The year of tantrums

I don’t intend to tell her, but she’s easy to talk to, and I’m confessional by nature.

“My parents don’t really speak to me right now.”

She switches from my right shoulder to my left, laughing, and says, “I remember every word from the severance letter my parents wrote me. I wish I still had a copy, but I was so pissed off at the time I think I burned it.”

My massage therapist used to be a professional ballerina. She is densely, astonishingly muscled, lithe and beautiful. Her hair long and white. Her voice soothing. I had thought it was time to teach, but instead I became a student, and then I was injured, and now I come to her. And I see the path. I see the road to this room. To the therapy my body and my spirit receive here.

She tells me how she marched in protest of the Vietnam War. How her parents wrote her a letter and called her a bad apple. It’s so odd how we must come to forgive them for the ways they are entrenched. For the terrible meanness of their certainty. Our character, I think, is formed by how we behave in the grey. By the choices we make when there is no clear answer.

Last night, Dan Savage said you give your family a year of tantrums. They have one year to adjust to the fact that you are gay, to question, to rail, to thrash and scream. And then it’s over, and you are treated with the respect and love you deserve, or you refuse to see them. My friends keep asking if I can do this when there’s an illness or a car wreck. Can you do this if there’s no reconciliation? But, I’m not doing anything. I’m not in a confrontation. I don’t wage power struggles. I’ve stepped aside. I’ve stopped playing. I don’t have to parent—to forgive tantrums—any longer.

They are missing this. My life. My partner. My family. They are missing it. Meanwhile, I am surrounded by tenderness. Isn’t that strange? That I have been found, as always, by people who will love me just as injured and fragile and happy as I am.


4 thoughts on “The year of tantrums”

  1. Beautiful. What you say is true. It’s your choice. They have made their choice.

    “And then it’s over, and you are treated with the respect and love you deserve, or you refuse to see them.” This. Why people continue to subject themselves to disrespect and discomfort is beyond me.

    An excellent post. Thank you.

  2. Thanks, Rebecca. You know the weirdest thing is that I feel so much better. I feel as though I have only recently been able to get as much air into my lungs as I need.

  3. Recognizing that it isn’t you in the confrontation, it’s just them by themselves screaming at nothing, and then stepping aside and refusing to engage any longer, is one of the hardest things to do. It took me a long time to realize that being who I actually am and living the life I want wasn’t selfish of me, but asking me to deny who I am and be who they want me to be is selfish of them.

  4. That’s well put, Chae. We have to expect kindness and authenticity in our relationships. It’s a foundational requirement. That seems pretty straightforward to me. But I re-evaluate my position a great deal. I don’t want to be warlike or entrenched either.

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