Two Pleasing Updates

Who wants good news today? Letter Writer #762 and Letter Writer #1194 both have good news about making happy lives away from controlling and homophobic parents.

Hi Captain! 

Five years ago, I wrote in and became LW 762. I thought I’d give an update. Trigger warning: my mum makes repeated threats of suicide/self harm.

Eventually, in 2017, I finished university (having relied on your advice to make it more bearable) and went on a 3.5 month holiday. My mother, in the lead up, insisted she was going to die and sent me messages at all hours. The holiday was a lot of fun regardless, and helped me to be more confident in myself. 

In January 2018, I moved out in secret – my parents were both away from the house on a Friday and a couple of my friends and I packed my things into a couple of cars and I moved into an apartment with a friend. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite cut off contact with my family and mum manipulated me into going over every weekend – if I didn’t, she was going to suffer in one way or another, and so would my dad and sister or whatever. 

The thing was, my parents said that it would be better if I moved interstate, because it wouldn’t be as embarrassing to them if I was living out of the family home if they could tell their friends that it was because I had moved interstate for my job. I talked my workplace into transferring me to one of their interstate offices, and I moved 2000km away from my family in August 2019. 

During this time, by the way, the whole arranged marriage thing became more of an issue. My parents started actively looking just before I finished university and it became more pervasive (especially because my parents kept telling me I’d have to lose weight to be more attractive).

Anyway, mum nevertheless kept visiting me, and in the first three months of living interstate she stayed with me for a total of 6 weeks. When she wasn’t down, she’d sometimes insist that my sister visit as well. I live in a one bedroom apartment with a total floorspace of all of 50 metres square. It wasn’t fun.  

Luckily, I guess, mum hadn’t been able to visit me at all during 2020 thanks to Covid-19 and my country’s interstate travel restrictions. This is the one silver lining of the pandemic. 

Since moving interstate, I’d become more involved in queer circles and the city I moved to is distinctly more queer and progressive. I’d met a lovely amazing person (they/them pronouns), and we’d started dating. My partner then moved into my place during our city’s lockdown.

So, last Wednesday, I sent an email to my parents, coming out. I said I was in a same sex relationship, rather than explaining that my partner is non binary because that would have been too much for them. I did tell them I was involved in my workplace’s LGBTQI committee and with a charity supporting LGBTQI people, and that I’m very happy. 

They responded with 60 emails in the space of a week, with lots of abusive, homophobic content, including about how I’d lose my job, that my partner is a terrible person scamming me for free accommodation and food, that I’m being written out of the will and oh, by the way, my parents are going to die from the horror. My mother then flew down yesterday (despite the travel restrictions) and I called the police because I froze up in fear of her. The police have put in place an interim DVO and next week is the court hearing to decide on whether to issue a proper final DVO. 

The thing is, I’m fine. I’m raw around the edges because, like, that was a lot! But I’ve been seeing a therapist for the past few years helping me to heal even before the whole coming out episode, I have an amazing circle of friends who’ve been so supportive since 2015 and who are all very proud of me, my partner is a pillar of support, and my workplace has been so helpful. (No, seriously, I accessed a leave policy designed for victims of family violence, so I had yesterday and today off, and I have leave for the hearing, all paid, in addition to my team members checking in on me and telling me not to worry about work.)

So, I have my space and it took some time. Sometimes I wondered whether it would happen. It did! and it’s amazing and I can ‘fail’ here and no one judges me. I feel safe and free (not least because of my partner who is wonderful, did I tell you that, because it’s very very true and bears repeating).

LW#762 (who has now expanded from making cheesecakes to cinnamon rolls) (she/her)

Dear LW #762,

Thanks for this message, it was wonderful to find out that you are doing so well. I am so sorry that your mom escalated to such a scary place, but you did such a great job taking care of yourself and calling on all the support resources at your disposal!

Queer kids should not be subject to emotional abuse and the prospect of losing family ties and financial and emotional resources for being who they are. It’s hard to find any upsides here, but I hope the scary way your mom escalated things at least shows that nothing you could have done, no amount of compliance or performance, would have ever appeased her or convinced her that you get to be in charge of your own life.

I hope you cherish your hard-won freedom and happiness and know that your story is going to be the one that sets some other young person free someday.

Hi Captain!

Your recent posts made me think + feel better about where I am with my life and career, so thanks for that. It also made me think about how kind and helpful your advice was when I wrote in to last year, so I thought I’d write in to update you:
  • I did not end up visiting my parents last summer, and in fact we stopped speaking for a couple of months. I felt bad and guilty and ashamed, but also… very relieved. It gave me the mental and emotional space I needed to settle into my new apartment and adjust to living with my partner. 
  • My mum and I started speaking again after a couple of months, and our relationship is pretty much the way it always was, which is: mostly fine, with a good dash of avoidance of Difficult Topics and mutual incomprehension.
  • I did speak to my father a couple of months ago when I called home for a major holiday. It was very stilted, but we stuck to light topics, and overall I’m happy with how it went.
  • I have now graduated with a PhD and have a job that allows me to stay in the United States without worrying about visa or financial issues.
  • I am very happy with my partner (even during these stay-at-home times), and in addition to the cat that we had when we moved in, we’ve now started fostering a dog!

Captain, above all you reminded me that my parents’ skewed perspective is neither my fault nor my responsibility. This was something that I knew rationally but, as someone who grew up both loving and fearing my parents, has been an ongoing process emotionally. In addition to my girlfriend and the friends who closed ranks around me, it was really fucking valuable to have you (and the whole community of CA commenters!) stand in the corner of someone they’ve never even met with that amount of love and kindness and protectiveness. I was and continue to be profoundly moved by that. So: thank you very much ❤ ❤ ❤

Best wishes,

LW 1194

P.S. I’m happy for you to share on the blog if you see fit, because I’d love for the people who commented to know how grateful I am!

Dear LW 1194,

Congratulations on your degree, your job, your new home, and all the love you’ve surrounded yourself with. You deserve every good thing.

Reading your message and the message from your comrade #762 made my week. Pride celebrations are cancelled due to pandemic but that doesn’t mean that your parade isn’t still happening in our hearts. ❤

22 thoughts on “Two Pleasing Updates

  1. I love updates! And these make my heart sing. LWs, I’m thrilled you are in good places surrounded by the love and acceptance you deserve. Congratulations on taking those difficult steps away from your parents’ expectations and insecurities to become the people you are today. I hope you continue to thrive and that every day is better than the next.

  2. This makes me so so happy, during a time when there is so little at hand to lift me. Thank you LWs!

  3. This is a spot of joy these days. Note: Calling the police was totally the right call. In case there was any question. She may be your mother, but as we all know, that does not give people the right to harass and abuse you, and she has amply demonstrated that she has no intention of stopping either behavior. I’m so impressed by these people’s courage and wisdom. It gives me hope.

    1. Involving police can be a very a fraught decision, but anybody who says “I can’t believe you called the cops on YOUR MOTHER” (including said Mother) needs to imagine how bad the parenting would have to get before that felt like the safest option.

  4. Congratulations to you both! 😀 And queer-kid-with-awful-parents fistbump of solidarity! Your stories give me hope for the future, thank you so much for sharing ♡ Freedom is hard, but it’s possible, and worth it.

  5. These updates are so valuable beyond just being fun to read. For one, any other queer-kid-with-awful-parents (credit: B.) who finds their way to Captain Awkward and reads these real-life stories for themselves will see that there are whole lot of people out there who will NOT, in fact, fire, swindle, or shame you for being queer. (Or whatever crime they’re decided you’ve committed by being who you are.) There are employers who will even help you! There are people who will love you, and/or want to be friends with you! There are internet strangers who will cheer you on as go step by step into a free, good life — strangers who are elsewhere on the sexual preference, gender, color and race spectra, who want you to do you and live that free, good life.

    Fuck Trump, by the way.

  6. This is lovely! I’ve been rereading some of the archives, and it’s so nice to see that people who were in such a bad spot have come out of it better.

  7. Oh, I am so so thrilled for both of you! These two letter actually were some of the most personally resonant and helpful for *me*. Except for the South Asian component, my younger self honestly could have written #762 right down to the letter, and I recall that reading it five years ago was amazingly validating to me and gave me so much strength and courage that I had done the right thing by taking care of myself. It’s so good to hear you’re both doing well.

    1. In re-reading, I seem to have missed the detail that the escalation with LW 762’s mother happened recently, and so I apologize for coming across as glib. I didn;t mean to minimize that at all, and I’m so sorry you had to go through that, but I am happy to hear you have a supportive friend group, a wonderful partner and a sense of freedom.

  8. Thank you so much for giving us updates, LWs! It’s lovely to hear things are looking up for both of you and that you have been so terrifyingly amazing at taking care of yourselves within such huge parental pressure.

  9. These updates warmed my heart – thank you and congratulations to both LWs on dealing with such hard situations and doing what worked for them. I hope you feel proud of yourselves!!

  10. So glad for both of the folks with updates! You are powerhouses, both of you. You’re amazing people and I hope you are both fully cognizant of your own bravery.

    Also, to the Captain: I have had occasion to repeat your Small Quiet Room quote at least once a month since you wrote it. I have never yet been able to speak it without tears. I have my own safe space now — not alone; it’s shared with a partner who is good to me and for me — but I didn’t when I first started reading your advice, and it’s gone from being a clung-to hope for the future to a wonderful reminder of how far my own life has come. Thank you so much.

    1. I’ve used the Small Quiet Room very often myself and it still makes me tear up every time I read/talk about it. I am so very glad you have a safe place with someone you love!

      1. Looking around at my own Small Quiet Room (not so small, even!), and thinking back to 8-year-old me hunkering down on my bed after That Fight with my mother, scowling at the floor, and resolving, “Some day, I will Get Out.”

        Raises glass to all of us who Got Out.

  11. This has made me so happy. I am/have been in a very similar situation to both LWs, and both are letters I hold super close to my heart. LW #762 and the Captain’s response to it was instrumental in helping me sort of… contextualise how things worked with my family, at a time when I wasn’t quite able to articulate how things were going with them. The Captain’s response to LW #1194 in particular made me cry when I first read it, and I have it bookmarked and saved (along with the ‘small quiet room’ passage) and I have gone back to it multiple times in the last year, sent it to friends, it’s just one of those things that will stick around in my heart forever.

    I’m so incredibly happy for both these LWs, and thank you to the Captain, for your loving and on-point advice! Over the last seven or so years, a small quiet room of my own has gone from being an impossible dream to a reality, and CA posts have been a comfort and source of hope for me, and a source of words when it was hard to detangle and articulate my own feelings. The Captain’s words (and all the LWs’) have been super instrumental into shaping me into an adult human. Thank you so much for this, and for everything you do.

    (Also, queer solidarity ❤ )

  12. Oh my gosh. I have been reading CA almost since the beginning, and I have only commented one other time, but I just had to write in to say — LW#762, your update letter is a bright spot in a scary world, and I have tears in my eyes reading it. Thank you so much for writing in to update us. I’m proud of you and I admire you and I’m happy for you and I’m excited for what the future holds for you. Sending you so many good wishes.

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