I told my mother today that I was dating someone. To be more accurate, I asked her if my father had told her since I had mentioned it to him the week before. She, being very precise, said that he had told her that I had a boyfriend. This made me wonder exactly what the difference was between a boyfriend and dating someone. Saying I am dating someone seems to be a more natural thing to say. The term boyfriend seems oddly formed when it comes to my lips. It feels almost unnatural.
My mother, being my mother, is never one to ask personal questions. So as we went shopping this morning, (I am visiting them in Florida for a few days), she talked about all sorts of topics but never asked me a single question about my life. After about an hour and a half together I finally asked her: “Did Dad mention to you that I’m dating someone?” Her answer at first confused me. “No, he didn’t tell me that. He said you had a boyfriend.” Ah, the preciseness of women and the unknown difference between ‘dating’ and ‘a boyfriend’.
But then as fast as the discussion about my dating began, my mother changed the subject and began to talk about my brother and his son. Somehow a few minutes later we got on the topic of HIV and AIDS and she noted that it was a thing of the past. To which I replied that no it was not.
The most recent data I had seen suggested that 70% of the people infected with HIV in the United States had not been tested, or if they had been tested, were not on appropriate treatment. I also noted that in the Washington, D.C. area alone, I had read that there were about 500 new cases of HIV annually. She was surprised and immediately wanted to know if my boyfriend had been tested. To which I replied yes, he had. She never asked me if I had been tested. Then she asked me if I used a condom, which I replied, that yes, I did.
At that moment so much went through my mind. While yes I believe in safe sex and always use a condom if anal sex is involved, I had never had anal sex with my boyfriend, so we had never used a condom together. It seemed like way too much information to give my mother so the simple answer I gave her was that yes, I used a condom. Also, unstated in her question was the assumption that I was a top. And the thought of telling my mother that I considered myself ‘versatile’, meaning that I liked to both top and bottom, seemed again way too much information to impart to her straightforward question.
I’m under no illusion that my parents are in any way sophisticated about the sexual habits of gay men, so I don’t really know what my mother had in mind when she asked about condom use. But since I do believe in safer sex, and condom use, I simply answered yes. The thought of having a discussion with my mother about the sexual practices of gay men seemed in that moment a little too far to go.
So now, on a beautiful Florida afternoon, I’m sitting on the back porch of my parent’s rented house, in the shade, writing. My 85+-year-old parents are off at their Pilates class. Having escaped the snowstorm in the Northeast last night to fly to Florida for a few days, I am enjoying a rest from work and the chance just to relax and write.