In the closet

January 11, 2014 3:38 pm

‘Calm down, have a cigarette?’ my try hard mother dictates to me across the family dinner table – she says it to sound ‘down with the kids’, as I know she’d put it. What I should establish now is that mine is a family of certain unsaid but engrained values to which smoking most certainly does not belong. She said this as a joke, something which the rest of the family witnessing the event were unsure of. Nevertheless, it was laughed off and followed by ‘I tried smoking when I was fourteen, have you tried it yet?’ and it was to this that I momentarily, but absolutely froze. My temporary paralysis was not out of hesitation to reply; it was more out of shock, a kind of slap in the face when I realised the extent to which my own mother really does not know me at all. That is both scary and deeply upsetting.

closet smokingAs it turns out I do hold some of the values she has tried to teach me: I don’t smoke, but that’s not to say I haven’t many times before in my youth when I was still living with her and that’s not to say she wouldn’t find a pack of cigarettes in my handbag if she looked. In other words this just dents the pile of dirty secrets I’ve been keeping tucked under my childhood bed which are still unknown to her – and should remain so for some time. Deep down I’ve always thought she must know how I live, after all a mother knows her own daughter, right? Wrong. I am in fact in a state of disbelief at how well I apparently did pull off my teenage years at home. The phrase ‘in the closet’ is always so closely associated with secretly identifying as a homosexual, but I can’t help but feel it is applicable to me.

I am not gay in the slightest, but all of my other slightly inappropriate secrets, which are as taboo as homosexuality in the context of my family, have always remained in the part of my life which I’ve always led in the shadows. Only now I realise these keep me very firmly in a closet of my own; and I question how a mother daughter relationship can be this effortlessly artificial as I reply to her ,with barely a fleeting thought of the truth, ‘no, never’.

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