December 07, 2006

Coming Out Buddhist

The day before Thanksgiving, I “came out” to my parents as a Buddhist and a vegetarian. I had been dropping plenty of hints – the books I carry around with me and casually leave sitting on the end table, the two Buddhist magazines I still have sent to my parents house left over from the summer I lived with them two years ago, the mala I wear every day, my choice of vacation destination, not to mention numerous Buddhist references in our conversations over the past three years. I think they had their heads in the sand.

I told them I was Buddhist and that a senior Buddhist teacher was coming into town and I was going to take official vows. I told them I abide by the five precepts and that includes not killing or harming of humans and animals, therefore, I’m vegetarian. I also told them I don’t expect anyone to go out of their way because I’m vegetarian and we don’t have to tell Grandma Del. After listening with that blank look on her face, my mother promptly changed the subject. The only response was an agreement not to tell Grandma an brief “You better not expect me to cook vegetarian because I don’t know how.” Which is really just silly, because she hardly cooks anyway and it’s not that different from any other cooking.

My Dad is coming around. He asked a few questions the next day and teased me a bit. He wanted to know if that meant I was celibate. I told him no such luck since I’m not a nun, just a lay Buddhist. I have a feeling this is going to be another one of those topics of non-discussion with my mother. I can live with that. I suppose they see it as just one more odd thing to add to the list of their odd daughter. They didn't try to talk me out of it, but then I think Dad never felt inclined to talk me out of anything and Mom gave up a long time ago.

Inside, I'm still the dissapointed little girl who wants her Mom to take an interest, but mostly I'm happy that they are accepting of me for who I am.


Anonymous said...

That was an interesting story, are your parents evangelical?

Monica said...

No, not really. My mother and grandmother are active lay leaders in the United Methodist Church, which is one of the more laid back Christian churches not know for proselytizing. But they are very conservative. I grew up going to church and Sunday school every week. I underwent confirmation when I was thirteen, which I think it too young to become an ‘adult’ member of the church or join any religion for that matter.

But my mother, and father, always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. I think they meant I could be a doctor or a lawyer or an astronaut. They gave me books which made me think and encouraged me to have my own opinions. I think perhaps they regret it sometimes, my mother mostly, but overall they are happy with the way I turned out. There is a long tradition in my mother’s family of ignoring inconvenient personal facts, like my gay uncle, but that doesn’t mean we stop being a family.

Can you relate?

Sophie said...

Hi Monica,
thanks for sharing your story.
How are you doing 6 years later? And how are things with your parents?