“I thought you would be happy for me": When My Mom Came Out
Content Warning: Mentions of abuse and cheating
In retrospect, I should have seen it coming.
Growing up, my mother had told me stories of her vague experimenting while she was a young woman in the military. I guess I didn’t take it seriously enough, because, at the time that she told me these things, she was a middle-aged woman married to another man for more than a decade. I didn’t think any of those stories could have been a reality. I just thought she was trying to relate to me as a young, bisexual kid with their first high school girlfriend at the time.
I found out my mother herself was bisexual in a particularly traumatizing way, but that wouldn’t be any different from how tumultuous our relationship has been for the last few years. Drunk fights, threats of withholding money, abusive language, the occasional physical contact. This isn’t to say that my mother is the worst person to ever exist. I want to make it clear that while my mother is capable of nasty things, my mother is also one of the most generous, thoughtful, and confident people I have ever known.
I often wonder why I ended up the way I did with a mother like mine. My self-esteem is lacking, I apologize all the time, I’m afraid to be confident. Meanwhile, my mother thrives in environments where she is supposedly not meant to succeed: the male-dominated world of the military wherein she has to be larger than life for even a smidgen of recognition.
I’m just trying to say that it’s very possible that even the cruelest person can be the most wonderful person. And the cruelest person can be able to love multiple people at the same time.
I found out my mother was bisexual at a restaurant with another family. The family of the woman my mother was dating. Very sweet, but very religious and very judgemental.
The woman who my mother was dating was a coworker at some point. To be more accurate, she worked for my mother in her office. We’ll call her Jenna. I had known her for a long time, and we had even been friends. I loved talking to her. I didn’t think she would ever go behind my back with something like this. We were at the restaurant to celebrate her latest accomplishment as she had just graduated from a program in Quantico, Virginia. Then, my mother left the table to go to the bathroom, and Jenna’s mother followed.
I had ordered some quesadillas, and by the time they had arrived, Jenna’s mother and my mother exited the bathroom, fuming, and stormed over to the table. Suddenly, my mom leans over me, whispering something in my ear, in the calmest tone possible, “Jenna and I are seeing each other. We’ve been doing this for months. We’re leaving now.” At that moment, my stomach, my head, and my heart felt like they had all imploded. I was pulled away by my mother, tears pricking at my eyes, hot and unforgiving. I couldn’t believe it. They had both gone behind my back. Lied to me.
At this point, I should remind the reader that my mother was married at this point. She’s still married today. This wasn’t just a fling she was having as a single woman looking to get back out there; this was a fling she was having as a married woman. Cheating on my stepfather.
We went to another restaurant nearby and sat down for hours, hashing this out as quickly as possible. I said, “How could you do this to us? To our family? Why? I don’t even know who you are. Why would you lie to me?” When I learned that my mom was doing this, it shattered my idea of a family. It wasn’t the fact that she was bisexual that was traumatizing, it was the fact that both my mother and her girlfriend had gone behind my back and hadn’t told me the truth about what was happening.
What hurt the absolute most was my mother, looking up at me, her mascara running and her voice breaking, saying, “You go to such a liberal school. I thought you would be happy for me.” I shook my head. “I thought you would be proud of me or something.”
I was in a tough spot. As a fellow bisexual woman to be accused of being unsupportive of another queer woman, for lack of a better term, fucking hurt. And frankly, I was unsupportive of her. I would like to think I’m a fairly open and accepting person - every sexuality, every identity, monogamy, polygamy, whatever. But the thing was that my mother and my stepfather were very not polyamorous and I knew this.
It was my turn to be cruel. “Why would I be proud of you? You fucking cheated. You’re a fucking cheater.”
It’s been about two years since this happened. I still feel resentment toward my mother occasionally. I had to go to therapy and talk about this, like a curse following me, for years. Now, it’s not exactly water under the bridge, but my mother and I are on better terms about it. Jenna and I don’t speak. But I always get a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about that day.