This is my second entry in blogging about editing my life for my parents. This blog comes at an appropriate time because this past Monday was the Lambda Literary Awards ceremony. My co-editor, Andi Marquette, and I were finalists for our book All You Can Eat in the erotica category.
We didn’t win, but being finalists is an honor unto itself. Winning a Lammy is for LGBT writers what winning an Oscar is for actors—the highest honor. It would have been nice to win, of course, but I’ll always be proud of being a finalist. (For a rundown of my evening at the Lammys, check out my blog at Women & Words.)
So there I was, a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and my parents knew nothing about it. They didn’t know about this awesome honor, and they didn’t know I was going to a ceremony where I would be hob-knobbing with (or at least looking at) some major people in literature. Not that they would know any of those people—even those known by the straight community, such as Liz Smith, Gloria Steinem, and John Waters—but they wouldn’t even know that I would be in celebrated company.
Any therapist would then ask me the question: How does that make you feel?
A bit sad. Not just for myself but for my parents. I always felt that I had never given my parents anything to boast about, to be particularly proud of. I didn’t become a doctor or lawyer, I’m not rich, I didn’t marry rich, I didn’t give them grandchildren, and I haven’t done anything prestigious. I feel like I’ve deprived them. And now that I have accomplished a few things in the world of fiction and have been a finalist for a Lambda award, I can’t even share that with them.
Does it diminish the meaningfulness of the award for me? No, it doesn’t. Does it make me feel isolated from my family? Yes, it does. But I’d argue that they wouldn’t appreciate the full magnitude of events like this anyway. They wouldn’t appreciate the meaning of it fully. I say that because a) they don’t live in that world and b) even people who I explain it to (like my friends) don’t fully comprehend what stuff like this means to me. That’s because they don’t live in that world either. “B” equals “A.”
Writing is a solitary art and although you can have millions of people (well, not in the world of lesfic) reading and following you loyally, they don’t really know what you do. They don’t know what excites you or brings you down, or what makes your art worth it to you. Or what it means to have others in the industry praise you. It’s different for actors and musicians—the Oscars and Grammys are televised worldwide, they’re choreographed, photographed, and fussed over. No one except writers knows what goes on at the Lammys, or Goldies, or Edgars, or Writers Guild of America Awards. And, frankly, nobody cares.
So, in a nutshell, I feel like I’ve disappointed my parents and yet am unable (okay, unwilling) to share my achievements with them. It’s a form of self-denial, maybe even self-punishment. And by not sharing my achievements with my parents, maybe I’m diminishing their value (the achievements, not my parents).
Perhaps. But knowing that is not going to change anything. My parents are elderly now and have health issues. It’s simply not a conversation I’m going to have with them. Not now, not ever. My accomplishments are going to have to be enough for myself and those who share this part of my life.