Things That I (Don't) Understand

This wasn't how it was supposed to go. When my oldest daughter called me for dating advice, I never imagined it would be on these terms. If I was talking to a son who was taking a girl out for the first time, I would say many things: Be sensitive. Be kind. Be a gentleman. Be curious about her: listen, learn. Have fun - without the pressure of expectation. But what should I say when it's my daughter that is taking out the girl? Maybe that advice doesn't change...

Even though the signs were there from day one in the curious, indomitable tomboy who would never wear pink. While her friends were being princesses, she had an imaginary cowboy named Jarrup for a best friend. It was there when she challenged the dress standard norms for gender suitability in early middle school. When she watched the other girls with peculiar fascination, as though they were alien creatures. 

Gay wasn't a thing in my family. In fact, it was an abomination. While my own beliefs had bent and swayed as my understanding of God and The Whole World evolved, GAY was still something that I hadn't made eye contact with. Avoid the awkward conversation, and dealing with rigid, archaic religion that still surrounded me. It was a conversation that we didn't need to have, that I didn't need to have with myself.

Halle came home for Christmas from college and there we were, sitting in my messy bedroom. In an awkward talk full of medium smiles, stifled tears and uncomfortable silences, she was telling me that she didn't know about sex, or about love, but that she was pretty sure that men weren't in her future. She cried about a girl that she adored - one who had pushed her away, and used her, and hurt her. She had been devoutly committed to the girl. All of her words painted the picture of the loyal hound dog that would do ANYTHING for his friend and master. To keep the one she cared about free from pain and anxiety and stress were paramount motivators in Halle's life.

I knew this story. I had lived these feelings. The emotions she described and the dedication she expressed were a mirror image of thelove that I once felt for a man. As she cried, I flashed back to the physical pain I experienced when the one I loved was hurting - Halle was expressing total empathy. I UNDERSTOOD, but somehow, it was different. It made no sense to me, feeling the draw of intimacy, of discovery, to another woman. I had moved beyond the absolute belief system that would give me cause to reject my daughter for her lifestyle, but there was still some flimsy cardboard wall inside, keeping me from embracing the Whole Halle. I couldn't fathom her absolute desire to please another person who wasn't a man. I have very close girl friends, but what Halle described were feelings that I had only known for the love of my life, who was very much male.

I couldn't translate it. Or figure out how to take it away from that conversation and into the real world. How to say to Everyone Else: "yes. I understand her heart. and I support her love. for whomever she chooses." But that is truly as simple as it needed to be. Even so, I couldn't speak that language to her. I tried, in a clumsy and brutish way, to express my unconditional love for her, but the words that came out sounded more like tolerance and avoidance than support and compassion. I was doing it wrong, but I wasn't sure what right looked like.

It took me a few weeks and some less-than-gentle moments of introspection, but it finally occurred to me that the dating advice that I would give my daughter, as well as the things I would say to the Whole World were no different than they would be for a straight kid. Be sensitive, be kind. Whomever it is that you love, love unconditionally, the way that I have taught you.

More than being gay, she is my daughter. The fears that I have for her and the mistakes that she could make are universal. The risks are the same for all of us, gay or straight, every race and creed, down to the last imperfect person on the planet. Fear is born from ignorance, and while I might not understand her attraction, I understand my daughter, and I understand the love that she experiences. I know her, and as time goes on I will know her better. None of this can change my love for my girl - but my curiosity to know her has grown.

This wasn't the way I planned it, and yet here we are. Without knowing how, it's my job to include my daughter as she is, who she is, into the greater world of our extended family, the church, the judging masses. It's my job as her mother to speak love and acceptance to her, and bridge her way through self-discovery. Halle has an opportunity to live her life as an answer to how she was created by the same God that the rest of us will negotiate our own expressions of life with. It isn't necessary for me to understand, it is only necessary for me to love.

Always My Hallelujah. 

Things That Make You Stop

I had an awesome weekend. I learned so much, met some great people, and slept in a top bunk, which is therapeutic in the same way as those weird shrinks who make you squeeze your way out of a fabric tube to re-experience birth. If you haven't heard of that then you aren't watching enough Law and Order SVU. I came home knowing that I would have a lot to catch up on. I mean, I have been gone for the last 23 out of 30 days, so if you were beginning to wonder where I live anymore, me too. It's almost the end of May now and my yard hasn't been mowed since April. Of last year. Ok that's a slight exaggeration, but it does look a lot like no one has lived at my house for four years. The good news about me ignoring my yard is that I haven't had a chance to kill the surviving raspberry plants that are back there defying the odds of existing in Liv's world.

I have had work to go to since I got back, which is great because no matter how much laundry I do, or dishes, or how many times I mop the floors, nobody will pay me for it and the Bill People don't like that. The downside of working when I am home and then leaving is that All Of the Other Things don't get done. Yesterday, before hitting it hard on a mission from hell to Do It All, I took a night off with the kids and we went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was awesome.

So I came home from work today all psyched up to get shit done. Like, f'reals. This was after a long day of data entry, directing a bunch of eye-rolling sophomores in the school production of Mean Girls, and having my 17 year old daughter tell me flat out, NO, that she would not come home with me on the school campus in front of God and Everyone, then ride off into the sunset on a bicycle with her boyfriend. In my heart, I grabbed her by the hair and drug her down the sidewalk, but luckily my shoulder wouldn't have endured it, and I probably would have ended up in my best friend's cop car, parked conveniently 10 feet away from the altercation. Turns out that in spite of the fact that she is FAILING two classes that she must pass to graduate in three weeks, her dad told her she can run wild and free all over town with her boyfriend. Effective parenting right there, folks. Also: PUBLIC SHAMING.

Anyway, Aspen cranked up an odd mix of Frank Sinatra, Fun., Justin Timberlake and Pink and we started cleaning out the camp trailer that has been inhabited only by a colony of ants, a family of small spiders, and MacKenzie and her boyfriend over the last few months. When even got in on the spider killing action, and then we moved on to the back porch which has been doubling as a garbage dump/where we put all the crap we have no idea what to do with it, and let the spiders take over. We swept and stacked and tossed and hosed and got that junk wrangled. Then I cleaned the bathroom, organized the laundry room, washed ALL of the rugs from the floors, the shower curtains, and nearly every towel we own.

I was washing the trays from two food dehydrators that we discovered under a pile of cardboard on the back porch when it happened. I was bent over the sink a little and all of a sudden I couldn't breathe. Or move. Or anything. There was something that I can only compare to The Hammer Of Thor pounding into this spot in my spine and I was rendered completely useless. After a few minutes of dry heaving in the sink from the pain and planning my funeral, I managed to slowly twist down onto the floor, where I belly crawled out of the kitchen. I learned two things in this moment: my core strength could really use some work, and the floors need to be mopped badly.

I tried crawling onto the inversion table to "stretch it out" which ended with Aspen helping me get back on to the floor. Then I got on my feet in a very graceful knees-to-couch rolling twist up again and figured out if I stay perfectly straight upright I could finish making dinner. I did a stint on the foam roller which my kids watched in amusement, and Dagny thought was strictly so I would have a better ball throwing angle for her. Now I am in bed on an icepack with a bottle of wine.

I asked my sister if spines can bleed, because I am pretty sure mine is. She said no, unless someone stabbed you in the back, which we could, within rights, pin on MacKenzie today, especially considering I had just written a $50 check to cover her cap and gown and year book. I wonder if I can cancel that check?

I am curious to see how work goes tomorrow, and if they will send a wheelchair to pick me up because I can't feel one of my legs...

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