A few days ago Noah and I were playing in the sand box and made a lovely friend that recruited me to build sand castles for her. “Is he your son?” she asks me, witnessing our intimate connection paired against differing skin tones and hair color. My mind instantly flashes back to the numerous times cashiers and waitresses in Oklahoma asked my mom and I “Are these groceries together?” Or “will this meal be on separate checks?” My five year old self wondering if my pocket change might pick up the tab.

My mom got “Oh how sweet of you to adopt” while I am blessed with “how long have you been his nanny?” These micro assumptions pile up to the point of exhaustion and there’s absolutely no place that’s safe.

I navigate her piercing question with ease and explain, yes we are mother and son, despite the differences in hue. Let’s focus on the sandcastles. Then she hits me with another one. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

With my heart weary from our previous discussion I reply, “Yes”. I’m just too tired to explain. The reply was blurted out so quickly and nervously, there was no going back to address the truth. Surely in a land where cupcakes are made out of sand and motes are built out of puddles to protect castles, I can have an imaginary boyfriend to protect my heart from further interrogation.

In the moment where I might have set the tone to be honest through the exhaustion as an example for Noah, I just didn’t have it in me. And I won’t fault Noah someday if it’s easier some days….some moments to save some time and some pain and entertain someone else with something that’s pretend.

5 Replies to “My imaginary boyfriend”

  1. Naomi- thank you for this moving and honest writing about these upsetting interactions with the ignorance that surrounds us. A different but related story is my brother is Korean and my family was always met with seemingly unbelievable questions that were ultimately hurtful. You can only be honest and yes at times dishonest to protect your heart as you say. And yes Noah will have that agency as well. Funny when I met you I never doubted Noah was your genetic child and when I saw your Mom I felt you resembled her. Maybe I’m more tuned in. In turn I never assume anything as (thank goodness) we live in a world of all kinds of families!

    1. Thanks so much, Eve for your thoughts. I’ve learned never to assume anything also if I can!

  2. I know I am very late to the part. Ever since you have published this post, it stuck in my mind, and I have to think about it frequently. Given that today is #LGBTQFamiliesDay, I thought it is time to write down my thoughts finally.
    Your childhood memories make me sad, and I am sorry for what you and your family had to go through. Even sadder and almost angry feelings come up that even today there is still such a perception problem.

    Perception of a particular situation can be harming. Being in your case where someone questions your relationship to Noah or the opinion that a typical can only consist of a heterosexual couple of cis-male and cis-female.
    I had hoped today’s society had evolved past these notions. And in many cases it has. My daughter’s daycare is a positive example: Parents from many different backgrounds: Eastern European, India, African American, Middle Eastern, Caucasian, and Transgender. Most parents are in a mixed relationship (this term by itself is problematic. )The kids do not care. They do not care about skin color, language or the complex construct of gender. They are there to have fun. Almost every kid grows up to speak two languages at home. Also, they learn Farsi in daycare. In this case, parents do not care either. This is how it should be. Unfortunately, it is not.

    One of the triggers which brought back your post was something happening to a close friend of mine. I do need to provide a bit of background on her: She is a successful small business owner in a small town. Mid 30’s, single no kids. She was attending a friends baby shower and was approached if she has kids by another woman she barely knew. So far so good, she responded not to have kids. The women went on to ask why she has no kids, if she has fertility problems and what kind of contraception she uses. And lastly, if she has a husband and what his take is. Keep in mind: the two barely knew each other. These are questions I would only discuss with my closest friends and only if they bring it up.
    The questions asked is something which would have caused great emotionally. We have a healthy and happy two-year-old, but if we had been asked such questions nine years ago, it would have caused great emotional pain to us. Any couple wanting kids and having difficulties would be affected by this kind of questions.

    My friend did not take it ill in any way and was laughing it off. Unfortunately, many other transgender women would have been significantly affected by this since not being able to have kids is a great emotional trigger.
    Once again, perception can be a dangerous thing.

    I am by far not a stickler for overdoing political correctness but certain decency as well as being considerate of people, especially the ones you barely know just goes along a great way. In the last two years, I have also learned that using more neutral terms is always a welcome option and even seemingly innocent questions and assumptions can be hurtful.

    To get back to your post:
    I think a slight change in her line of questions would have made this an entirely different conversation:
    – “You have a beautiful kid.” This would have allowed you to respond in any way you want.
    – She could have replaced “boyfriend” with “partner” as a more neutral term.

    The social construct of a parent-child relationship should not matter. It is the love between parents and children that matters most. Your kid does not care if you are two moms, two dads, a man and a woman, a single parent or an adoptive parent. The love is what counts. Kids are so much better and more natural than us adults.

    Now my reply is somewhat longer than your post, but I had to write it down.

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