This post isn’t smutty, or sexy. Heads up.
I tweeted yesterday about my ongoing struggle deciding whether or not to come out to my mom as poly/non-monogamous. I appreciated the thoughtful feedback and support I got there, but thinking about the whole thing made me want to try and process it in a fuller way. Maybe there are some of you who are in similar places, or have been. Maybe some of you have – not answers, but reflections from your own engagement with disentangling this stuff. If nothing else, writing this post might help me to think about it in a more deliberate way, detached a bit from the sort of urgent emotionality it’s usually attached to.
Here’s who I’m out to (apart from my partners and metamours): 3 friends back in Canada; 1 here in London; 1 in Berlin; 2 of my sisters. (And all of you, and the internet generally, I suppose, anonymously!) My friend circle here in London essentially is my polycule – I have some acquaintances and ex-colleagues whom I see occasionally, but no friendships close enough to ever make me feel the tension of being closeted; and most of those acquaintances are people that, if it came to it, if the topic came up, I wouldn’t mind telling. They’re largely liberal, open-minded, similar in general sensibilities to me, the sort of people I’d guess would just go ‘oh! ok’ and if anything be …intrigued, but not unsettled.
Where I feel the tension the most, as I tweeted yesterday, is around my mom, and (less directly) my extended family back in Canada. One of the tricky things about the distance is that it’s relatively easy, pragmatically speaking, to just never have it come up; unless I mention polyamory, or having other partners, there’s nothing to push it awkwardly to the fore. My mom isn’t part of my daily life. She doesn’t come to my house, or know the rhythms of my weekly life; she isn’t here to wonder where I go twice a week or to notice when I go on a weekend away with a partner. She doesn’t know that lots of nights my son only has one parent at home because the other is sleeping somewhere else.
And in a way that makes it very easy.
But – I struggle a lot with what I owe her, what I owe myself, to what extent authenticity trumps other considerations. What it always comes down to is this, murmured in a very quiet voice I only let myself look at sideways, cause it’s too difficult, too messy: do I want my mom to die without ever knowing this about me? without ever having that conversation with her, or giving her the chance to accept this part of me? On a certain level, is my decision not to tell her unfair because it denies her the chance to respond herself and not just in my projected imaginings? I don’t know, I don’t know. What I do know is that, so long as I don’t tell her, the extent to which she can actually share in my life becomes more and more censored, truncated. Some days I think, is the daughter she talks to even a real person or just a paper-doll two-dimensional cutout, pieced together from the parts of me I think won’t cause waves, won’t upset her, won’t provoke a difficult conversation.
I’ve always been a people-pleaser, the peacemaker, the sibling that tried to make everyone get along, the kid that behaved, that got mad because the homeschool curriculum didn’t give enough tests I could try to measure myself against. Tell me I’m doing good. I’ve changed in a lot of ways, shifted almost all the goalposts, but that instinct is still there. That’s one of the puzzle pieces.
Here’s the other one. Some of you know that I was raised crazy religious, and you can take that ‘crazy’ in both its qualitative and quantitative senses. My mom has mellowed somewhat since the days of head-coverings and demon-exorcisms and young-earth Creationism and “no movies no music no books written after 1950”, but she’s still very conservative. She’d be a fan of the Mike Pence rule. She thinks homosexuality is wrong. She doesn’t like movies with sex scenes.
I don’t think she’d reject me. Not a chance. She’s a people pleaser too (where do you think I got it?), and she loves me. I know she’d still love me. But she’d – here’s the thing – I don’t know that she could be happy for me. I don’t know that the knowledge could be anything but a burden to her, another reason for her to worry about my soul. And I don’t want her, or anyone, to think of my relationships as A Problem. I want to tell people who will see how happy I am and be happy with me, who can be glad I have partners in my life who love and support and respect me, who can recognise how much fuller they make my life.
But then – I’m back again at whether the crux of this decision about me, or her, about my desires for authenticity or about protecting her narrow worldview or – what?
I love her. In some ways, in spite of everything, we’re close. She fucked me up in ways she didn’t mean to, but I’ve always known she supported and loved me. Part of me badly wants her to know what my life is actually like, about the people and experiences that are important to me. Part of me doesn’t want her to die without ever knowing.
I just really don’t know.