My mother finally talks to me about sex
This morning, for the first time in my life, my mom and I had a conversation about relationships and sex.
It wasn’t so much a talk than a confrontation that required her to bring up the topic. It lasted only as long as the car ride to work, and involved many blocks of awkward silence.
My mom is not a very articulate person, so our arguments are never arguments - in that they’re not linear, goal-oriented dialogs. They’re more like her scattered lamentations met with either silence or resistance.
So even though I’ve recounted the conversation below, the one relevant detail was that she was confused, appalled, and very angry.
Mom: (angry outburst) Who is this guy you’re going out with? How come I don’t know anything about him? What does he do?
Me: What do you want to know?
Mom: Why? Because I’m your mother, I have the right to know!
Me: I meant what. What do you want to know?
Mom: I want to know about him, what does he do? Are you serious about this guy?
Me: He works in the film industry. He’s two years older. Yes we’re serious.
Mom: Okay then I want to meet his parents. I want to talk to this guy and I want to talk to his parents. Your dad also agrees with me. What kind of guy would do this sort of thing, take you to his place to stay the night?
Me: Yeah I don’t think this conversation is about you meeting his parents. I think we need to talk about me, my body, my decisions.
Mom: No why can’t I meet his parents??
Me: Sure you can. We can arrange that. But why’re you so agitated about what I do with my relationships? I’m old enough to make my own decisions.
Mom: Don’t think I don’t know you already had sex. You have no shame!!
Me: Yeah I have. He’s not the first.
Mom: YOU’RE A GIRL, how can you do these things with your body? You’ve only been going out for a short while and you give yourself away like that? What if one day he says he wants to break off, then you’re on the losing end!
Me: I do what I’m comfortable with, and what I’m happy about. I only go out with people who can respect that. I make my choices independently, and it’s great.
Mom: Don’t you have any sense of morality? Sex is a sacred thing, and you don’t even know if yours is true love!
Me: No it’s not. Sex is not sacred. Sex is sex. People have it when they’re truly in love, whatever that means, and people have it when they’re not. Many people have sex whenever they want.
Mom: No they don’t.
Me: Sure, maybe not from your social circle. But just because you don’t know people who have casual and safe sex, doesn’t mean it’s non-existent.
Mom: You’re so cheap.
Me: I’m happy.
Mom: Sure. Just don’t regret it when you get so many diseases.
Me: Why don’t we have this conversation when you’ve actually done some research.
Mom: You think you’re so clever.
Me: Actually, I do. I’ve done my homework on the topic, and you haven’t.
My parents love me to bits, I’ve never doubted that.
Growing up, my mom was the person who took me to the wet market so I could learn that the pretty root vegetable in my soup was lotus root, and it came from mud. She organized my sleepovers and endured my questions while she made cookies in the kitchen. My dad and I shared car ride after car ride of Westlife sing-alongs. He taught me how to play basketball and bought me all the fudge sundaes my mom didn’t let me have. He was my special friend, my penpal, my life coach, the good cop.
But this was not concern. This was moral panic, and it was gendered.
I’m saying this pre-emptively because I’m tired of being told to be more forgiving. I’m tired of giving people a free pass at bigotry, just because we’re connected by blood, just because they’re older, just because they mean well. I need space to say things and be angry, even if I’m interested in working things out with my folks eventually.
And I deserve to be angry.
My body deserves to be treated with respect. My body deserves autonomy. It deserves to seek pleasure from equally enthusiastic individuals, and take it. It deserves to speak for itself.
Nobody speaks for my body but me. My partners will ask just me for permission to my body, and nobody else is qualified to give or withhold that permission. Not even the person who birthed me.
And when I’m being treated in a way that violates this truth, damn right there will be resistance. I deserve to scream my “fuck you"s at a meet-the-parents exercise that assumes my partner needs the approval of anyone else but me. I will display my "fuck you"s as much as I want because nobody is good enough or not good enough for me - I am not a prize, I don’t have a price tag - and even so, I will be the judge of what I’m worth. I will be as cheap or as fucking pricey as I want.
What does it mean to grow up?
On the worst days, I desperately wish I were more like my sister. She’s perfect. She’s a medical student, a leader in the church she goes to, a great dancer, a popular person, and one of the nicest most compassionate people I know. She’s never had a problematic relationship with my parents, and they trust her and listen to her.
I was the one who became distant when I grew up and tossed almost everything they believed in about love, life, people, and authority. I refused to do science in junior college. I got into a relationship with another woman. I started volunteering for queer organizations. I dropped out of law school. I got a tattoo, a tongue piercing (which I later removed), dyed my hair blue. And while I did all that, I was decidedly not a good virgin. I was the disappointment and the punishment.
That’s just the way it is. My sister’s values coincide smoothly with my parent’s, so she’ll never know the frustration of being insubordinate. And I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t give care about my parents and their approval. I cry alone because I’ve tried so hard to live in their universe, but they’ve never given mine so much as a cursory nod.
I also cry because I want everything. I want my body to be left alone, I want to make my own decisions and I want my parents to accept them. I feel that these aren’t too much to ask for, but I’ve learnt that reality doesn’t give a shit, and that part of growing up is getting used to making unpopular choices.