I knew about Mick before we met in person. My best guy friend, Randy, described the member of his social circle as a narcissist, womanizer and an overall manipulator.
So naturally, Randy’s voice on the phone after hearing I was going on a date with him sounded less than pleased.
“He’s not for you, but I’m not gonna tell you what to do.”
“Nice thing to say about a friend.”
“Right, a friend and a guy, so I can overlook it. But you’re like my little sister.”
Of course, like many things in life, Randy’s assessment of Mick was dead on. What Randy failed to tell me: Mick was incredibly good-looking, smart, funny and terribly magnetic. People orbited around him and his beautiful light.
So he was tough for women to resist in spite of his flaws. Conversely, it made men feel threatened.
One day at my locker, a guy with a touch of crush on me named Mark stopped by for a brief chat.
“So, I heard you’re dating Mick,” he said. “We were in the same grade and then his mom transferred him to Powers Catholic High.”
“Yes,” I said, beaming with pride.
“Ya, he’s OK,” he said. “Too bad his mom’s a dyke.”
It felt like a slap across my face. My eyes blinked from the surprising statement and hurtful delivery.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Ask him,” he said. “Who do you think Susan is?”
I felt embarrassed by my ignorance. Turning on my heels, I marched off to my next class, art, and walked right up to Sherri who knew Mick.
“Is Mick’s mom a lesbian?” I asked quietly.
Sherri’s strangely dark facial features froze.
“I think you should talk to Mick about this,” she said, turning toward her sculpture. I pushed the sculpture aside, “No, tell me now.”
She softened somewhat and seemed to show a sensitive side toward Mick she never had before.
“It’s better if I don’t,” she said. “That’s his life.”
I realized I was being a jerk out of pride. That night, he came over to watch TV and I inquired about the remark as soon as my mom left the room. His eyes widened, but showed no signs of embarrassment or surprise.
“I didn’t know how to tell you,” he said. “You’re parents are so …”
The word he couldn’t find was likely conservative.
I sat and listened to his story with an open heart and mind. At the tender age of 18, his mother Joan set out to disprove to herself of her preference for women. At that point, she had been with neither, but she knew she felt no attraction toward men.
She met a beautiful man at a bar, took him home for a night-long romp and they dated a few months before she became pregnant. He stayed until Mick was born and then, they parted. While Mick was a toddler, Joan met Susan and together, they raised Mick.
“I was angry at school when I didn’t know,” I said, feeling emotionally drained by the story.
“And now?” he asked.
“I wish you had told me sooner. I could have punched Mark in the face.”
We dated off and on until I left for college. One day, Randy called to catch up and I could tell he was dancing around something.
“Susan died,” he said.
We all knew Susan had several health problems and always appeared frightfully thin, which was why it was funny that she was the disciplinarian.
I called Mick to express my sympathy. That weekend, I came home and drove over to see him and Joan with my friend Shannon. I had never seen Mick truly sad before.
“I loved her so much,” he said sincerely. His mother, Joan, never had another partner.
While Randy to this day would probably say my dating Mick was an error, it was landmark in my development as a human being.
I still attend church, believe in God, vote Republican and love my gays. Some would disagree all that can exist in one person – both gays and straights, liberals and conservatives alike.
I suppose using broad brush strokes allows a mind the easy out by seeing life in black and white. Blind prejudice usually comes from a desire to stifle convergent thought just as coloring inside the lines provides the oxygen to allow those thoughts to live.
My life’s painted with various brushes in shades of gray without excuse or apology. It might not be a perfect paint-by-number, but those never hang in a museum anyway.