Courtesy of Amita Parashar
Journalist Amita Parashar
Courtesy of Amita Parashar
My mom and I were walking down 28th street in New York City, past a line of Indian restaurants, when I blurted out, "Can I tell you something? I'm dating someone ... but you might not like it. It's a woman. And actually, you know her. It's Sarah."
I had procrastinated until the last few hours of her visit, and she was rustling through her purse, pulling out money to give me before she left — she always does that. My stomach was doing flip flops.
She stopped and gave me the long look she always gives me when I do something wrong or say something sharp — and she said, "That's not nice."
She stood there for some time. I could tell she was trying to think through what I just told her. "Well, that's not really dating," she said as if I were 10 years old again and I didn't know what dating meant. I was 24.
I was surprised by her response, but I quickly launched into my defense. "It shouldn't really matter, who I'm with. I mean, I know it does, but it shouldn't, right? As long as I'm with someone who treats me well, right?"
I said I didn't want to keep anything from her, and not saying anything felt like lying. I wasn't asking for her permission, even though I desperately wanted her approval.
She started to cry. She said — more to convince herself than to convince me — maybe I would change and start dating men. She then asked if this meant I was never going to get married. To Hindus, marriage is considered a necessary stage of life like birth and death. There was a long pause, and she added, "To a man!"
My parents had always hoped my brother and I would get married and settle down in California. For my mother, that image of the future was now put in question. She also knew Sarah, and knew she's from New York. She asked if this meant I wasn't moving back home to southern California.
I remember thinking, of all the things to worry about having a gay child, that is the one she picked? But I also knew it meant that she understood how important Sarah was to me.
I have a good four inches on my mom and at that point, I put my arm around her. I said, "You know I'm still the same person, right?" And because she is a mom, or maybe because she's my mom, she put her hand on my back and asked me if I was happy. She told me she loved me and she handed me 20 dollars before she left.
That conversation felt like ripping off a Band-Aid. For a long time, I was worried how she would respond. But then, I realized, I just needed to trust that she'll be able to deal with it in her own way. And at least, I'm not hiding a really important part of my life from her.
This spring, when she came to visit me in Washington, she introduced Sarah to my family — as a new part of our family.
Amita Parashar is a journalist and a member of the Tell Me More staff.