David plans a party to introduce his conservative parents to his California friends, but when the big day comes, they’re reluctant to attend.
Kind, Modest, Small-town People
I love my parents: Ruth and Dean Bottrell. They are deeply kind, modest, small-town people, who would gladly give you the shirts off their backs. They also happen to be devout, born-again Christians. Needless to say, having a gay son was tricky for them. It took a while to bridge the gap between us, but eventually we did. And eventually, I convinced them to come visit me in California.
This was a huge step for them. So I understood when they chose to stay in a motel (where they could retreat, should circumstances become overwhelming) rather than with me. Nevertheless, once they were here, I happily showed them all the sights: the Hollywood Sign, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Pacific Ocean.
I waited until lunch at a nice restaurant to drop the bomb on them: “I’m having a little holiday party on Sunday afternoon — so all my friends can meet you!”
The Immediate Reaction
My mother’s face froze into a tight smile. “Honey, we’re not really ‘party’ people,” she said. My father’s eyes remained fixed on his meatloaf sandwich. Clearly, he was counting on my mother to shoot down this crazy idea.
“It’s just a little afternoon thing,” I said with a shrug. “Like maybe a hundred people.”
My father looked up. Between the two of them, my parents probably didn’t know 100 people.
“We don’t have to come, do we?” he asked. “We could stay at the motel. That way you could talk to your friends.”
“It’ll really be more like 50 people,” I clarified, “but some of them might bring a husband or wife or partner.”
“What do you mean, ‘partner?’” my mother inquired.
“Well, about half of the people are going to be straight, and about half will be gay,” I explained. “They are all very nice.” They did not seem reassured.Find LGBTQ-Friendly Resources
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Ruth and Dean’s Big Gay Party
On Sunday afternoon, I drove to their motel. Seated in the lobby, Ruth and Dean were wearing their Sunday best and looked like they were about to be led before a firing squad. As we stepped into my backyard, my mother stared with abject horror at the waiters setting up some tables. “You didn’t tell us this was going to be fancy! We don’t know how to act at something like this.”
“Mama, it’s not really fancy. These people are just here to help us have a good time. So just let them, okay?”
My mother nervously clutched at the string of pearls she’d won 35 years ago for being “top telephone salesperson” at her company. I took her by the shoulders. “Mama, you look beautiful. I’m so proud to introduce you and Papa to my friends. They are going to be so nice to you. All you have to do is be nice back.”
Suddenly, the first wave of guests swept in. Hors d’oeuvres appeared. Pinot was uncorked. Jazz floated from the speakers. There actually did turn out to be quite a lot of people, so there were times when all I could do was glance across the yard to see how the Bottrells were faring.
My father seemed to be doing a lot of nodding and staring at the grass. Given Papa’s limited social skills, that was actually pretty good. Then, I heard my mom’s lovely, girlish laughter and turned to find her seated in a lawn chair, being served a lemonade, surrounded by a crowd of adoring gay guys. She looked like Scarlett O’Hara entertaining a gaggle of suitors. Day faded to evening, and as the guests departed, they commented on how nice my parents were. Mama scored particularly high marks for being funny and charming.
Finally, it was time to drive my folks back to their motel. Stopped at a traffic light, I asked if they’d had a good time. “You have very nice friends,” my mother offered. “Jerry and Vince, was it? Their baby is so cute!”
“Your friends had nothing but good things to say about you,” reported my father.
“But, you know, David, this doesn’t really change what we believe,” my mother added.
“Oh, I know, Mama. But it will,” I said — knowing, on some level, that it already had.
Want more Davide Dean Bottrell? See how his high school reunion reacted to him coming out.
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Last modified: April 25, 2019