6 to 23

“The most important political step […] is to come out of the closet. It’s been proven that it is easier to hate us and to fear us if you can’t see us.” –  Amanda Bearse quotes

Thorn asked in a comment to this post if my mother included my daughter when she announced her total grandchildren.  I am simultaneously pleased and embarrassed to say she did.

I say embarassed becuase it is so foreign to me for my mother to include my daughter that I was confused when she did so boldly.  The conversation went like this.

My mother: “Now I have fifteen grandchildren! Christmas will be even more fun!”

Fiance’s oldest son: “Wow! Fifteen!”

My mother: “Yes, adding you two boys makes fifteen. The youngest is 6 and the oldest is 23”

Me (turning head toward mother): “23? Who is 23?”

Uh Doy.

My daughter is 23.

I was startled she included her in the count, startled she actually knew her exact age and even more startled she said it in front of my fiances sons.

When I questioned who was 23 she looked at me oddly for a second, then I understood and we exchanged an awkward glance before continuing with the conversation.  I later told my mother that she surprised me because I am not used to her acknowledging my daughter and also that my fiance and I had not yet discussed my daughter with his sons.

And that brings me to the latest bit of awkwardness.  Outing my scarlett letter status to my fiances 16 yo and 19 yo son.

No doubt I make a bigger deal of this than is usually necessary. I spend days, weeks even, in anxiety laden hell letting my mind run away with me. Will they judge me? Will they say something rude? Will they hurt my feelings? Will they later talk about me to their father and question his decision to marry me?  What will they think? Will they go home and discuss me over their dinner table with their mother and gossip about the whore their father is marrying? Will they question how anyone abandons a baby to strangers? Or will they give me that sappy gooey Catholic koolaid syrup about how wonderful and selfless I am for leaving my first born to strangers? Will they ask my sons, in hushed tones, about the sister they are not able to know? What will the catholic school taught young men think of their fathers fiance when they find out she got pregnant at 17 and was sent to a maternity home? Will they do that righteous catholic dance, say a few prayers and bless me? Will they look down their noses and label me one of those girls? Or as teenage boys will they simply not give a shit?

Yes, I actually think these things. Outing myself in situations like this causes massive flashbacks to the original judgement cast down upon me. I am often unable to separate then from now. I am a 42 year old successful professional woman parenting two fabulous sons and yet inside me there is still that scorned, shamed, dirty little girl that is afraid of further judgement.

At this point, I am going to let it happen organically. As I unpacked my many books (more than half based on adoption, reunions, PTSD, etc.) into the book cases that flank our fireplace, it was not lost on me that eventually the boys will scan the book collection.  That may prompt them. If the books don’t, the pictures of my daughter on my desk and bookshelves might.

I will deal with that when the time comes.

9 Thoughts.

  1. Awww Suz, big HUGS, I have lots of thoughts but for now, just big HUGS and KISSES…
    Please cut yourself a break, my young men will NOT judge you, this I do know in my heart of hearts…
    1 4 3

  2. Don’t know about these particular boys, but I have noticed that men are much less judgmental about this issue in general.

  3. This is probably going to be didactic and unnecessary, but you’ve seen me write about my partner’s problems coming out as a lesbian when it’s been 30 years since she was traumatized by her initial outing. I do think what you’re going through is a normal, rational response. And I’ll tell you what I’ve told her, that if you’re able to present this as a neutral fact, say it unemotionally, people will respond similarly and assume it’s no big deal. (Now, it’s a different kind of big deal that you have a daughter in non-reunion and all that, but I think you know what I mean; it’s about the presentation.) For her, that means it’s easier to just say “This is my partner Thorn….” and things go fine. When she makes a big production out of it, the situation is awkward for everyone.

    I know I’ve been able to help her with her coming-out issues. Take advantage of the fact that their dad is definitely on your side and a great support. If he is able to model the appropriate response you want to get across (that you’re not a bad person, that you’ve had to struggle tremendously to heal and you’ve done an impressive, that you’re a great inspiration to tons of us on the internet, whatever) that should be easy for him to do. He can help you shape the conversation. The great thing about having this relationship is that you don’t have to do everything alone.

    And seriously, I don’t think my Catholic 17-year-old brother would be shocked or judgmental at all, maybe intrigued a bit. Obviously I can’t guess about these boys, but I think the normal response of a Catholic school student wouldn’t be horror or judgment but either something buying into the magical selfless firstmom myth or just plain having empathy for you. I understand you’re going to worry about this, but I really believe that you’ll get a much better response than you fear.

    • I hope it’s clear that I didn’t mean the adoption/coercion/relinquishment stuff isn’t a big deal, but that it’s (in my opinion) important to convey to them that talking about it doesn’t have to be a big deal, that they can process and comment at their own pace and you’ll be open to that. This stuff is very hard for me to talk about clearly.

  4. I’m suddenly sitting here with a lot of mixed thoughts crashing together and all wanting out at the same time, but one of them is that this is not really as adoption related as you think. Well, that is not strictly speaking true; for you it may well be.

    The reason why I comment is because I am in a similar situation re. the step-thing. I don’t share the tragedy of being forced to give a child up to adoption, but my boyfriend has two teenage boys, and his ex-wife is convinced that I was the one who ruined their marriage. Trust me, the boys have also gone through a few of the same thoughts.

    We have been going through several ups and downs in establishing some sort of relationship that make it clear who I am with regards to the boys. Oddly, the oldest boy started imagining me as his new mum, something there is no good reason to do as their mum is just terrific. The younger kept his distance until he felt assured that I would not steal their dad away from them and his mum and I had come to a sensible balance ourselves.

    With the oldest it culminated in a rather unpleasant falling out when he treated me like his mum in the negative sense, by answering back and generally being a grumpy teenager. Not used to kids any age I turned my back and walked away, me and my dog. Later I told him in no uncertain terms that I was happy to be his friends and that I would expect him to treat me as that, but that his mum would be his only mum.

    The younger one simply needed to be included in a weekend of activities with me and my boyfriend and at night I hugged him goodnight as I also did with the oldest.

    At present we are getting on really well. I would not be even remotely comfortable claiming them as my own. But I am happy to be their friend, to have them at my place as my ‘instant family’ on weekends. Their mum I will never be.

    Perhaps their mum will one day be my friend too.

  5. Ine, what leads his ex wife to conclude that “his ex-wife is convinced that I was the one who ruined their marriage”, I ask because(as I out myself in a way here) one of the primary reasons that led to my divorce was an adulterous affair(this was MUCH prior to my meeting/going out with Suz) and ironically enough my ex commented to Suz upon meeting her, ‘why wouldn’t I like you, you didn’t cause the break up of my marriage), my long winded point is if your BF’s ex is harboring resentments like this it’ll be difficult at best to be friends with her ever…
    The challenges of integrating into ‘blended’ family are quite enormous, constant communication with one’s partner is crucial…
    My boys and Suz get along quite well IMHO…
    As do myself & her boys IMHO…

    • We did not have an affair. We were friends who shared hobbies. But I live in a conservative country where friendships across the genders is very unusual and she was told by a third party whose name I don’t know that we had been seen sitting together at an event and that she (the third party) was convinced we were having an affair. My – now – boyfriend’s ex was willing to believe it as she didn’t know me at all but knew this other person.

      There is nothing one can do to prevent that sort of rumours. Only wait them out.

  6. Having met Rich, I have to say that I cannot imagine that his sons would judge. Having a teenaged boy myself, my guess is that they will be interested, and that just sharing the information with them directly is all they will want.

    And LOL, I gotta get you in touch with the wild and crazy Catholics in my life – no judging going on down here! Too bad we’re not in the majority – but we’re working on it!

    Hugs!!

  7. Pingback: Coming Out – Again and Again | Writing My Wrongs

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