“But how should I introduce Mark?”
My mom was phoning me to make final arrangements for my visit home to her gala 20th wedding anniversary, a bonanza event she’d been preparing for the past three months with my dad, and it was less than five days away.
This was to be a special day for my parents, and mom was leaving nothing to chance. She’d been hopping around with militant vigour since her preparations began, organizing the catering, making wine and scrubbing her house down with more precision than the cleaning unit of an ER ward. She’d decreed the spotless areas of the house off-limits to any family member until her guests were to arrive on the big day.
Which meant even taking a piss in the downstairs washroom would be no less sacrilegious than breaking the seal of the Virgin Mary.
And despite my mother’s best intentions to be liberal, letting my new boyfriend Mark tag along with me to the big bash was stressing her out a lot more, I suspect, than she was willing to let on.
“I only ask about the whole introduction thing because,” she said, carefully choosing her next words, “many of my friends don’t know you’re gay.”
Hey, I know I’ve made some stellar progress with my mother; she’d only recently been able to say “gay” without it sounding like the word was being yanked forcibly from her throat with the jaws of life. Still, I knew by asking how she ought to introduce my boyfriend to her friends, she was looking for an easy way out. There wouldn’t even be a question if it was my girlfriend. Though I appreciated that my sexuality must still be difficult for her to accept, I stood firm.
“Just introduce him as my boyfriend,” I replied, trying to sound as if the answer was obvious (which, of course, it was).
But the silence on the other end of the line told me what I already knew. This was scaring her.
Indeed, I felt guilty for adding another element of stress to her planning duties. But what else could I do? I couldn’t give in by offering her a way out.
“I don’t know if I’m comfortable doing that, Jeremy. I mean, can’t I just introduce him as your friend?”
As if the distinction of “friend” sans prefix “boy” would make a difference to scrutinizing guests. A 28-year-old man bringing another man to his parent’s wedding anniversary screams fag – and we both knew it. May as well be open about the whole sordid, sinful affair. After all, I wasn’t quite planning to clear the table of hors d’oeuvres and dip Mark in my arms after a lewd table dance. But I wasn’t going to hide anything either.
Fearing I was stretching the envelope too far, I had a change of heart. I wouldn’t make her say “boyfriend.”
“Mom, I have the perfect plan. Why don’t you introduce me as your son and I’ll quickly take over the social reigns and introduce Mark as my boyfriend.”
“Okay that sounds better,” she replied. She was relieved, but only partially. Conflicted between a situation she’s had to increasingly face over the years (in direct proportion to my comfort in being gay), and her desire to do what’s morally right: Namely, support her son in whatever he chooses to do or be. Sometimes this conflict spilled into our own relationship, but not often.
Regardless, a compromise had been reached during this phone call. The treaty had been signed.
With her on board, I wondered if I was myself. Just what had I gotten myself into? Was I mentally equipped, in a small house packed with unknown straights (some who’ve seen me grow up), to introduce anyone as my boyfriend – at least without 20 pints of blood rushing to my face with every new introduction?
Or would I remain in a perpetual state of flushed, rosy-cheek wonder the entire evening, prompting my parents’ guests to wonder if their hosts’ son was really a sagging lush – and a homosexual to boot?
In the end, working the room with Mark was far more entertaining than I ever would have imagined.
“Oh, and who’s your friend?” a friend of my parents would ask.
“This is my partner, Mark.”
A quick look of confusion and then, understanding Mark was no “business” partner, the party guest invariably responded by nearly breaking into song with their best, I’m totally cool with the whole gay thing voice:
“Oh, well isn’t that wonderful!” they’d exclaim, clutching their bonbons noticeably firmer than before.
My mother later told me that by the end of the night she actually felt relief that all her friends finally knew about me. It meant she didn’t have to tell them herself.
I had pushed the envelope a wee bit further with my mom, but more importantly, with myself.
“But how should I introduce Mark?”