DEAR ABBY: I am an out-and-proud lesbian who recently celebrated 10 years as a couple and three years of marriage to my wife. I worked as a professional nanny for many years, and I’m still extremely close to the first family I worked for. Although we have known each other for years, they still ask me not to mention my marriage when I’m around their kids. They refer to my wife as my “roommate.” It’s all I can do to bite my tongue. I have ignored this for too long.
I recently invited them over to see my new home. Because of their conservative views, I warned them in advance about the wedding photos I have displayed. I’m not ashamed of my life. I am extremely proud of myself and my wife. I am hurt and offended by their requests. I feel they only accept certain parts of me.
I realize it’s unhealthy to continue this way, but I’m terrified of losing them. I’m usually a straightforward person. I feel open communication is important with everyone else in my life. But I have lost relationships before because, no matter how respectful I tried to be, honesty can sometimes be hard to hear. How can I be honest without angering this couple, and what’s the best way to start this conversation? — OUTSPOKEN NANNY
DEAR NANNY: If your former employers think they can censor their children’s world to omit the fact that perfectly nice people, including one they love, are gay, they’re dreaming. Kids today are very worldly. When the parents started calling your wife your roommate, you should have corrected them then and told them it was offensive and hurtful.
Invite them to your home and leave your wedding photos displayed. Why you are terrified that your relationship with them will end because you’re living your authentic life mystifies me. If they can’t handle the truth, you and your wife are better off without them. (c) DEAR ABBY
Here’s the problem: sex. With a husband and wife, it’s taken for granted that they’re having sex. In fact, it’s so taken for granted that no one minds telling a kid, “This is Bill and his wife Eileen. They’re married.” But whenever you tell a kid that two women are married, things get uncomfortable.
“What does that mean, Mommy?”
I get where gay people are coming from. They want to be accepted. The problem is that the acceptance they want is about deeply personal things that are often too Puritanical for kids.
There’s this one advice columnist named Dan Savage. I’m trying to find where he said this, but I’m failing, so forgive me if I misquote him. He came out to his mother by telling her that he likes shoving cocks and balls into his mouth. And I’m sitting here thinking that he could’ve just told her that he preferred the romantic company of gentlemen. [Facepalm.] Nope, he had to go all graphic with her.
The whole problem with accepting gayness, bisexuality, et al., is that it brings the reality of sex to the forefront, and with kids… well, I have no kids, but I’m sure it’s hard to talk to kids about sex.
They refer to my wife as my “roommate.” It’s all I can do to bite my tongue. I have ignored this for too long.
Because what the letter writer’s proposing is announcing that she has sex with a woman. Not that I judge, but again… kids. (I mean, if there’s a way to describe it that doesn’t involve sex, then that might solve the problem. But let’s face it: it’s hard. “So if they’re married, how are they more than friends, Mommy?”) If I were the letter writer, I wouldn’t see this as being rejected (although I understand why she feels that way). I’d see it as the parents putting up boundaries about discussing sexuality with their kids. Yes, it’s unfair that sex is societally taken for granted between husband and wife, but that’s just the way it is.
Maybe it’s just me. My parents did a number on my sexuality. Not getting into the fetish issues they created, when I was twelve, my mom told me about sex. She made it sound like… I don’t know… being rescued by a man? She said all that romantic crap. “When you find a man who really loves you, and after you’ve gotten married…” [groan–of course, after marriage–how virtuous], “then you’ll want to be intimate with him.”
I just stared at her.
It went downhill from there.
I remember that day. She took me to the park. It was a nice spring day. It was just the two of us. She felt the need to educate me. (I know, right? Just run.) I guess my periods had started and she figured we should have “the talk”.
(But regarding this letter, I imagine the kids with the nanny are way younger than twelve. I do believe that twelve-year-old kids are probably old enough to be told about the basics of gay sex.)
I didn’t really know about sex prior to that point because my upbringing was an emotional, turbulent rollercoaster of emotions, abuse, drama, and extreme dysfunction. Sex wasn’t something I had any understanding or awareness of. I still sort of don’t. This is what my therapist pointed out to me quite rudely last summer, before I fired her.
I suspect I’ve put up mental blocks. My dad used to walk around the house naked when I was a little girl. Gross, put some clothes on. He slept in the nude with the bedroom door wide open. I think it made the concept of sex seem yucky to me.
So, anyway, my mom was saying, “So the man puts his penis into the woman’s vagina,” and I just stared at her, my mouth agape in horror.
I said, “And then… they just stay like that for a while, or what?”
Apparently not, no. There’s not much holding still, from what I’ve learned since. [Eyeroll.] But my mom’s response was sort of awkward. She had no clue how to reply. Her eyes cast about, and she seemed at a loss. Ultimately, she said something like, “It goes in and comes out, yes.”
“How far in does it go? Just a little bit?”
“No, uh… n-no.”
And I was like, “Ew, gross, okay, if you say so. But it sounds painful.”
She turned green. “Uh, uh, uh… no.” And she added, “It’s about love! You’ll want to do it when you love someone. And, you know, long after you’re married.”
To which I replied, “So, I guess I could practice by kissing my husband on our wedding day, right? The minister would say, ‘you may kiss the bride,’ and we’d have our first-ever kiss.”
And she said, “Uh… no… you’ll have done way more than that by then. Ahem.” Her eyes got shifty again.
And that didn’t add up to me. Sex didn’t happen until marriage, but apparently, there was an awful lot of necking going on? I suspected she was leaving something out along the lines of, yeah, maybe most people don’t really wait until they’re married, much less until long after they’ve been married.
None of this is intended to be offensive to gay people. I think that if we lived in a society without kids, then yes, gay people should be openly who they are. But I don’t see having boundaries with kids (regarding sexual discussion and awareness) as being akin to discrimination or homophobia.