Laughter’s the best medicine?

So… the parents.

As I’ve mentioned before, my parents don’t know that I’m gay yet.  For that matter, no one in my family does.  It’s been close to a year since I poked my nose out of the closet, and the people who are closest to me have no idea that I’ve been going through this struggle of becoming the person that I’m meant to be.

A little background on the fam:  we’re a pretty normal family.  My immediate family is still all in the same general area, with my sister taking the biggest jump away, at a little under a two hour drive.  Let me put it this way — when I decided to move from the suburb where my parents and brother both live to another suburb about 40 minutes away, I got the, “But that’s SO FAR AWAY.  Like, a different zip code and EVERYTHING.”  We’re fairly close, as far as that goes.  We like each other, we all get along and enjoy one another’s company.

I see my Mom and Dad almost once a week — there’s nothing like the lure of a home-cooked meal to bring me in.  And while I see my sister and brother less frequently (they both have families of their own), through the wonder of Facebook and email, we stay in pretty close contact.

And while there are definitely times when I wonder how in the world I could be related to these people (really – in a lot of respects, I’m totally the odd duck out – and that doesn’t even take the whole homo thing into consideration), we share a common history, a common sense of humor and – like all families – a common set of dysfunctions.  What family would be complete without them?

Our dysfunction?  We deal with almost everything as a joke.  We make light, we joke and kid around, are occasionally serious, but mostly we’re the life of any party.  I pride myself on the fact that I can entertain a crowd of people, assuming, of course, that the group appreciates sarcasm and sharp wit (if they don’t, of course, they just think I’m sort of mean…).

But the humor belies the underlying problem:  we don’t really communicate with each other.  There is very little real, raw emotion shown.  We don’t really do tears.  Or arguments.  Or even talk about “adult” things, like sex and medical problems.  Now, I have to admit – both my brother and sister are better at this than I am.  I think the fact that they’ve got a family of their own, and a set of people around who don’t subscribe to the way we’ve always done things has been instructive for them.

For me, though, I’m caught in this trap of never wanting anyone to see the real me, for fear of the tears, or the arguments or the awkward conversations.  I was having a conversation the other day with a friend of mine about my parents and made a sarcastic comment to the effect of, how would *I* know since it’s not like my family discusses anything at all.  She cocked her head, looked thoughtful and said, “You sound angry about that.”  And her comment made me stop a moment.  And think. And I responded, “No, not angry.  But resentful.  Resentful that I grew up in a household where there were no ‘I love you’s’ or arguments (really – I never heard my parents fight or raise their voices to one another), and it was better to swallow your feelings than express them.”  And my response took me by surprise — as silly as it sounds, that had never occurred to me before.  I just accepted my family’s (lack of) communication as “just the way we were”.

Now, I’m not blaming my parents for my own inability to allow other people to get close to me.  I fully accept the responsibility that I’m an adult and therefore have the ability to change my behavior, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it might be for me.  I’m totally a full accountability kind of person and don’t like playing the blame game.  But still – communication remains a skill set that now, at almost 40, I find myself having to learn from scratch, practically.

Wow.  I think I’ve gotten sidetracked.  This really was just a post about my parents and how I haven’t told them my secret yet.  But – I suppose it all feeds in. This… stuff… is one of the reasons that I haven’t sat down and told them yet. It’s hard for me to imagine having this kind of conversation with them.  As many times as I have the talk with them in my head – with the hundreds of different variations of how I tell them and hundreds of different ways they react – there is no scenario where I tell them, I make a joke about it, they laugh and everything is exactly the way it’s always been.

So, I wait.  I’ve got a million excuses in my head.  I’ll wait until the holidays are over.  I’ll wait until I’m in a real relationship.  I’ll tell them just as soon as I’m pushed into a corner and have to tell them before they find out on their own.  You know, something like that.

At some point, I need to have this talk with them.  Just take a breath and jump. Have courage and the strength to let them see the real me.

Man, does that sound scary.


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