Because of my fluid sexuality and the fact that I only see some of my extended family every couple of years, I'm still coming out to some of them, most recently on Tuesday. My aunt, my mother's brother's wife, and my 16-year-old cousin passed through the city to look at colleges, and invited me to dinner.
The women in my family are not kind to one another. I have eight aunts and seventeen cousins, about half of whom are women, and I've never liked the dynamics or behind-the-back conversations. I blended in and seldom contributed, so I heard it all.
This ankle-biting was disguised as having the best interest of the children or the women themselves at heart. Aspersions were cast for having a live-in boyfriend, then for not bringing him around at the holidays. They noticed when kids were spoiled, and whose fault it was. Innocent vanities didn't escape judgement: the aunt who only buys name brand clothes, the cousin who dresses too provocatively for a family gathering.
You get the idea.
This particular aunt is an outcast on my mom's side, which I think may be the reason she's been so kind to me. She's more cosmopolitan than the other women in the family, she knows it, and they resent her for it.
I've always had a soft spot for my 16-year-old cousin. She was the youngest cousin with a gap of 18 years, so she didn't have any of the fun we did, growing up on vacations running around with cousins our own age. She was also an adorable baby at a time when I was starting to wonder if I'd have any of my own.
Shortly after our dinners arrived at the upscale hotel restaurant, I was talking about my sleep schedule. "I've gotten on a 10pm to 6am sleep schedule," I said, "Since my girlfriend Sonia was studying for a test earlier this summer. She's not studying anymore, but I'm still getting up early. I started a blog."
Then, of course, my cousin asked about my blog. In this way, I managed to come out to them without so much as allowing them a breath to process the information I'd shared and ask a more personal question. Who is this girlfriend? How long have we been together? How did we meet?
Even when I dated men, I resisted talking to relatives about my dating life. Thank God, there's only a few of them left who don't know about Sonia. This post-vacation "We've moved in!" postcard should do the trick.
When there was another lull in the conversation, my aunt asked about my work. I'd trained extended family members to do this. I helped start a nonprofit organization, and for years it's all I talked about. The classic distraction: "Hey! Look at all of the cool work I'm doing over here, so you won't ask me about my personal life."
Despite my awkward coming out, a few minutes later, my cousin dropped a comment about her theater teacher's girlfriend. Her theater teacher is a woman. When I told my brother about this exchange, he texted, "Yeah as long as the kids are good, then the old ones did enough."
The kids, the millennials like my cousin, are good. Before we said goodnight, she told me that I was her favorite cousin.
My revelation hadn't changed that.