Friday, December 23, 2005

The Unknown

Everyone knew, except me. I was always in the dark about everything. Maybe I just chose to ignore what was right under my nose. Being a teenager living home, my friends would come over with such enthusiasm. I remember one particular day when my two close friends came over. Steve and Corrine were sitting out in the living room, while my father had his workers in a nearby room talking about work. My father was always in the construction and excavating business. In fact, he held two jobs. He owned a fish market at the South Street Seaport, as well as the excavating business.

All my father’s workers would gather around a table over demitasse coffee and talk for hours. Funny how they all were so dressed up, as if they were attending a ‘family function’ or a party. They all had dress shirts, jewelry from head to toe, and all smelled like strong pungent cologne. If I were to guess what occupation they were in, I’d say ‘car salesmen’. I guess I was clueless.

“Deb! You gotta listen to this! Don’t you know what they’re talking about?” Corrine said, with this frisson of excitement in her voice.
“Huh? What do you care—it’s excavating crap.”
“No Deb, listen. It’s not excavation they’re talking about.”
Steve said, in this low whispery-type way; as if one of the workers were going to overhear him.

As an ‘in the closet’ lesbian, yes I did date boys back then. They didn’t last very long, because I always chose my gal friends to hang out with instead. For some reason, I always dated Latinos. I was just more attracted to them. My father, being an old school Italian from Brooklyn, I was forbidden to see anyone of a different background—God forbid they were black. And yes, I did go against my father’s wishes. My parents had quite a time trying to ward off people of different cultures walking through the front door. Ironically enough, it’s amazing how their daughter ends up dating a girl, and on top of that, a Puerto Rican too.

I’ll never forget the day I brought home my boyfriend Raul. He was Puerto Rican. He was gorgeous—quite a head turner. He came inside my house, and introduced himself like a gentleman to my mother. He was all dressed up, because we were holding a function at the house. My father wasn’t home yet.

“How dare you bring this guy into our home!” My mother says, as she whisks me aside to talk to me in private.
“What? What’s wrong with him?”
“You know…You’re fatha’ is going to be fuming over this!”
“Ma, he’s a clean cut guy and comes from a very respectable family.”
I…don’t…care. Get him out of this house now.”
She said, talking through her teeth at this point.
“Oh and that’s not going to look obvious? Maybe if you stop being so damn prejudice, you wouldn’t have so much anger.”
“He has a beeper. He must be a drug dealer.”
My mother suggests.
“Oh yeah, that’s it mom.” I said, as I walked out of the room to join Raul and the rest of my family & friends.

Needless to say, the relationship ended due to avoiding the fact that he couldn’t just drop by anymore. He knew what it was all about. He wasn’t a stupid kid. I felt bad. I always felt bad when I had to turn away a friend of a different culture. It hurt me. It must have hurt them as well.

I remember one Friday evening after school, I invited a few friends from the neighborhood over. We would all hang out, play kickball and then head inside to play video games or watch TV. My friend Joey asked if he could bring his cousin Tom over. I didn’t mind. His cousin was staying for the weekend and Joey felt bad leaving him at his house all alone. Joey was Italian, and my parents liked him. When they came over, to my surprise, Joey’s cousin was black. It was his cousin through marriage. When I walked inside to get some drinks for my friends, my mother was standing right near the window watching them.

“Who is that Debbie?”
“Ma, it’s Joey’s cousin—through marriage.”
I explained.
“That’s not his cousin. Is this your new boyfriend?”
“Ma—no, his cousin is staying with him for the weekend, so he asked if it was okay if he brought him.”
“Well it’s not. Get him out of here.”

Embarrassingly enough, I had to call the little gathering off. I was so angry at my mother, that I actually explained to Joey why she was making me do this. I didn’t care at that point. They all left to go to Joey’s house instead. I hopped on my four-wheeler motorcycle and headed there as well. I ended up liking Tom very much. In fact, we ended up dating. Of course my mother heard wind of this, and I was forbidden to see him.

At the age of sixteen, I witnessed my parents being taken away by the FBI. They were indicted for money laundering of a nearby garbage company. My father had to go away for six months at a federal prison in Allendale, PA. My mother was released. This was all a surprise. I was always in the dark. I gained knowledge of my father’s background as well as my mother’s. They weren’t perfect.

My father told me stories of his stay at the federal prison. We always went up to visit him. It was more like a country club than anything else. Golf course, good food, and of course old friends he hadn’t seen in a while. My father, ironically enough roomed with a black man, who coincidently was dating a transsexual in a nearby cell. He was forced to live with other people of different cultures and much different lifestyles. I think it was a blessing in disguise.

Today, my parents have a new respect for people of different backgrounds. In fact, they consider their lifestyle to be very similar to those of Puerto Rican descent and other nationalities, due to large close-knit families and values. They also accept me 100%. They love my girlfriend who happens to be a lesbian—and Puerto Rican. They consider her family now.

Right there, you can see that people are afraid of the ‘unknown.’ It wasn’t that they didn’t ‘like’ these people before---it was because they didn’t give them a chance. They were both brought up by parents who also held the same mindset. When you only go by outward appearances and stereotypes, you force yourself in a world which only you create. It’s called ignorance.

24 comments:

annelise said...

1 word: great. it s just a great story. it gives us hope that the world would change one day just like your parents... thanks

Mike said...

Very nice story...and I do believe that prejudice stems from ignorance and insecurity issues.

Bhakti said...

Oh my gosh--I had a roommate while living in NYC who was the BEST ROOMMATE A GIRL COULD EVER ASK FOR!! He was half black, half Puerto Rican. When my dad found out, he FREAKED! He wouldn't talk to me forever. He KNEW, just KNEW we were having an affair! I kept reminding my dad--"But you've known I'm gay for over 10 years! I'm not dating G.!!"

My dad finally got over it. He also finally answered the question I used to ask him when I was in my early twenties: "Would you rather have a daughter that married a black man or a daughter who was gay?"

Yes, this is the same loving father who went out at midnight to buy me the Drowsy doll!!!

I love him. He would have loved G., too, if he took the time to know him!

Great post!

~Deb said...

I absolutely adore my parents, they were good to me and still are. They were just caught in a mindset that had limits. I'm glad through their experience, they are more open-minded and accepting of everyone now.

God does things in mysterious ways...I do believe that.

Thanks!

Lisa said...

Beautiful Deb.

It must have been so very traumatic for you to go through seeing that happen to your parents. It speaks volumes about how great your folks really are that they came away from it better people rather than worse. I think that many of our parent's generation has similar mind sets, but so often it's a case of "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink".
My own father has had to lay some of his attitudes aside because he relies on me for so many things. We have an understanding....I don't try to change his mind about things and he has to respect me, my family and my friends. I know it's hard for him sometimes, but I also know that I'm not prepared to budge. What's funny is that he often comments on how nice someone is after the fact...or how surprised he is at commonalities. Who would have guessed it..if your not a heterosexual caucasion you might still be a person. LOL

Merry Christmas to you, Madelene and all the rest of the Clan.

Lisa

Sheesh this blogging stuff is addictive....I swore I was staying off of here till after Christmas...

Tom Serafini, Actor to the Stars! said...

Yup,definitey related....

Wenchy said...

Ahhhhhhhhhhh I was feeling all old-South Africa-ish there for a moment.

Loved the blog Deb.

barman said...

Wow, I am so happy, not what happened to your parents but for the end result. I was fortunate and I never saw any of that in my parents or our household. As a result I have certianly been more open minded to people and situations then some have.

I am not without some prejudice on occasion but I do fight to squash that as it occures. I can not help but hope that as new generations emerge maybe people will learn to be more tollerante and excepting of people that are different then themselves.

I know that I live in a fantasy world but I really believe I have seen some things that make me believe there is hope. I mean who would have believe the change in your Dad was possible.

Thank you Deb.

Mr. DNA said...

Hey Deb thanks for stopping by earlier. Your post read like an after school special... in a good way. Try the recipe, it's great I swear, and easy to make too.

Robert said...

I’m in awe of your life. Each place you take us to leaves us with such a truly amazing picture in our minds. I’m glad this story ended for the better and that your dad got to witness how people really are, instead of what he thought to be. Maybe if it weren’t for his experience, he would have never accepted you being gay?

Did you ever think about writing a book about your life?

green said...

Wow, ~deb what a great story. I'm glad your parents have changed for the better.

Merry Christmas.

DSMars said...

Another great post, Deb. By the way, when is your book coming out and what will the title be?

Miss 1999 said...

Deb- that was a great story. I'm really thankful your parents opened their eyes and their hearts to learn to love and accept others for who they are- not what color their skin is... There's too much ignorance in this world, I'm glad you're not having to deal with it from your parents now :0)

The Stevo in H-Town said...

It's all about "Exposure"


Sincerely,
Jum Bakker

The Stevo in H-Town said...

oops J I M azin and Tammy Faye..

Genna said...

Oh Deb. This was a nice post.

This reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13. You love the person, and some things just don't change that.

I can relate with not really understanding. I have always hung around with people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds... It makes life fun. But when I talk to people that only hang out with people of their own ethnicity, they seem to have extreme sterotypical views. People that have a mixture of friends of different color pallettes tend to be more realistic, more open, with wide eyes instead of closed ones. But the interesting thing--most people are numb to such things.

Happy Holidays!! :O)

~Deb said...

I’m surprised I didn’t catch the ‘bug’ my parents had. I’m thankful for that too. I know I didn’t befriend people due to a rebellious nature; I was sincerely interested in people of other cultures---as well as my own. I didn’t rule anyone out. My parents always thought I was just trying to go against the grain. I wasn’t. I just liked the friends I made, and the people I dated.

About the book- it is being released late January. I do want to keep it semi-anonymous ‘at this time’, due to my true identity. The book about to be released is a Christian based book geared towards the gay & lesbian community, however everyone can relate. It deals with issues of relationships, break ups, fear of abandonment issues, insecurities as well as how to cope with other things in life—which I learned from ‘going through’ certain events in my life. It has scripture references that follow my life experiences. After February, I’ll have a button for Amazon.com for people who would like to purchase my book.

Thanks for all your positive feedback! Oh and Stevo---lay off the mascara!

LisaBinDaCity said...

Amen Deb. I appreciate how you always "get it."

Happy Holidays to you and yours my friend.

Wenchy said...

Just wanted to wish you a very HAPPY, HAPPY Christmas. :)

Inner Me said...

It is disheartening when you finally realize that your parents are not perfect. I guess that hard part would be accepting that they're not perfect. I've dealt with that before and its not easy (well...in my case). Its good that your parents came around. My family members are extremely opposed to homosexuality. So if I were ever a lesbian, it would definitely be a secret to them.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

So very interesting the roads it took for your parents to get more in touch with there own 'humanity'...Wonderful post!

Walking Contradiction said...

THANK YOU.

mal said...

WOW!

kathi said...

You are my favorite person in the whole world. I love, love, love you.