not in the funny way like I do. I was taught to hate everyone. Black people, hispanic people, Asian people, Italian people, Jewish people - I assumed everyone was the strange stereotype my mom taught me. Even thinking about them now is so ridiculous its funny, like when she told me the Chinese acrobats would break into our house by standing on each others shoulders and entering through the second floor. I couldn't even make that up. My mom also literally told me that all gay men had AIDS and that if I even went near them, I'd catch it too.

When I was about to enter high school, my parents got divorced. Some Catholic you are mom. Her favorite pastime became saying all kinds of horrible things about my father, and he really didn't help considering he more or less disappeared. As she tightened her leash on the one thing she could control in her life, moi, it was hard not to believe her.

Finally towards the end of high school, I had had enough of her bullshit just as my dad conveniently sauntered back into my life. My mom instructed me to not tell my father anything about her personal life, and I knew better than to tell her about his (‘cause shes crazy!) That summer my father moved into an apartment in Manhattan and I went to visit him. As I sat in this tiny one bedroom apartment, his roommate (we'll call him Joe), came back after walking his dog. He noticed me sitting there and greeted me. "Hayyyyy how y'all doin!" I feel like the written word cannot convey just how southern and also not straight this man was. I'd never even met a gay man and I immediately tensed up. A million thoughts ran through my brain. Or maybe just five: One bedroom apartment. Roommate. One bed. Chihuahua. Dad taking me to Broadway Show. As I sat there thinking, my father tried to cover his tracks. "Oh I sleep on the couch. You know, its the only way I can afford a place like this in Manhattan and its always been a dream of mine." 'Okay sure. Whatever,' I thought, 'Thats fine, I will choose to believe this.'

I went off to college and met my first out of the closet gay man. Of course for a few days I was convinced he had AIDS but kept this to myself. Eventually we became friends because he was really funny and let me give him make overs. AIDS, schmaids. I'm pretty sure I told someone my fears who explain that that notion was ridiculous.

Periodically, I saw my dad and he'd always come up with a really lame excuse to bring Joe along, and I tried to believe him. I wish I could remember my dad's excuse for Joe being at Christmas, because it was ludicrous, but I can't. Think 'Joe didn't feel like paying for a plane ticket home.' Meanwhile they live in a dope Manhattan apartment. In the spring my father moved to South Beach in Miami (I know), and when I stayed with him for spring break, he and Joe slept in the same room that contained one bed, and said nothing. Alright, the jig was up. But confronting your father about his sexuality is, I don't know, a smidge awkward, don't you agree?

By the time my father acually came out to me that summer, I'd accepted it already. We were fighting about my cell phone and he asked when I'd start acting like an adult. I told him it would be when he started treating me like one, instead of acting like I'm stupid about certain things in his life. Then it became one of those conversations that is entirely vague although both participants know what it is really about. I dealt because, well, it sucked not having a dad around when I was in high school. However, I had to make some compromises. First I had to keep my uber republican sister calm. Though you can't really blame her for running down Ocean Drive crying in South Beach when my father took us to a gay bar for the first time without telling us thats where we were going. Or saying anything about it once we got there. Second I realized that for the rest of her life, every conversation I'd have with my mother about my father would be almost completely fabricated. Because when I lie, I really do it up. I was okay with that because there really was no other option. My dad didn't ask me to keep it a secret but if she knew she'd...I don't even know.

I guess this happened at a pretty good time in society because its when Bravo was first getting big and being gay was, I don't know, in style. So all my friends thought it was really cool. I guess I lucked out. Sure, my dad has been overcompensating for 50 years of living a lie by going to Donna Summer concerts (seriously), buying houses and then selling them so he can decorate new ones, and pretty much only taking me to Gay Bars for family time. And thats fine, because I have to be the cool daughter who doesnt freak out that there is a man dancing inexplicably oiled up and shirtless to my right while my dad angrily asking me why I haven't read/seen The Devil Wears Prada. Its honestly the closest thing to normal life I will ever have.

I still do live in fear of the day my mom will find out about my dad's secret life and my role in it. There is not enough Lysol in the world that would clean the house if she knew the places I've been.

1 comment:

  1. very compelling story. well written.


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