There is no question that a person’s sex life is influenced by their friends, family, and anyone in their daily life and routine. Family is both a blessing and a burden; the need for their approval can be consuming and their disapproval devastating. Sometimes however, their expectations are impossible or just plain unreasonable, distorting and destroying a normal balance of relationships and family.
Throughout my entire life, I embraced the “Seinfeldian” philosophy of dating: there’s Independent George and Relationship George and if ever the two shall meet, a “George divided upon itself cannot stand.” Sex was taboo for my family, the most advice ever given was “don’t get her pregnant” and relationships were ignored, except for bad relationships, which were mocked. Perhaps understandably, dating waited until I left for college.
Dating and the inevitable questions it would bring, acknowledging any sexual identity, having to introduce dates, none of it seemed worth the effort. After dating my girlfriend for about a year, she wanted my family to know we were dating, since hers had for a while. For months, I demurred, hoping she’d forget, or decide it wasn’t important, until one day my mother discovered our secret.
Once she found out, there was little fallout, occasional brushing at the idea of my sexuality, the aforementioned appeals not to avoid pregnancy, which did not fall on deaf ears, but other than that, little change. Aside from making my girlfriend happy, nothing was gained, except for numerous awkward moments. Unfortunately there was still one more person to tell, my grandmother.
My grandmother was the one person whom I dreaded telling about our relationship; in fact I hid my relationship for an extra two years after telling my mother. Growing up, she was critical of every person anyone in my family brought home, obsessing over their flaws, badmouthing them to the rest of the family and openly undermining the relationships. Eventually my mom started dating a new boyfriend, but hid him for obvious reasons.
Once he was discovered, my grandmother loved to claim that hiding a boyfriend was proof that my mom was “ashamed of her.” This was an oft repeated line; my grandmother’s complaints were just as much about her personality as my mother’s choice of men. Even before dating it was clear that admitting to being in a relationship would only bring strife, so it was hidden for as long as possible.
Upon finally disclosing my relationship, her reactions were worse and more hysterical than I had originally feared. Her speech was slurred, she constantly exclaimed she could not believe I was “dumb enough to get tied down” and on the way home, her driving was distracted and erratic. Still, the anger was justified, as I hid the relationship for so long and a tantrum was to be expected, right?
Except that since telling her almost half a year ago, my mother and I have essentially been disowned. She has only spoken to me once since then, choking back tears, and twice with my mother, each time badmouthing my girlfriend and me. While I know there is much I haven’t been told, it’s clear she doesn’t think my girlfriend does enough to be worthy, which isn’t fair considering she was incapacitated for a year because of a leg injury.
In the span of a day, my mother and I went from biweekly contact with her to being completely shut out. This is exactly why I never even wanted to discuss relationships and would have been happy if she never discovered our relationship, because I always knew that the repercussions would be greater than the benefits. Never telling her might have made things worse if the truth ever came out, but until then, everyone would have been happier.
Too often there is the argument that if love is pure, then no one should have to be afraid of revealing it to the world, yet that ignores the very real complications of family politics. The act of merging two families is complicated, with countless landmines that may never deactivate.
Just like the “Kobayashi Maru”, the reveal could be an un-winnable scenario and just like “War Games,” not playing might be the only solution. Building a web of lies isn’t a perfect solution of course, the anger and resentment of a partner forced into the closet, never able to reveal their true feelings could eventually poison the relationship beyond repair. Still, in my situation everyone would have been happier.
If the relationship was still a secret, my girlfriend wouldn’t feel, despite my best efforts to convince her otherwise, that the situation is her fault. Nor would my mom be unfairly and childishly shunned by her own mother. Finally, I would not have shattered and possibly destroyed the fabric of my family just because I wanted to date.