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Shock that grandson is gay is due to Grandma's beliefs

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Shock that grandson is gay is due to Grandma's beliefs

Don't Laugh: My conservative, mid 80s grandma literally had a heart attack the day she learned I am gay and marrying my partner. This sounds like sitcom fare, but it isn't. I know there's some reason I shouldn't feel as guilty as everyone is causing me to feel . . . but I figure you'll be able to articulate it better than I could.

Carolyn: Well, no one is "causing" you to feel guilty, any more than your big fat gay wedding "caused" your grandma to have a heart attack. Your guilt comes from you, and her shock comes from her.

You both have your closely held beliefs. Hers is that couples of the same sex should vanish, not marry. Yours is that good descendants don't do things they know will displease their elders.

If only because of their negative effects on your and her health, both of these beliefs need to go. In fact, they're strikingly similar views, at their foundations: You both seem to believe, to different degrees, that group needs trump individual needs. Your grandma believes heterosexuality is the only acceptable sexual orientation (at least in public) — and thinks it's your duty to set your needs aside to reflect that.

And she rubbed off on you a bit, as will happen in families. You feel that responsibility, and feel bad that your choices didn't reflect it.

But your choice reflects a reasonable calculation, one I think society makes now with increasing frequency: The benefit to her peace of mind in your staying closeted is minuscule compared with the harm to your peace of mind in staying closeted.

On the typical day, unless she's in a homosexual relationship herself, she doesn't have to think about what gay couples are doing with their lives. On the typical day, if you weren't allowed to share an honest life with the person you love, you'd think almost of nothing else.

So there's only one tenable solution: You marry, and she deals with it. I'm sorry the latter possibly involves a cardiac event, but her heart and mind are far more responsible for that than yours are.

Jealousy natural and normal — if it happens only on occasion

Green Monster: Care to settle a disagreement between my friend and me? Do you think jealousy is always a sign of immaturity, or do you think it's something everyone experiences from time to time, and that the test of maturity is whether you can be happy for someone else in spite of it?

Carolyn: I'm going with the latter, but I could be influenced by the more thoughtful writing that went into the second position.

Still, both sides have absolutes I don't like. That it's "always" a sign of immaturity, and something "everyone" experiences, are tough claims to support.

So, I think a person can be mature and still feel the jealous twinge on occasion (as in, once in a matter of years, not once in a matter of days, even weeks), and show that maturity by being happy for someone in spite of the twinge.

Jealousy, like anger, is an alarm. It flags something about us that needs our attention; even contentment needs occasional maintenance. But like any alarm, it's useless if it goes off at the slightest provocation.

Shock that grandson is gay is due to Grandma's beliefs 08/01/10 [Last modified: Sunday, August 1, 2010 5:30am]

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