Difficult Conversations With My Mother
Having a real ass conversation with my parents is never easy. Sure, we can talk about how Mom over salted the grits that morning or how my dad has more beer than water in the refrigerator, but we can rarely go beyond that. So, that time I tried to explain to my mother how forcing me into girdles before puberty completely destroyed my self-esteem for decades? Fail. That time I tried to explain that Bill Cosby trying to buy NBC had NOTHING to do with the numerous women saying that he sexually assaulted and/or raped them? Bigger fail. That time I tried to explain that I was considering going to a therapist to speak with someone about all of the shit that has happened to me in the past few years? Epic fail. I don’t know why I decided that this time would be different. I should’ve known the moment that I said, “I don’t believe in white Jesus,” it wasn’t going to end well.
Let me start off by saying that I do believe in God, and SHE is black. It’s taken a lot of time, a lot of inner dialogues with myself, and a lot of prayer to reach this conclusion, but I stand firm in it. As one of my friends so eloquently put it, “Jesus is not from Burlington, Vermont.” At least not in my eyes. It’s what helps me get through this thing that we call life, and that’s a mighty long time. So, when I said “I don’t believe in white Jesus,” my mother took that as “I don’t believe in Jesus,” and as a woman who is a trustee, faithful choir member, active participant in the “Healed By His Stripes” committee and the batterer of the catfish at any church fish fry, I’m sure you know how things went from there. I sat on the phone and listened as she said, “Jesus is Jesus, it doesn’t matter what color. So, what if the pastor is crooked? He’s just human like everybody else. Don’t give me that black Jesus shit. You believe in Jesus. We raised you in the church. You know how this goes. You’re going to end up in a cult.”
When I tried to argue, “you mean the same church that told me that all gay people are going to hell and that people who liked Harry Potter worshipped the devil?”, she immediately shut me down with notions that “the church is evolving". "We never said any of those things.” I wish you were a fly on the wall as I struggled to contain my face and my voice as I spoke to my own mother. The only thing that was missing from the conversation was, “I’ll be praying for you,” even though I’m sure I’ll get a plethora of calls my aunts and cousins asking me what the hell is wrong with me.
The problem with this conversation, and any conversation about serious topics, that I have with my mother is that she doesn’t attempt to understand my point of view. She doesn’t ask why I feel a certain way or why I think the way that I do. Her word is law, and that’s the bottom line cause Stone Cold says so. She didn’t ask me why I didn’t believe in white Jesus. Hell, she didn’t ask any other questions. She made her up her mind and ran straight to “you’ll be back one day.” I’m sure that I’m not the only one that this has happened to. Guaranteed my friends have attempted to have similar conversations with their family members about “The Church” and gotten similar responses. It’s what makes it so hard. You know there’s going to be pushback, you know they probably won’t want to understand, and you know that you’ll probably leave the conversation feeling disappointed and angry with them. There’s no way around it, but it has to be done.
I’m sure the next time I talk to my mom, she’s going to act like nothing has happened, as she is prone to do. If we don’t talk about it, it never happened. It’s Black Southern Living Protocol 101, and that’s fine. I’m sure I’ll bring it up again, and I’ll leave the situation angry and disappointed while she spends her nights praying that I don’t end up drinking the Kool-Aid at some cult that forces me to give them all my money. And once that’s done, I’ll bring it up again and again and again until she finally gets so frustrated and asks me why. I know her, it’ll happen. So, if you’re in a similar situation as me, don’t be afraid to have that difficult conversation, whatever it is. Yeah, today’s conversation sucked, but I feel better now that I’ve gotten it off my chest. At some point, we have to have a conversation with ourselves and realize that just because they’re our parents, doesn’t mean they’re right. And it’s okay to check your parents or challenge them. That’s what I did today, and that’s what I encourage others to do today and every day after that. So go forth and have that difficult conversation. May Oprah be with you!