Things My Mother Couldn’t Teach Me
My mother has been teaching me since the moment I was born.
As an infant, she taught me that my fits would be answered with comfort.
As a child, she taught me how to ask questions, how to use manners, how to read.
As a teen, my mother taught me how to act as a lady:
To always sit with your legs closed, even while wearing pants.
And, that while wearing a skirt, how to bend down, not over, to pick something up off the ground.
And to always wear panty hose with dresses and skirts. And never let your navel show. And never wear dark eye liner on my lower eye lids. To shave my legs the day before going to the beach, or the salt water will sting the open wounds.
But, there was a lot that she could never teach me. Lessons I had to learn on my own.
She taught me to never let a lover hit me, to never let him speak badly to me. But when the abuse was unintentional neglect, she couldn’t teach me how to say, “that’s not enough.”
She told me to never make myself too available, to always keep a little something for myself. But she couldn’t teach me to stay away. She couldn’t teach me how to not give everything away up front.
My mother taught me that sex was dangerous. She taught me that, given the opportunity, a man would use me for his own gain. But she couldn’t teach me that sex happens without ulterior motives. She couldn’t teach me not to judge everyone who touched me with suspicion.
She could never teach me that it is okay to love myself. That I should study my body and to find what feels right. That I am deserving of gratification. That I have to stand up for myself and ask for what is due to me. She just taught me how to be resentful.
She couldn’t teach me how to be honest in my relationships. She couldn’t teach me how to work on things. She just taught me to pick up and start over again.
And now I stare into eyes that stare back into mine and ask me a simple question, that ask me why can’t you fight for us. And I can’t say anything. I can’t fight. Because it’s not in me. She never taught me how to fight.
She taught me how to walk away.
And now that I’m leaving you, I feel like I’m learning to walk on my own again. I stumble and I trip over every memory I have of you, over every part of me you’ve touched.
But this pain that I carry, it’s mine, it’s of my own doing. My mother taught me a lot of things, but she couldn’t teach me to love what’s good for me.
She taught me that it’s not a lesson until it hurts. And this f-cking hurts.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.