Ahhh, the parents' reaction to the engagement! I thought I would empty my somewhat befuddled head onto this blog post for those of you who have asked, and for those of you who may be interested.
As those of you who have followed us for awhile will know, my family (my parents)'s reaction to my coming out was not a positive one. In fact it was only a few months ago that I was once again requested to 'make sure nothing is put on Facebook' about our relationship. Strange really when my Mum was starting to hang out more frequently with us and I thought things were getting better. And she isn't even on Facebook.
Turns out it may not 'get better'. What gets better, or was getting better was the way my Mum was handling the situation. However, that was very quickly undone with one call on my arrival back from the US.
We knew it was coming, I had been frantically checking my inbox to see what response my 'I'm getting married' email went down. Now I know email seems cold - it felt cold, but it also felt safe. Safe in the sense that there was no initial explosion, safe in the sense that if I was logged into my email there was no reaction and safe in the fact that I had been able to successfully say my piece without tears or upset. What I hadn't thought through was the nervousness I would have waiting for a response, any response - had she seen it, hadn't she. Should I send another one?!?!
Turns out it took 2 days to formulate a one line reply that included a recurring theme 'If you love us you will not put it on facebook'.
I have analysed, thought about, put myself in her shoes and done everything I can to figure out why others finding out would be SO bad. Would people turn up with pitch forks, would she be shunned by her friends, would our extended family disown us! And then I thought about the answers - pitch forks aren't very common so that's unlikely, her friends aren't on facebook, I don't see them so chances of them finding out are slim and even if they do - will they care?! And finally the family - well I haven't seen many of them in YEARS! I understand it is different for my Mum but again they aren't on facebook & I'm not sure they remember I exist so surely she can remain vague when discussing me. So very little drama that I could see.
So on arrival back, after a overnight flight from New York where once again Laura and I got NO sleep, partly from the screaming baby and partly because we once again fell foul of 'just one more film'. We wandered to the tube bleary-eyed only to go 4 stops and get told 'end of the line'. The rest of the journey was a blur of replacement buses and tubes going 2 stops - it meant our arrival at the flat was a very tired one!
However in order to be able to fall asleep I knew I had to make the call to my Mum. I took a deep breath, had Laura sit beside me and called. It went as expected, lots of tears, lots of 'why do this to us', a lot of comments from her I don't wish to dwell on. She wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise. Worse still, the call ended with 'please don't discuss this again'.
I couldn't go to sleep on that so I rang my English Aunt, I got a much better reception, lots of congratulations and excitement - she even cried (with happiness), and she spoke to Laura to congratulate her! My heart stopped racing and I was back feeling like I wasn't the worst person ever. My English cousins were great too - in fact, I'm not sure there would have been a different reaction if Laura was a man - and that meant a lot, especially considering I hadn't discussed it with any of them before, so it was a roll of the dice how they'd react.
Then there was my sister - she was happy for us, her support means more than anything. She wasn't happy for the drama it was causing with my Mum but she also has a lot on her plate right now so I understood.
And then I fell asleep. My brain whirring.
The thing is Laura has taught me to be strong, to not feel guilty and to be proud of myself and us. And I am. Wholeheartedly. And with this beautiful ring acting as a symbol of our unity I felt differently after this call with my Mum. I was no longer feeling devastated, I was feeling frustrated. Mainly at the fact that she hadn't said congratulations but also at the fact that she thought I should keep my happiness private.
I woke up and showered - I may not have been allowed to call so I took the decision to go on Facebook and come out. To do the one thing my Mum had feared would spark the end of the world as we know it. And NOTHING happened, as expected. As I'd told her all along.
Well, nothing except this:
I can deal with that!
But then the texts came - sometimes modern technology is a danger Imagine what you wouldn't say if in order to do it you had to stop and write a letter, buy a stamp and post it. The throwaway nature of a text is never more evident than when my Mum gets mad. Unfortunately the madness was aimed at my darling Laura. The most unpleasant and hurtful things that she did not deserve came through but Laura handled them WAY better than I ever could, standing up for us and not letting herself be bullied.
The next day I went to work feeling slightly drained, both emotionally and physically, but there is nothing like 300 work emails needing your attention to get your head focused. At lunch though I stared at my phone - should I call Mum, I debated and came to the conclusion that no action would be taken until I spoke to Laura. I stayed strong and it felt weirdly good.
Tuesday came and I still hadn't heard anything, this time I decided to have my phone off. I don't know if I wanted to hear; I wanted an apology, but I feared another call like before so I threw myself into work. Then on arrival home a package - I knew it was bad before opening it. It ended up being a load of bills/letters/flat stuff (from the property I let in Scotland, my Mum thankfully looks after it as I have very little idea of what my letting agent tells me in her Scottish accent :D ) my Mum had put a note in to say 'you can deal with it'. But no sooner had I opened it I got a call from her.
Laura says she's never been prouder of me at this point, but it's a blur in all honesty - I took the call and I stood firm. No tears this time. I told her I was happy and proud and the only person judging me was my immediate family, not everyone else. And then she said 'well thank you for not putting on Facebook'....silence...'erm Mum I put it on facebook on Sunday, like I told you I was going to', silence, 'did no-one call?' silence.......
And there we have it! No Mayan Apocalypse take two after all!
I think it really did take realising that no-one else cares for her to back down. (As Laura has always said, I have to give her credit!)
From then, I received intermittent texts, always polite and generally asking mundane things. The storm had ceased.
Those who follow us on Twitter know I headed home on Friday night as I felt I should speak to them face to face - especially as I hadn't actually spoken to my Dad since the announcement.
I played loud music all the way home instead of running through the numerous disaster scenarios that could be awaiting me. I arrived and nothing! By nothing I mean no explosions, I was hugged, welcomed, helped in and then given a Diet Coke. No drama.
That evening I was asked about the holiday - light and fluffy 'How was New York? What was weather like? What was the best part of New York? What did you eat? Was it like the films?' The whole time I could see my Mum looking at my ring. It got late so we went to bed. Nothing more than that.
When I awoke on Saturday things were still pleasant, my Mum said my ring looked very pretty & the diamonds were bigger than her eternity rings. I took the compliment. Then a few hours later came 'Well do you have any photo's?' I wasn't sure exactly what that meant so I showed her the ones I had on my phone - a mix of Big Jud's big-as-your-head burger and our engagement photos - no real reaction except 'that's nice'.
I love my parents but they play a good game! I swung between wanting to shout 'Can someone please say congratulations!?' to 'Maybe this is one step at at time'. I spoke more about America, I included Laura's name frequently, I wore my ring proudly the entire time and I didn't cry once!
Who knows where that leaves us, they are off on holiday for 2 weeks, one with my English Aunt and Uncle and one with my Sister & her boyfriend, I am hoping with those people as company they may be forced to acknowledge it. I'm not holding out for a congratulations but I am hoping the next time I see them I can bring up the wedding.
I don't think I/we are any closer to acceptance but at least for now the shouting's stopped. And I for one am making sure to enjoy the opportunities I do get to talk about the engagements and wedding plans. More and more I am accepting that only I can make sure I'm happy and I will stay around those who add to the happiness not those who take it away. I used to think that this attitude is selfish, but I now think it's best form of self defense and the only way i can protect my relationship and happiness.