“Thanks again, you always get me,” she said, lighting her menthol cigarette as she voluntarily pushed her plate of half-finished banana pancakes towards me.
I happily devoured the soggy pancakes on which I had fixed my eye, but my mind travelled back to the not-so-distant past when she expressed her disapproval if one of her sons turned out gay.
“I’m not against gay guys but when it comes to my own children, it’s really difficult. I hope none (of my sons) become one,” she said then. Her words violently stabbed through my chest like a pack of needles piercing through my flesh.
At the risk of losing my appetite, I decided not to bring up the issue in our more recent conversation. To be fair, her brutal honesty did come as little surprise because I know some of my girlfriends in Indonesia don’t mind being hags, but do mind if their son were a hag magnet.
For Indonesian families, embracing the fact that homosexuality exists among their own flesh and blood pushes the cultural envelope to a point of no return. Given the choice, they would rather not acknowledge it.
I’m not sure whether this is a heaven or hell issue, either way, I’m not a gospel-type gay who likes to preach progressive moral stance upon others. I’m a realist desperado with simple mind and (sometimes) a plate of free food is enough to win my friendship and affection.
But let’s take a breather here.
Some of you wouldn’t accept having a gay son, but surely there must be some perks of having one? Just like our straight brothers, we give the same unconditional love to our parents, except we’re more fab. If you can get past the label and think of us as the “fabulous son”, then you’ll come to realize that you're in for a treat.
1. We give you fab birthday gifts
All-expenses paid holiday to Europe? Checked. A clutch Prada bag for the weekly pengajian (neighborhood prayer gathering)? Checked. Head to toe treatment at a day spa? Checked. Meanwhile, surprise gifts from my dear straight brother to our mom? Phone calls and flowers.
2. We remember your birthdays
When you are 65 and your husband turns senile, or no longer around, our little gesture of calling you on your birthday first thing in the morning will surely be greatly appreciated. Sure, your loving daughters will call you and send flowers, but you’d be lucky to get a brief phone call from your 40 year-old straight son, who may even forget his own wedding anniversary.
3. We actually call up to say ‘Hi’
Does your mother in-laws ever complain about how busy her beloved son has become? She’s told you how she calls him at lunchtime, and he speaks on the phone in a hurried tone. He promises to call back but never does. We don't call back either, because we call you first. Again, think how this scenario plays out when you’re 65.
4. In sickness we are there
My boyfriend had been looking after his sickly dad for a month in his Sumatran hometown. For this he put his life in Jakarta on hold. His two married brothers had families of their own and other responsibilities, so they’d promised to come home once the father’s conditions ‘deteriorates”. They only came home to see their beloved father resting in grave last week. My boyfriend’s brothers are decent, loving sons. Nonetheless, lacking his own nuclear family responsibilities, a gay (unmarried) son will always put his parents’ needs first before anything else.
5. We foot your bill
Being unmarried and fabulous means we have more disposable income at hand, therefore we are more than ready to foot your bill. I don’t wish to discuss personal experience here, but based on the experience of others, the pecking order of those who foot our parents’ bill goes; 1.The single gays; 2.The other singles; 3.The married ones.
6. We actually listen to you
I can’t emphasize enough for you to find hobbies now. Remember, child bearing is not a hobby and the same goes with your professional career and religious practices. But if you don’t have one, 30 years from now when you need someone to listen to your same story, over and over, we’re there for you.
7. No competition from your in-laws
This is a difficult subject to treat. All of you must have good and bad experiences with your in-laws and everyone has unique personal references that defy the stereotypes of mother-daughter-in-law relationship. But we cannot escape the fact that some women simply cannot stand their daughters-in-law and vice versa. So not having one may turn out to be an advantage, right?
8. You can save your retirement funds, for retirement
Finally, don't worry about liquidating your retirement fund for another wedding splurge you'd always wanted to host (again, please think when you're 60, hosting a splash wedding for your children has become one of your end-life goals). You can save our portion for our siblings' weddings, but please hire a professional wedding planner; not all of us are good with this event organizing thingy.
All gay sons in Indonesia are born with an invisible microchip embedded in our hearts called G.U.I.L.T. This platinum (yet invisible) microchip is wired into an integrated circuit that sits atop our brain. The only way to disable the chip is to completely unlock the door to our closet and be frank to our parents.
We give the same unconditional love to our parents, just like our straight counterpart. Nonetheless, thanks to the microchip, most of our lives are filled with daily reminders to pursue unconditional love and approval from our parents.
A loving straight son brings an abundance of gift, joy and love for his mother. A loving gay son – if he were to come out to his family – may bring devastation and disappointment to his mother.
One day I may be able to disable the G.U.I.L.T microchip in my system, but even then, I’m committed to fill my days with unconditional joy and love for my mother.
About Downtown Boy AKA DB
Named after a classic hit by Petula Clark, DB is a twenty something hipster trapped in a thirty something gay man's body. He's a regular office worker in Jakarta and his hobbies include listening to oldies and doing physically challenging sports. He used to do martial arts but was forced to stop after he hurt his lower back. All of his friends suspect the injury was triggered by something fishy.