Tuesday, January 15, 2008


My family is totally fucked up. My parents are small town and so white and Baptist and conservative and hunters/fishers and scared, so scared. We are big city, interracial, Unitarian Universalists with eastern religious influences, a same-sex couple, vegetarian - so everything that they are afraid of. We push them so far out of their comfort zone, and as they get older, all they want is to be comfortable.

They've came to visit us only once since college. When we bought our home almost a year ago, I put them on the spot and said "When will you come to see my new home?" They finally agreed to come this coming weekend. They've bought the plane tickets and arranged to leave work and everything. I was talking to my mom on Sunday to finalize the details and mentioned to her that we don't wear shoes in our home because of Indian tradition. She said okay and seemed fine. Then on Monday I got this email:

We have a problem with our visit. I talked to Dad about our conversation last night.
He doesn't like your no shoes rule. He doesn't want to worship Indian cultures.
You either have to accept us as us or not. We're not veggatarians, we're not Indian etc.
We are what we are, and always will be, and we like it. We are you parents and you invited us to visit, knowing what we are. If you're ok with this and you want us to visit, wonderful, nothing else said, if not, call Dad's cell phone and let him know what you want him to do.

Crazy, right? This is obviously about so much more than shoes. It's like shoes are the only thing they can fight back about.

I keep thinking things will be better between us when we have children, because my parents love babies. But I don't know. How will they handle their little brown grandchild?


Anonymous said...

Hey, I think this might have just been an issue of miscommunication. Your dad/mom might think that by not wearing shoes they are worshiping an Indian religion. We know this is not true but they don't. Maybe explain why no shoes is not the same as worshipping a religion. Make it make sense for them by using an example based in your mom's religion (being brought up Catholic I don't have an idea that would fit with a protestant religion but I'm sure there's one).

You are now a stranger to them. You haven't lived with them in years or been around them much. It's scary to visit strangers no matter if they are your own kids.

I imagine that they feel like you are judging them. It sounds ridiculous but they think you are judging their whole way of life and how they brought you up and who they are. I know that's not true but they don't. You are more worldly than they will ever have the chance to become and that scares them. They can no longer protect you from the pain and the things that happen to people when they are out in a big world. In small town, white, religious Florida, they know how to operate.

Remind them that you are who you are because of how you are raised and that all of this wouldn't be possible without them. You are a good person because they gave you that foundation. You are intelligent because they fostered a love of learning and exploring in you from an early age.

I know all of this is easier said then done but I think this is the only way to move forward. And if you have to buy your dad a pair of slippers so he's comfortable in the house, you should do it.


LKC said...

You are right, this isn't about shoes. I think this is about something much bigger. My partner's mother is southern conservative baptist so I completely understand. In my opinion, you have to stand strong and believe in who you are. After all, you aren't asking them to become Unitarian Universalist (coincidently we are also UUs), nor vegetarian (we are also vegetarian), you are asking them to respect you, your partner and your home, just as you would likely respect their home if you were to visit. So, I see it as an issue around respect, not acceptance.

Remember who you are as an individual and a couple and do what you feel is right. I am sure I'm not the only one that says you've got support out here in blogland.

Ali said...

I too think this is more than about shoes, but I would bend and let them wear them. It sounds by your description of them that they are bending on some level for their tastes. It is so hard in these situations to stay true to who we are and yet we want to be with (on occasion :-)) our families. Hope it goes well. Keep us posted.