Under the Radar. And Possibly on the Down-low

by Marinka on October 31, 2009

Saturday is the weekend when no one really reads blogs, probably because they’re all Orthodox Jews.  Which makes Saturday the perfect day to post things that make me somewhat uncomfortable, things that I do not think will get a lot of attention.  And possibly to confess to a few drive-by shootings.

But that’ll come later.

Today, I wanted to tell you something that I did yesterday, something that still  really bothers me.

My 8 year old son has a fucking annoying habit of speaking in a high pitched voice.  He does it for fun and there are times when I think that I can actually hear my skull fracturing as a result.  But when he adds a semi-butterfly dance to it, fluttering his hands and sort of prancing, I totally lose my shit.  And I did yesterday.

I’ve asked him not to do it before, because it is annoying, but he does it every morning.  He thinks it’s funny. He probably thinks that my being so annoyed by it is funny.

And I wanted him to stop. And I did it by saying, “when you do that, it looks really gay.”

Yes, in 2009, in NYC, in Greenwich Village, I told my son that a bit of playacting made him look gay.  To be fair, if this is about fairness, I did not use “gay” as a synonym for “stupid”, as so many teenagers do.  No, I meant that it made him look homosexual.

I am trying hard to avoid a Jim Baker-like crying fiasco where I ask people, including my son, for forgiveness.  But his reaction haunts me.

He stopped. And he became serious.  Like the Wii-is-broken serious.

“I am not gay,” he said.

“There is nothing wrong with being gay,” I told him.  Even though a mere two minutes earlier I implied the exact opposite.

“I know,” he said. “But doing that doesn’t make me gay.”

I swear this isn’t a mea culpa.  It’s more than that.  It’s my trying to figure out why I said what I did, how I knew that saying that something “looked gay” would be the perfect way to get him to stop doing it.

I told John and he went to his desk and emailed me a “I can no longer be your fag and I’ve alerted headquarters” letter.

I emailed another friend and he suggested several interesting and rather kind possibilities for my reaction.

But I’m struggling with it.

When I was in my 20s, I read Edmund White’s The Beautiful Room is Empty.  It is maddening when people say “this book changed my life” (especially when the book was written by Nora Roberts) but that book reminds me of the unknown struggle that so many teenagers, coming to terms with their sexuality, face.  It’s sobering.  I think about that book frequently, and I feel like I betrayed its spirit.

I’ve often said that I didn’t care if my children grew up to be gay, so long as they were happy.  And I still believe that to be true.

But if it’s true, why did I, in a moment of irritation, say “it looks really gay”?

One year ago ...

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

JulieBouf October 31, 2009 at 10:10 am

For a SAHM of small children, Saturday it the easiest day for me to blog and nobody reads my blog anyway so it doesn’t really matter when I post.

What you said isn’t really all that bad so stop beating yourself up (Well yes it was bad, but not BAD) A really awful mom would have said, “Stop it right now before I drive my car into a wall and end it myself”…to a 4 year old. We weren’t driving at the time though, so I think that was forgiveable, too.

PS I do have secret aspirations for my son TO be gay so that I don’t ever have to deal with a daughter-in-law. Another man I can handle, but I vow to be the only woman in his life!
.-= JulieBouf´s last blog ..He does all of his own stunts! =-.


Tiffany October 31, 2009 at 10:20 am

I have no psychoanalyzation for you. But. Remember this….at least you acknowledge there IS something wrong with what you said. At least you acknowledge it wasn’t okay. Do you know how many parents say that to their kids all the time, and MEAN IT?! Do you know how many parents ram homophobia into their children’s heads before they’re even out of diapers? So although yea, it wasn’t the best thing you’ve ever said…at least you admit that.
.-= Tiffany´s last blog ..It’s Hard To Save The World From My Living Room =-.


October 31, 2009 at 10:24 am

Every single one of us parents does or says something that makes us cringe with horror every once in awhile. What’s unusual about you is that you’re honest about it and also you’re genuinely trying to figure it out. It was a bad moment, which -because we’re all fucking human- we all have, but your response to it is more than that (um, superhuman?).
If it’s any consolation, my son speaks in a weird high-pitched babyvoice frequently, and I’m sure I would say anything to make. it. stop. That particular comment wouldn’t work since he doesn’t know what “gay” means (although he has asked questions like “is allen rodney’s wife?”), but if it did I’m sure it would fly out of my mouth sooner or later.
.-= Catherine ´s last blog ..Reader Response =-.


Maravonda October 31, 2009 at 10:42 am

Stop beating yourself up. It was one of those stupid things moms say when the have Had it Up To HERE with the behavior at hand. And while it was an unfortunate choice of stereotypical wording, would it have been less offensive to tell him that it makes him look like he rides the short bus, or to say, you look like a retard, stop it! Gay is just a hot button word. It doesn’t mean that you you are prejudiced. And having said that, don’t say it again, do you want your kid to grow up wierd?


Lisa Rae @ smacksy October 31, 2009 at 10:45 am

Since apparently children learn more from what they see us do, than what they hear us say – you said something crappy but what you did was admit you were wrong, apologize and have a discussion about it. That’s a good role model. (Plus it won’t be long before he figures out you’re just a beard for daddy.)
.-= Lisa Rae @ smacksy´s last blog ..Smacksy Saturday Photo: Happy Halloween =-.


sharon October 31, 2009 at 10:52 am

I’ve said stuff like that before to my older daughter just to get her to stop what she’s doing because I’m about go psycho on her. Don’t worry, you can pay for the therapy when he’s a teenager. Trust me on that one.


A Mom on Spin October 31, 2009 at 11:18 am

No words of wisdom for you, but if that the worst thing you ever say to your child, you’re miles ahead of me, my friend. . .
.-= A Mom on Spin´s last blog ..Happenstance? Or Twilight Zone??? =-.


Elise October 31, 2009 at 11:38 am

You saw something that other people might judge as being unacceptable. You wanted him to stop doing it so that he would not have to suffer severe, hurtful judgments of others. You were trying to protect him.
You did say the most effective thing to get him to stop. And it took the experience to an entirely new level. It sounds like he spoke from his higher self. And when that moment of clarity comes from our children, it makes us feel inadequate and horrible which you obviously aren’t because you feel so bad right now.
You will choose your words more carefully. Forgive yourself now. Choose to see how much love you feel for him. Maybe you should have a silly dance party now. And invite John.


Pseudo October 31, 2009 at 12:40 pm

What I found interesting is when you said that you knew this would be the thing that would get him to stop. And that is probably exactly why you said it. Not in a horrible mother way, but in a moment of pure survival, needing irritation to come to an end moment. Other than that, I don’t have much for you.

My kids are 20 and 17. Unfortunately, there is a lot I wish I could take back at this point. The teen years got the best of me at the beginning and left me hanging by a thread.

Last. Why is blog reading so ghostlike on Saturday? It is my blog reading day. The day i catch up. My job is not one that allows time and even if it did there is a block on social networks. Plus, if we got caught it would be a big bad deal.

I think your son will be fine, but I worry about your getting kicked out of gay friendships from the headquarters itself.
.-= Pseudo´s last blog ..Manson Murders and Matching VW’s =-.


Andrea's Sweet Life
October 31, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Here’s what stands out for me, when you said that to your son (and let’s face it, he’s bound to hear variations of that thrown around at school, at some point) look at his response:

“I know,” he said. “But doing that doesn’t make me gay.”

Do you know how many kids don’t realize that there is a distinction? Seriously. That is a testament to what you’ve taught him. Look at what he knows! Look how he responds! He’s not even offended! How many kids would be able to react that way?

I hope John forgives you and reinstates himself as your gay, because, lookit.
.-= Andrea’s Sweet Life´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: Oh JOY! =-.


tena October 31, 2009 at 1:22 pm

I’m apparently the queen of inappropriateness. I got my ass chewed this week for calling my kids ‘assholes’. So, it’s probably not any consolation that I would have said the same thing to my son in the same situation.

I understand the you just don’t want him to be misconstrued as something he doesn’t want to be thought of as if he’s not, but if he is- it’s totally fine, right? I’ve just confused myself.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that- SERIOUSLY.


marathonmom October 31, 2009 at 1:52 pm

You probably just had a bad xanax or something. I would’t worry about it. I mean ya live in the village – not Alabama. I don’t think anyone would think anything of it.


Miss Britt
October 31, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I don’t know why you said it either.

But I do know that the fact that your 8 year old kid said “doing that doesn’t make me gay” is a very, very good sign.
.-= Miss Britt´s last blog ..If you saw this, would you hire me? =-.


Beth October 31, 2009 at 5:36 pm

We’ve all said things we regret to our kids. We don’t all own up to doing so. The bottom line is that your son was on your nerves and he continued to press that button even after you told him. Not that his behavior excuses yours, but it does explain your vulnerability in snapping on him.

Like you, I don’t care if my kids are gay or not but I do care that they are happy with themselves. Still they are kids. They can be annoying as hell.

BTW, I once told my son that I wanted to go back in time and leave him on the hospital steps. I’m sure that comment really built up some self-esteem…
.-= Beth´s last blog ..Love, Grandparent-Style =-.


anna see October 31, 2009 at 6:01 pm

ouch. we all make mistakes. i understand why you aren’t feeling too hot about this right now but i believe that your friends, your beliefs and your daily actions FAR outweigh this one remark. your son gets that, too!
.-= anna see´s last blog ..So Many Skittles, So Little Time =-.


October 31, 2009 at 6:18 pm

… and by gay you mean …

really utterly skull cracking annoying? right?

that’s what I thought, end of session … see you next week!
.-= SweetPeaSurry´s last blog ..Dead Tv’s and Super Dogs! =-.


October 31, 2009 at 7:20 pm

We’ve all been there, trying and trying to get our kids to stop doing something we suspect they are only continuing to do because it drives us so crazy. I finally told my already money-obsessed son he has to pay me a dollar every time he says penis-head.

You knew it would make him stop so you said it. Like someone else said, the fact that you are now berating and analyzing yourself means you can probably move on. I also commend your son for not thinking gay meant stupid.

After all, you still let gay people use your bathroom, right? (sorry, that was that judge’s proof he was not a racist after he refused to perform an interracial marriage)
.-= Nicole´s last blog ..Ghost Cake =-.


Coma Girl
October 31, 2009 at 9:28 pm

You said it because you wanted him to stop and thought that an 8-year old boy would say “eww, I don’t want to be gay, so I will stop it mother”. And then he would get you a cocktail.

But he’s smarter than you.

My husband says that he doesn’t care if any of his kids are gay…as long as they’re rich.
.-= Coma Girl´s last blog ..Balance =-.


Hoodchick October 31, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Me and Besties two male dogs were drinking out of the same little deep spot in a creek the other day, and I don’t know why but I said “Are you guys kissing?” Neither has talked to me since…


mysuestories October 31, 2009 at 11:17 pm

It’s all fun and games till
a) Someone pokes an eye out
b) MY son acts gay!!!!


anymommy October 31, 2009 at 11:44 pm

I have no advice, but can’t you somehow atone to John? Polish his sparkly shoes or something? He’s my second favorite blog persona, after your papa.
.-= anymommy´s last blog ..10/31/09 =-.


the mama bird diaries
November 1, 2009 at 12:01 am

my daughter has this laugh that she does that is SO ANNOYING that I would say anything to make her stop. Don’t read too much into what you said. You said it b/c you knew it would work. Apologize to your son and forgive yourself.


CharmingBitch November 1, 2009 at 12:35 am

Listen, I have a 6 year old that does something very similar, generally early in the morning when…well. When he REALLY REALLY SHOULD NOT. I’m sorry you said something so unfortunate but I think it’s very much like spanking: you did what would work in the moment to make it stop. I think we have ALL resorted to whatevermakesitstopnownownownonow and it doesn’t make us bad parents or homophobes or bigots; it makes us human.

His reaction is pretty much proof positive you have done a bang up job raising him so please forgive yourself and let it go.
.-= CharmingBitch´s last blog ..Friends Forever =-.


November 1, 2009 at 8:53 am

hi, just a note to let you know i work at headquarters and i’ve intercepted john’s email and filed it under the stack of work orders. so once we’ve fixed that whole international-gay-killings-stonings-imprisonments-forced-gender-
breast-cancer-AIDS – thing, we’ll get right to his request! thanks!


Aunt Becky
November 1, 2009 at 10:47 am

What did you say again? Bring back pictures of horse asses.
.-= Aunt Becky´s last blog ..Go Ask Aunt Becky =-.


November 1, 2009 at 11:34 am

I like it when you get all serious on us. Makes me want to reach out and hug you. I don’t know why I say half the stuff to my children either… I blame it on my mother.
.-= OHmommy´s last blog ..An apology to the 3rd child on Halloween day =-.


Quart November 1, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I’ll echo what Andrea said – rather than beat yourself up, you should be pleased that your son responded the way hen did. The fact that an 8 year-old had such a grown up reaction to your comment speaks volumes to your abilities as a parent.


Heather, Queen of Shake Shake November 1, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Sometimes I see my oldest doing something weird, annoying, effeminate (take your pick) and it runs through my head – you look gay! As if there is something wrong with it.

I can intellectualize it all I want – the person who is like a 2nd mother to me is gay, she’s fine! More than fine! All the gay people I know are fine and live happy lives. My sons would be fine and lead happy lives too. I can tell myself all of that, intellectualize my reaction, laugh it off. But intellectualizing only goes so far and it doesn’t resolve the initial feeling. Where in the hell does it come from?

I’m not helping, I know. Just empathizing.
.-= Heather, Queen of Shake Shake´s last blog ..If You Read This, You May Want To Cut Me. But Don’t, Because I’m Cursed. =-.


reiven November 1, 2009 at 2:59 pm

For thousands of years in the western world the image of the strong, rich, handsome heterosexual male was the ideal. Everyone else was considered “less than”. Unfortunately, as a culture, we haven’t changed that much. We consciously and socially believe in equal rights for everyone, but in our subconscious we are all bigots. I say that because if it comes down to “us or them”, “we” are going to be in the “right.” Being right means being normal, average, fitting in, it equates to being safe and part of the group. It is not desirable (or safe) to be out of the norm. Must I explain that “normal” is what is average for the group?
No matter how many gays; blacks; mexicans; fat people; retards, etc. we know and love we are always going to call someone gay or fat to hurt them, and it does hurt because it makes them feel like an outsider, and no one wants to feel like an outsider. It’s primal, a safety mechanism built into our psyche for survival.
In order to survive the morning you said something that was guaranteed to make him stop. He replied in a sophisticated manner that struck a chord in your soul. I think it was all very human and beautiful. A story that makes us all stop, think and question our behavior. The stuff that a better life is made of.


Susan November 1, 2009 at 4:57 pm

I am Lutheran, not an Orthodox Jew, and I’m reading this on Sunday so I can still say I have a life, right? You didn’t say there was anything wrong with being gay. That doesn’t mean you want your son behaving in that stereotypical, effiminate, pure-give-away I’m flagrantly gay even though I’m only eight and my sexuality is latent right now way. Just like I don’t want my Kazakhstan born son to act like fucking Borat. Or for my husband to act like a cheating asshole, (oops, too late). If I’m doing something that will make people judge me in a negative way, please let me know. You did him a favor.
.-= Susan´s last blog ..My Room at the Home Will Be Ready When?: =-.


Swistle November 1, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Here is my guess: it’s that that’s the reaction you’re worried other people will have. It’s a panicky protect-the-child response. That’s my guess.
.-= Swistle´s last blog ..Four Things =-.


Janet November 2, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Oh honey, my heart broke for you when I read this post. I also have an 8 year old son and sometimes I find myself really upset when I catch him wearing my heels or doing something…um…feminine? I dunno what other word to use. Based on a hundred other little things about him and the way he acts, I’m pretty sure my son will not turn out to be gay, but I am the FIRST to say that if my child did turn out gay, I’d be completely okay with it and I’d love him exactly the same. And I know in my heart that I mean what I say. But although I’ve never said “you look gay” I HAVE said, “Heels are for GIRLS” and other things along those lines so he KNOWS that type of behavior bothers me. Thanks to your post, I just sat down to analyze why it bothers me for him to act that way and I just realized why…it’s not that him turning out to be gay would bother me or hurt me or make me love him any less, it’s knowing that we live in a world where, although we’ve made a lot of progress, many still do not fully accept the homosexual community. The world’s already hard enough as it is without adding the pressures and prejudices that gay people struggle with on a daily basis, and I SO do not want that for my son. So I get you. Try not to beat yourself up about it and take the steps you’ve got to take to mend your son’s heart and make sure he knows that you regret what you said and didn’t really “mean it”. Maybe you can “flutter” with him tomorrow morning?


Joie November 2, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Ok, so your Saturday post has been read. As for feeling bad about saying “gay” as in Homo and no stupid…don’t worry. I do worse occassionally. Like as in my co worker who sits right by me is gay. Has been a happy gay for years. She has two kids. Just got gay divorced…which is stupid, because they should be able to get normal divorced like straight people…but I guess any kind of divorce sucks…I digress. Anyways, sometimes when her, another assistant and myself are chatting, I will slip and say “that’s Gay” or “don’t be so gay” in front of her. She has never commented that I say that. But I do. I try to cover it up, but you know what an ass you end up sounding like when you try to cover up something. Yeah, I am an ass.


November 6, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I’m bisexual. And sometimes – sometimes I think that. I think – that looks so gay! That makes you seem gay! You’re acting GAY GAY GAY! and I don’t mean it in a nice way.

And then I remember.

Hey, I’m kind of gay. So what am I saying?

I’m with a few other people who said it here – it’s a subconscious thing, it’s something that’s very very deeply ingrained and suggested in layers and layers of undertones throughout our society. Our progressive, open minded social-rights society. It’s still there. And sometimes, when you’re just trying to keep from smacking your kid so he’s JUST STOP IT ALREADY, it can come out.

You’ve had a great response to it. your son had a great response to it. I think you’ll all be OK 🙂

I hope John forgives you.
.-= MommyGeek´s last blog ..GTT: Job Venting (a guest post) =-.


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