8 Million Stories: Bursting the Bubbe Bubble

Written by Sara E. Grossman on . Posted in 8 Million Stories, Posts.

My Jewish mother engrained it in me since birth that my purpose in life was to bear her grandchildren. I once read that 60 percent of gay siblings have similar DNA on chromosome numbers 6, 7 and 8. For me, these two were related issues.

When I was about to leave for college, my younger brother, Brett, told me he was gay. Via instant message from 11 feet away, in his bedroom, on the same floor, in the same house, he had asked me how I would feel if he told me he liked guys. I rolled my eyes because I thought he was just trying to get a rise out of me. Or maybe he had heard the rumors at our very small Christian high school about me having a girlfriend. I shut my computer and walked into his room. I looked at his trophy case, holding awards and medals for weightlifting, baseball and football, confused. I realized he wasn’t kidding.

“What is mom going to do when she finds out both of her kids are queer?” I asked. He apparently hadn’t heard the rumors about me, after all, and was floored.

I felt I should take this information with me to the grave. I already knew what my mother’s reaction would be, since I put the feelers out about the situation when I was Brett’s age. I had tried coming out, but was guilted back into the closet after mom talked about how life would be terrible without grandchildren, asking how I could do this to her, and wondering what the rest of the Long Island Jewish community would think.

When I went away to college, Brett visited me and began to date one of my best friends: his first gay relationship. He wanted to be out, he wanted to have a boyfriend and he wanted my mother to know—in that order. Furthermore, he asked me break the news for him when I came home for winter break.

“I need to be honest!” he squeaked. He was wearing a T-shirt with the sleeves cut off and basketball shorts with our high school’s mascot emblazoned on the lower left leg. “Just tell her when I leave for the gym.” He was trying to gain muscle to move up a weight class for a wrestling match. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

“No, I can’t come out for you,” I finally said. “She’ll cry. She’ll scream at me about her lack of future grandchildren. I don’t want to deal with this.”

He kept badgering and I yearned for the days when we all argued about was who would get the front seat in the car or who got to be the Ninja Turtle with the bow-staff when we were playing. To my chagrin, I finally agreed to spill the beans.

I bounded down the stairs to where my mom was watching TV and looking like she didn’t want to be bothered. I told her to come upstairs and that we needed to talk.

I walked up to my room, debating my delivery. She was upstairs within three minutes, looking nervous and disheveled.

“Mom,” I started. “I don’t know why I am telling you this. And I don’t know why he wanted me, of all people, to tell you, but…” I hesitated. The look on her face was killing me.

“But what?” “Um, Brett’s gay?” It came out sounding more like a question than a statement.

“That’s funny, Sara. What did you really have to tell me?” I blinked, unsure what to say. Why didn’t she believe me? Maybe it was because he was the captain of the football team and a wrestling and baseball star.

I had tried coming out, but was guilted back into the closet after mom
talked about how life would be terrible without grandchildren, asking
how I could do this to her.

“No, Mom. That was it. Really.” As if on cue, it started to pour outside. Then she started to cry. She cried about him being on the football team, about his girlfriend Jessica, about how he had such big muscles. And then there it was: “And I’m never going to have grandchildren! Brett’s gay now and you’ll never have kids!” I wanted to tell her then that my disinterest in children had more to do with the actual act of reproduction, but figured that would be a conversation saved for a better time. I also didn’t want to get too political by talking about gay adoption. Besides, we were still teenagers, what did it matter? I brought up PFLAG and statistics on homosexuality, not mentioning the bit about siblings because I was still not out to her. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I ever would be. She bombarded me with questions. Was this because she and my father got divorced? Did I know if Brett was ever molested? How could this happen to her? I didn’t have any of the answers, but I was sure most of them were, “No.”

After 15 minutes of me trying to be the good daughter, comforting her and sitting there awkwardly as she cried, my mother got up and walked to the door. As she opened it to leave, she stood in the doorframe for a moment. There was a loaded pause.

Then she turned around and said, “I always thought it was going to be you.”