“Your parents are never going to accept me,” he said in a heart-breaking tone. I knew he was partially right, but I also knew my parents well and knew I could convince them.
“How can you be so sure? You don’t know them. They will accept you and love you,” I had said without letting him know that I was thinking too much. Deep inside, I knew they wouldn’t. They had their own reservations when it came to some things.
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I’ve always been a very sweet child, or so I was told growing up. Unlike my other siblings who were rebellious ever since they turned twelve, I was someone my parents loved to call their favorite. I excelled in academics, knew two foreign languages, played one musical instrument, and landed myself a job in one of the top investment banks in the country, and was pretty much independent since. However, my younger brother was someone who was into substance abuse and never had a hold of himself. My older sister dropped out of school to pursue music but her career hadn’t taken off apart from a few small gigs in bars and clubs. My aging parents were proud of my achievements and often hoped the other two were like me. Hence, they had certain expectations from me, and that often made me anxious. But things had never gotten out of hand, and I knew that they would be lenient with me considering my track record and how they felt about me.
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So, one day I decided I would drop the bomb on them. I first called my siblings over to my place and introduced them to him. At first, they were a little apprehensive, but when they saw how he meant the whole world to me and how we were so deeply in love with each other, they let it go. They were happy for us and had promised they would put in a good word for us with my parents. That surely wouldn’t work, I so knew it.
He liked my siblings too. He had bought presents for them and he felt relieved. Impressing my siblings was like half the battle won. That night, we sat down and talked about having a family and doing all the things we wanted to do in life. We made our bucket list, came up with baby names, and also mentally designed a beautiful house where we would live and grow our family.
A few weeks later, on a call with my mum, I told her casually about my “new friend” and hinted bringing him over for lunch some day. She agreed and I was over the moon, but there was still fear about what would happen, that threatened to bubble up.. I managed to suppress it and held on to it hoping that it didn’t come out.
Finally, the day arrived. I woke up that morning feeling very uneasy but I couldn’t let Mark see my own fear because that would break him too. So I put on my best smile, got ready, and we drove to my parents’ place. As we parked the car, I held his hand and said, “No matter what happens in there, I want you to know that I will always love you and will be there for you. So don’t get disappointed if things don’t go like we planned.” Squeezing my hand, he kissed my cheek. He had picked up some lilies for my mother and a bottle of Chenin Blanc for my dad.
My dad opened the door and ushered us in. It seemed normal. Mark was relieved, I wasn’t.
A few random conversations and two glasses of wine later, we headed into the dining room. My mom showed him a few childhood pictures of us which were hanging by the wall near the dining area, regaling him with pranks and habits and the like. Finally, we finally sat down to eat. The food looked and smelled great. However, I wasn’t sure if that was when I wanted to tell them about who Mark really was and what he meant to me. Until now, they thought of him as my friend.
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I had mentally rehearsed the scene a hundred times. I had pictured my mum throwing her hands up in despair while dad would probably leave the table and walk out. My siblings would probably console my mother, but she would not have been able to digest anything that was in front of her, including Mark.
After clearing my throat a little, I said, “Mum, dad, I have something to tell you guys.”
They had stopped eating and were chewing the food that was already in their mouths. My siblings had the expression on their face that translated to, “Oh, good luck sweetheart.”.
Clearing my throat to dislodge the sudden lump there, I said, “Mark and I are a little more than friends, you know.” They still seemed calm, maybe a little puzzled and bemused.
Dad said, “Okay. That’s great,” like he wasn’t sure where I was going with this.
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Taking a deep breath, I said, “I mean, we are a couple, we are seeing each other.” My heart was pounding, my hands were clammy, and the lump in my throat just seemed to grow in size as soon as I had managed to blurt out what I did.
There was absolute silence and my parents looked at each other in shock. Fifty two seconds after my announcement, they were still trying to comprehend what I had said. So I repeated myself, saying, “I hope you are alright with this, because this means a lot to us and to me”.
Right then, my mum spoke for the first time. “Alright?! Over my dead body! How could you? No! NO! That’s not true. Please tell me it isn’t,” she pleaded despairingly.
My father was short of words, but finally managed to say, “I… don’t know what to say. Since when have you both been…?”
“It’s been some time now, we wanted to tell you first before we announced it to the world,” I replied in a calm voice that was unlike mine.
He gaped at us in bewilderment. “Announce to the world? Are you out of your mind? No, this cannot happen,” he said standing up. He walked out just like I had imagined he would. I could hear my mum start to weep with her head down.
Mark was crushed and knew he would never get social acceptance from my family or from anyone else we knew of. That evening, we spent time wondering about how to deal with my parents. They were beyond hysterical and somehow I felt I had let them down. Accepting oneself is important and that was the one thing I couldn’t do now. They were unwilling to accept my choice and also who I really was. I would have been okay if I couldn’t get social acceptance for my relationship with Mark, but I wanted my parents to be more forthcoming in this time of need. That was exactly what they didn’t do.
All my life, they led me to believe that they would be fine with my life’s choices, and yet here we were, battling our differences. Accepting yourself becomes easy when people around you accept you for who you are.
My parents never budged, they refused to listen to me and accept us. They asked me never to visit them again and I was left hanging all by myself.
In the following weeks, Mark and I decided that we would probably give this a rest for a while and try to reconcile things with my family. That didn’t work either, because my parents were beginning to love me now but I just couldn’t get over Mark. I now longed for his love more than what my parents were giving me. I couldn’t stay apart and I knew it wouldn’t be right to leave him because of what people think.
That just wasn’t who I was.
I couldn’t fool myself anymore, and more importantly, I didn’t want to fool my parents. If there was one thing I wanted from them was for them to accept me for who I truly was. I couldn’t be what our society expected me to be.
The truth was I was gay and in love with another man.
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I wouldn’t trade that fact for anything else in the world. And no, I wasn’t going to fool myself or anyone else. I had come out and wanted to be accepted and loved. If I wasn’t going to get that from my own family, I was okay to live without them.
Some bravery kicked in, and one fine day, I walked into my parents’ home to invite them to our wedding. They didn’t budge and asked me to never come back. The slamming of the door of my childhood home behind me as I walked out, still rings in my ears. Holding back my tears and one last look at the house I was raised in, I drove away and never went back.
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It wasn’t easy in my house or outside it. I was judged, stereotyped, and mocked on many different occasions. The world out there is cruel and social acceptance is a far-fetched thought. I still live in the hope that one day my parents would come around and everything will heal itself. That I will feel loved and proud of who I really am, and that one day, I won’t have to live with the guilt of letting them down.
Because, I didn’t, I hadn’t.
My parents have abandoned me and people give us looks when Mark and I hold hands in public. I often get asked if I work in the fashion industry and girls want to befriend us because they think it’s cool. We are just like any other couple – we love each other and want to live in harmony.
But, that’s one thing that will never happen because the world will never accept him.