What I Think of This
The server walked up and surveyed our table.
“What do you think of this?” she asked.
I had my head down trying to sort out what seemed like a byzantine list of options. To assemble my custom burger, I had to choose from five different categories of exotic ingredients. I was overwhelmed on page two of a four page menu.
“It’s a lot to read,” I mumbled.
“Not the menu,” she barked, “This. What do you think of this?”
I looked up. She jerked her head and waved a large hand with glittering fingernails toward my son and his boyfriend. She pointed directly at each of them in response to my blank expression. “This,” she repeated, “What do you think of this?”
The server was about my age and over six feet tall. She was a powerful presence dressed in drag – broad shoulders, pink sequined sweater, bejeweled cropped jeans, and impossibly high heels. She was acting a part in the whole experience, the sparkling outfit, the tough demeanor. But the sassy tone could not mask a deep weariness in her voice. Our eyes met. She waited.
We were at a diner that called itself the “Gayest Place to Eat” in our city. My sister had searched for a fun place to have lunch. And so here we were, my sister and I sitting on one side of the booth and my son and his boyfriend on the other. We had been laughing over the menu, teasing my son that he should order the “gayest” drink or the “gayest” appetizer. All four of us were trying to outdo one another in creating the perfect combination of entrée, side and beverage from the endless flow charts. We had been oblivious to the server until now.
Although she had startled me, I knew by this point that she was not asking about the menu. But I didn’t have a ready answer to her question. No one had asked me this before. My son came out at the end of his freshman year of college. He is a very verbal, open person and we are close to him, so there was no long, drawn out secret and reveal. He talked to us a few months after he knew and we shared in many early and ongoing conversations; listening as he worked through his own understanding and self awareness.
I confess my initial reaction was not tidy. I was a liberal parent forced to apply her declared values in an actual and not theoretical situation. No one rehearses for this. He told me at 10:00 pm one night. I said a bunch of ridiculous things (“Will you still bring someone home for Christmas?”) and left on a business trip the next morning. I flew three hours in a daze and then sat in a parking lot for three more hours. I cataloged all the narratives that might be shifting, all the decisions made and unmade, calculating exponential loss and fear and worry.
Then I thought of my son. Was he any different than he had been at 9:59 pm? Was his future any less dazzling? I could see him in my mind, the delightful boy he had been and the amazing man he was becoming. His story, the one he would write on his own, was just getting interesting. My part in his story had evolved into a more supporting role, but the script to our relationship hadn’t changed. In fifteen hours I had moved through a million possible scenarios and ended up the same proud mom of the same great, gay kid.
The server was still looking at me expectantly. I thought later of all the things I should have said: clever things, Eleanor Roosevelt things, enlightened-earth-mother things. But this whole reverie was happening in seconds and too soon after my menu confusion. So I blurted out: “I think it is wonderful.” She made a “humph” sound and glared sternly at the boys. “You are young, pretty and lucky. You have no idea what it was like” and walked away. Assumptions, reality, difference, similarity, change, no change – the past flashed forward, the future looped behind. For an instant, an ocean of history lapped like waves at our toes and then receded.
I turned back to my menu because I really had no idea what I was going to order.