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Guest Post: I Know An Old Lady: A True Story.

July 19, 2011

Next in my parade of guest posters while I sit on the beach and burn myself to a crisp, we have Kim, of Baby Feet. Like Kim, I have no idea how we ended up following each other, but I’ve found her truthful, uplifting, delightful, insightful, and beautiful. What gets me about this post is that, while she & I might disagree about how sure we are about accepting homosexuality, I had very near the same conversation with my grandfather-in-law soon before his death.

When John contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in guest posting I think he may have heard my screams of excitement. I don’t even remember how I ‘found’ John, I just know that the first time I managed to lure him over to my blog and I saw him come through my stats I went a little crazy. Then he left a comment and I adored him. Then he complimented me. And I was in love. So to say I’m thrilled and honored to be here is an understatement. Thanks, John!

I Know An Old Lady: A True Story.

At Christmas my Grandmother and I were hanging out around my kitchen island chatting. It was one of those wonderful, movie moments. She’s 83 and spry, fit, always on the go. She has a 2g iphone that she carries with her like a teenager and texts her nephew every couple hours, “Just to see what’s going on.” If she misses their check in? He texts her. So does her great nephew. She’s that great and wonderful. So, Christmas. We’re talking and the show “Glee” comes up. And she’s seen it. Totally knows what it’s about. My mouth is hanging open — because there is an openly gay guy on the show. And she’s 83. She asks if Violet (my 8 year old) watches the show. I’m appalled. NO! I let her watch the music numbers on the computer sometimes, but that’s it. The show is totally inappropriate for an 8 year old, I tell her. She nods. Then tells me that her niece -in -law, Margaret, has a cousin who is ‘a gay.’ And launches into the most wonderful description of her – ‘the gay’: She’s beautiful. Intelligent. Articulate. Well schooled. Great job. And on.

What? My 83 year old Grandmother is accepting of homosexuality? How amazingly progressive. I’m not really sure I’m that accepting of it. We talk about if they are born this way, or choose the lifestyle. And we both agree that they are born this way. As I’m standing there, basking in the glow of all this, she leans in and says, “Does Violet have any friends who are *whispers* mixed?” I blink. “I’m sorry, what?” She continues. And I finally figure it out. She wants to know if Violet has any friends who are black *horror* or ‘mixed’ *horror of horrors*

OMG ::head explosion:: really? seriously?

Yeah. All those things. I take a deep breath. Tell her that yes, Violet has a friend who is black. In fact I have friend who is *gasp* black. She’s a dear friend, actually. *gasp gasp* Grandma’s face draws in, her eyes narrow. She huffs and leans away from from the island. Our movie moment has ended.

I lean across the table, gently touch her hand and say, “Grandma? I’m pretty positive that if you’re black? You ARE born that way. The end.”

I’ve tried hard to grasp this. I really have. I read the book, “The Help.” It gave some good insight into the mind sight of the women of my Grandmother’s era. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around it — because even if I don’t agree with homosexuality, even if I’m honestly frightened of the day I have to explain it to my children, I’m not afraid of someone who is gay. I don’t hate you if you are gay. One of my husbands best friends was gay. He was in our wedding and until he died when Violet was 6 months old, we called him Uncle Scott. I just wasn’t prepared, in 2010, for that level of ignorance to still be present. And what I especially didn’t understand was how being gay was completely fine. But black?? Oh, hell no.

Anyone care to explain?

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14 Comments
  1. I should clarify that I don’t think ‘Glee’ is appropriate just b/c of Kurt being gay, but b/c it’s set in high school. That came off totally wrong!

    • I think Kurt is probably the least innappropriate story line in Glee!

      • For my daughter, who’s 8, to be watching, I mean. She shouldn’t be watching show’s set in high school. I fully enjoy it

    • That was the interpretation I landed on after a moment of puzzlement. 😀

      • I meant inappropriate for my 8 year old daughter – she shouldn’t be watcing shows set in high school. That’s all. I love the show!

  2. I lost my one surviving grandmother in high school, but not before I’d managed to land a boyfriend. I was a freshman, he was a senior. This didn’t phase Gram at at all. When I showed her his senior photo? She observed his large nose and asked me in a pained whisper if, “he was a Jew.”

    I was horrified. He wasn’t. But my two best friends were. And so what? I was so angry with her…

    It took me some time to realize the prejudices she internalized living where and when she did.

    • Reading ‘The Help’ did open my eyes. It’s hard to understand. And I’m thankful my children won’t have those prejudices.

  3. Just like CDG, my mother (and grandparents, especially) occasionally fall victim to the prejudices they grew up with.

    For example, I was having a conversation with my mom about my then-roommate’s new man. I dropped his name and she said “Oh, is he black??” Shocked that my beautiful, white-girl, sorority sister would date a black man. I said “yeah, he is…” I could tell that she was unhappy and said something about interracial relationships. So I said “Mom, what do you think I’m doing?” My then-boyfriend, now-husband is 1/2 Korean! It didn’t register to her. :/

    Also? Glee is the best show on television. Though definitely not appropriate for 8 year olds.

    • I love Glee! 🙂 Violet and Sarah watch the music numbers, and Kurt makes me cry every.single.week. I wanted to live that show in high school!

  4. I already told you my Grandpa comment. :/ It was awful. Some people are just so stuck in their ways. Hard to imagine a life where you avoid someone because of their skin color.

  5. Such a bizarre contrast, that!

    I don’t usually link to my own entries in comment, but Race & my mother’s footsteps is one I find myself occasionally linking.

    I know how my mom’s family felt about black people as of 1995; I was stunned to hear the “n” word bandied about. Thus was I a little apprehensive–though my mom hadn’t really given me any reason to be–when I flashed her a picture of me and my then-future baby daddy.

    When it came time to send copies of my mom’s death notice, I made certain that the stamp affixed was one of me and my beautiful, biracial family. Though their silence is doubtful attributable to that, I feel good having been clear that in as many ways as possible my siblings and I are part of forging a new world undefined by the old world’s prejudices.

    I wonder what of my beliefs my grandkids will someday shake their head bemusedly at! I hope I live long enough to revisit the question. 🙂

  6. First, thanks for giving the hubs such wonderful material. Second, my grandfather got off the boat from Greece not knowing any English to work in his uncle’s diner as a dishwasher. The first people who were nice to him where the colored (His word, not mine). They were all on the same social level. He never forgot it. In fact he lost white costumers at his own restaurant because he served blacks. Yet, he was still disapproving of biracial couples even though he was one of the only fathers at church who approved of his children marrying non-Greeks. He was an open-minded guy, yet still took on that old prejudice. I once said what about whites and Hispanics or Asians? And that was OK. I could see his discomfort with that distinction. I like to thing I changed his mind a little that day, and that he would just adore my biracial son if he met him.

  7. Kim this was such a great post. My grandpa is the same way about black people, or he was. But as time has evolved and now it has come out that not one, but two of my cousins are gay *gasp* he’s had no choice but to deal.

    My best friends , and those favorite cousins are gay and they are actually some of the best people who care about us more than anyone in our lives. Have I told Ava about it? No. I don’t know how to begin and hopefully I don’t have to for a bit. Because as big as her heart is, I know that other kids (and adults) are not. I don’t want her to explain her “aunties” and put other parents in a place to discuss what they aren’t ready to.

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