I can’t tell you how happy I am to have read Heather Barwick’s essay on the difficulties of being raised by lesbian parents: http://thefederalist.com/2015/03/17/dear-gay-community-your-kids-are-hurting/
Her article inspired me to write this one, because gay parents or no, this is America. In this country, it is everyone’s constitutional right – nay, civic duty – to bitch publicly about their deprived childhoods and shitty upbringings. Today, it’s my turn to represent a quiet and overlooked minority in this country. Societal norms and expectations have long restrained me from sharing my truth, which is this:
I was raised by loving, cisgender, heterosexual parents in a functional, middle-class household. My mother and father were law-abiding, affectionate, monogamous, ethical, non-violent, sober, and gainfully employed. It was a nightmare.
Sure, everything seemed okay when I was very little, but as I got older and started visiting other households, I began noticing the limitations inherent in my upbringing.
Not Enough Competition: There was a stunning lack of competition in our home which, as a patriot and a capitalist, I still find upsetting. I never got a day off from being grounded because it was my dad’s turn to have me over to his house and he wanted to be the “cool” parent. I was never able to coax my mom into buying me a better birthday present by bragging about the sweet boom box my dad already got me. Nope. My parents acted as a single monopoly instead of two separate businesses vying for my approval. Completely un-American.
Not Enough Guilt: My parents never thought they were depriving me of anything, so it was extremely difficult to manipulate them. As an eleven-year-old, I was unable to get the motorcycle I wanted – no, DESERVED – because my parents didn’t feel obligated to atone for any negligence or wrong-doing. Making sad puppy eyes at your daddy just isn’t enough to get a Harley Davidson unless he’s covering the shame of having a secret baby mamma in Tijuana. No secret siblings = no cool chopper.
Not Enough Angst: Throughout my life, I’ve always worked in the creative fields. I’ve painted, illustrated, and apparel designed until I settled into my long-term career of writer. But all of this has been done on a very mediocre, commercial level. While I’ve been able to carve out a decent living, I know I will never be truly ground-breaking. I’m not compelled to dig deep into my soul, because it’s so boring in there. What pain have I to tap into? What childhood traumas still haunt me? Who would ever be inspired by my memoir and its harrowing chapter recalling the time my family drove through the length of Nebraska while the car played a tedious audiobook?
Not Enough Blame: Unlike children of dysfunctional families, I have no one to blame for my bullshit. When I talk to shrinks about my family, they get bored and quickly move the topic along to the “real” issues. Apparently, my drinking, swearing, and general lack of self-censorship stems from something other than my parents forcing me to keep up piano lessons a few weeks longer than I wanted in order to prevent me from becoming a “quitter” of something “they already paid for.” A psychologist once diagnosed my condition as “Being an Asshole,” which, as it turns out, I’m not even allowed to blame on genetics.
Not Enough Freedom: In a two-parent household, there’s usually an adult at home, so you can’t get away with shenanigans. Sure, I would have loved to be like all the other kids in the neighborhood who were building pipe bombs, spray-painting buildings, and stealing cars, but no. I’ll never forget the feelings of isolation and dismay as my mother’s voice rang out over our front porch: “Marie can’t hotwire that Volkswagen with you today, Billy. She has to finish her homework.” It was geometry homework, by the way. I don’t even use geometry in my daily life.
Every day, I ached for leverage – an angle that would let me go nuts and act a fool. Even to this day, on the frequent occasions where I behave ludicrously or shamefully, the people who know me best say “What’s wrong with you? You were raised better than that.”
Of course I was.