Years ago I learned to say, “My daughter has a girlfriend.” But it wasn’t an easy transition for me – and it certainly wasn’t easy for my daughter, partly because of me.
I was the happiest woman on earth when she was born. I felt we were instantly connected. I knew when to feed her and how to make her laugh. I knew what frightened her and how to comfort her. As she grew, I knew which subjects she loved in school and which boys she liked; she had lots of dates. I thought I knew everything about her. When she was accepted at a university across the country, I was unconcerned by the distance. I was confident that geography couldn’t crack the strong foundation of our mother-daughter relationship. I was proud and secure.
She was excited to be in college and challenged by her classes. She was dating college men, but her studies came first. She returned home for the holidays and left again, refueled by good food, lots of sleeping and a brief mother-daughter shopping spree.
Months later a friend of mine, whose daughter grew up with mine, called to chat. During the conversation, she made reference to my daughter being a lesbian. I gasped. I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. I excused myself and hung up. I went into the kitchen and drank a large glass of water. Then I called my daughter, and before I even said hello, I blurted out what I’d been told. She burst into tears and said, “I never wanted you to find out like this,” and we both cried. The pain of separation stretched across those once-insignificant miles.
I told her I loved her, but inside I was confused; how does someone go from dating men to dating women? I assured her I would accept whatever path she took, but my heart was racing as if someone had turned her into someone I didn’t know anything about. I was dumbfounded, but I forced myself to act politically correct: Why did it matter who she was dating? I pretended I was fine, but I felt insincere. When she began to date men again, I didn't ask her how she was feeling, even though I claimed to care about her happiness. I only talked around the subject, the way you might walk around a table in the center of a room. Once she said, “Mom, you fall in love with a person, not a gender,” and remarkably, that made sense.
But I never told her that I appreciated those words. I was so restricted in my kindness. There was a crack in our relationship, and we both felt it. We were halted and polite with each other, and the gap continued to widen. I cried about losing my daughter. Worse yet, I was too self-centered to realize that she must have felt like she was losing her mother.
As graduation approached, I became aware of a young woman who was always visiting her during school breaks. She was from Los Angeles, too, and I found it charming that they met when they were so far from home. Like my daughter, she was bright and ambitious and lovely and sweet. I just couldn’t dislike her.
When they told me they were moving in together, I calmly wrote my daughter’s name in my address book, along with her friend’s name… followed by the word, “roommate.” I knew she was more than a roommate, but I didn’t know what else to call her. Eventually, I stopped saying, “roommate” and instead referred to her as “my daughter’s pal.” But whenever I said “pal,” it sounded awkward, so I told myself they were “great companions,” and I thought about the enduring value of friendship. Later, I switched to the word “cohort.” I thought I sounded sophisticated, but I sounded foolish. If I used the word “partner,” I felt silly; after all, they weren’t in business together.
Miraculously, I got used to seeing them together, as a couple, because they made L.A. their home. They invited me to go places with them, and they seemed so relaxed when they draped their arms around each other’s shoulders. Sometimes they’d glance at me as they talked, to make sure I felt included. I was witnessing their happiness – and becoming part of it.
Finally, I let go of my struggle for needing to define their relationship. And one day it just happened: During an innocent conversation with someone I barely knew, I referred to her as “my daughter’s girlfriend,” and it sounded… right. From that moment on and for the next several years, I easily said, “My daughter has a girlfriend.”
Last year that changed. Now I can say, “My daughter has a wife!”
Charna Posin is a Heart Touch and Hospice volunteer. She holds a Certificate as a Patient Advocate, helping individuals and families navigate the complexity of our medical arena. Charna is also an award winning writer, often using her pen name, Hetsie Sapphire. She enjoys music, yoga, meditation, Ayurvedic cooking and reading. She is currently preparing for her Senior Advisor Certification and looks forward to guiding seniors as they navigate longer lifespans with more choices, obstacles and opportunities.