My Daughter Came Out on Facebook

“Are you gay?” I asked my sixteen year-old daughter last October.

“No,” she answered but I wasn’t sure. She didn’t seem gay (whatever that means), she’d only ever had boyfriends, but as co-president of her high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club, she would use words like “us” and “we.”

“What about Alice*?” I asked about her best friend and co-president.

“She’s pansexual,” Marley told me.

“What’s that?” I asked her.

“It’s where you fall in love with a person, no matter what their gender is.”

“Isn’t that bi-sexual?”

“No, because you can love someone who is trans or doesn’t even identify as a gender. You just fall in love with a person.” she told me.

“What about you? Are you pansexual?” I asked.

She shrugged and looked me in the eye. “Yes.”

“So you would date a woman or a trans person?” I asked her.

“Why wouldn’t I?” she asked sounding as nonchalant as if I’d asked her if she was sure she’d like extra cheese on her pizza.

Just so whoever you love treats you well, that’s all that matters,” I said, meaning it.

My husband and I have always told our kids that love is love, that we will love them no matter who they love and it’s true. While I’m proud of the fact that my daughter is very evolved, if I’m honest I’ll tell you it’s not what I’d hoped or planned for. I mean, life is already so damned hard.

The day after the election she posted this on her Facebook wall:

Hey guys. I need to tell you something. This isn’t shocking at all (i hope), but i wanna officially come out as pansexual. if you don’t know what that means, there are a few definitions to explain it, but mine is a very popular one. basically, I’m attracted to people based off of their intellectual ability and personality. I mean by that is, I don’t really care about what a person sexes or the person’s gender is or whatever they are on the outside. I care about who they are as a person and how they make me feel and how I make them feel and how we just are together I find that more important and much better than how somebody looks over they are on the inside.

I have to admit, I wasn’t quite ready for that. The lack of capitalization. “Sexes” instead of “sex is.” And that last sentence is just a run-on jumbled mess. What were people going to think about me after reading that? I’m a writer.

All kidding aside, I was a little worried. I hadn’t told my mother yet or anyone else in my family. I didn’t know how the kids at school would react. I like to think that it’s the 21st century and nobody cares, but a man who thinks you can “pray the gay away” just got voted into office as our vice president and that’s scary as shit.

Then I noticed my mom “liked” the post, as did my brother, all her cousins, and a bunch of her friends. The post was peppered with comments like “Speak your truth” and “You go, girl.” I went back to worrying about the grammar.

The Sunday after the election I got together with three of my girlfriends to commiserate the results. My friend Lisa suggested we find a protest to go to. I told them about Marley coming out on Facebook, that she contacted the LA LGBTQ center, and was planning a protest against Trump and Pence in Hollywood on December 10th.

“How does that make you feel? Marley being pansexual?” my friend Lisa asked me. Lisa’s a therapist and likes to get to the truth.

“Honestly,” I told her. “I don’t know. It would be a lie to say I don’t care. We’ve always told our kids we’ll love them just the same whether they’re gay or straight and it’s true, but it’s not exactly what you wish for. I want Marley to live her truth, but I also want her life to be easy.”

But if there’s one truth we all know by this time in our lives it’s that life can be so many things – wonderful, terrible, usually something in-between, but if there’s one thing life never ever is, it’s easy.

If there’s one truth about Marley it’s that if there is a hard path and an easy path she’ll pick the hard path. Every Single Time.

“Do you think this protest will actually happen?” Lisa asked me.

I shrugged. “Who knows. I admire her passion and intensity, but she’s passionate and intense about everything and not particularly famous for her follow through.”

But the protest did happen. Marley posted it as a Facebook event and it was shared with over five thousand people. Trolls started posting terrible things and at one point Marley had an anxiety attack when she realized she had no idea what she was doing, but there was no backing out. Fortunately a seasoned protester reached out to her and helped her immensely. The police contacted her and provided protection. This was a great relief to me and my husband as even though Marley stressed this was a peaceful protest, there was an uptick in hate crimes after the election and protests can turn ugly. We really didn’t know what to expect.

In the end approximately two hundred people showed up – both gay and straight, including a family with a fourteen year-old lesbian daughter who was so grateful to Marley for organizing a march that spoke to them. There were roadblocks -literal ones, as her march was the same day as the Rogue One premiere and we had to take a different route; and figurative ones as there was a pro-Trump rally being held on his Walk of Fame star, where our march was ending. Marley was encouraged to give a speech, which she hadn’t planned, but she spoke from her heart. We marched from Hollywood and Vine to Hollywood and Highland holding signs, chanting chants, speaking our truth.

The truth is this wonderful-terrible-somewhere-in-between life is hard no matter who you love. But loving Marley is easy.

 

*Alice is not her friend’s real name. I only out my own kid on the internet.

 

Charlene Ross is the author of Frosted Cowboy. You can find her at charleneaross.com.

Charlene Ross Headshot

 

140 Conference in Los Angeles

Our Story: How and Why We Launched Our Midlife Channels

We’re going to assume that you’ve seen us on Instagram and that’s how you landed here. A day ago we presented our talk “From Motherhood to Otherhood” at the 140 Conference here in Los Angeles. The 140 Conference focuses on the state of now, particularly emerging trends in microblogging. We thought that publishing our talk would make a nice first post for this new website:

Motherhood to Otherhood
Photo credit: Karen Putz

I’m Jessica Gottlieb and back in 2008 I peeled off from my paid blogging gigs to start my own Mom Blog. A few months later I was a panelist at the first 140 Conference in New York City and it was what truly launched that site. I’m one of many people who has benefited from the generous nature of the 140 Conference community. You guys became the catalyst for a little website that helped support my family for the next six years and then led right into my current career. I will always and forever begin my talks with gratitude and knowing that we are all looking to this stage to see what else might launch out of this roving group of technophiles.

Mom blogging is tedious and it has a short lifespan. When your kids hit the teen years you’re done as Mom Blogger. Once they’re teenagers there’s really nothing to talk about in public. We don’t discuss other people’s puberty, dating or grades, and since that is all consuming during the teen years there’s not much left except a wall of privacy. All of a sudden both online and off we’re moving from motherhood as our primary identity to otherhood. I’ve watched a few cling to writing about parenting, I’ve done that myself, but it’s redundant, tired and time to move over and let the new moms in. I’ve watched other moms bloggers migrate to crafting, cooking or travel blogging with great success. No one really knows what otherhood is we all define it for ourselves.

In 2011 I realized that I was saying no to brand work 10 times more often than I was saying yes. I’d been blogging about parenting for nearly 7 years at that point and had deep roots in the mom blogging community as well as some great relationships with brand marketers. I launched an influencer agency and we had a lot of success helping start ups – particularly ios apps and Fortune 500’s get paid media coverage along with Instagram placements.

Though not unique to American women, the lack of maternal leave and support around childcare intensifies the earliest years of parenting. When the most hands on parenting chapters are closing the time that’s left behind as kids get older has the potential to feel longer, lonelier and more difficult to fill.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to every career path. Stay at home moms and working moms experience this equally. What do you do when your kids have their own car on a Saturday night? Sit at home and wait in an empty house? That’s not my style. I don’t think it’s anyone’s first choice.

This summer one of my clients was a national clothing brand and they wanted me to find a large group of people. Women from ages 18 to 55, all in the United States. All on Instagram. This is an unusual ask because typically the demographics are tighter. Women from 18-25 or 25-35. 35-45 is ignored for everything but financial products. Sometimes they’re asking for 55 to death, as though there’s nothing really happening there.

Finding women from 18 to 30 is simple. Finding women from 30 to 40 is tough. I don’t want to ask a 35 year old woman if that’s really her age (it usually isn’t). Finding American women over 40 were willing to state their age was an impossible task on Instagram.

Women in their 40s and 50s are beautiful. We know what suits us, we can afford decent clothes, we go great places, and we know the power of community and collaboration.

I knew I needed to start an Instagram channel that celebrated our 40’s, 50’s and beyond. There wasn’t just a gap, but a chasm. I also knew that I didn’t want to do it alone. I had just spent all of these years writing a blog in relative isolation and I needed a friend to help me along the way.

This was a tall order to fill because I needed someone who is living in Los Angeles and willing to admit their age. There appear to be exactly two of us.

I also needed someone with better style than I. I have the technical skills but I am seldom described as elegant. I am described as down to earth and a breath of fresh air. I do words, I would have to learn to do images.

10 years ago I met Stefanie on a soccer field. Seems only fitting that a couple of soccer moms would be the ones to make this happen. Here’s Stefanie.

I’m Stefanie Pollard and I had been friends with Jessica for many years. We met when our daughters played AYSO soccer together. Our friendship has largely revolved around our motherhood and soccer, with one fun excursion for the perfect bag from Europe. So I was surprised when she said, “I have this idea- I want to start an Instagram account that celebrates women in their 40’s and 50’s. Want to do it with me?”

I was a little baffled as to why she asked me but I decided to say yes. At this stage in my life I had dissolved my commercial real estate business and I had a few extra hours in my day. After a health scare and handing my youngest child the keys to the car it was abundantly clear that a new chapter was beginning.

I did forewarn Jessica that my tech skills were bad, my personal Instagram account is mostly about my kids, Facebook is about keeping me connected to family and my high school friends along with the occasional rant about politics and illegal drugs, and I am really uncomfortable being in front of the camera and even more so on this stage. If you looked at our family albums you wouldn’t find any pictures of me from the time I had babies until about three months ago.
She said, “Great! I’ll teach you everything I know in 6 months.” I wasn’t sure that was possible. I was pretty sure that I should have taken statistics in college, paid more attention when my kids were downloading social media apps and learned Google Docs a long time ago, but here we are just a few months later and sometimes my brain hurts at the end of the day because I never in a million years thought I’d be doing this but that’s a good thing.

There’s great danger in the labels we assign to ourselves and others. I never want to undo the Mom label but I can’t be a professional mom to two adults nor is there a retirement plan for professional moms. So I am circling back to who I was before kids, and before a husband and exploring my joys and my talents.

In my before-kids days I’d been a manager at a department store, right nearby if anyone remembers Bullocks. I spent my days and nights arranging fabrics and accessories in the most appealing way possible. It had never occurred to me that this wouldn’t be part of my world forever. There’s a joy I experience in helping people feel their best and the feedback that we’re currently getting from Instagram is affirming and fulfilling.

As we use Instagram to document and curate the lightest and brightest parts of our days we’ll be expanding to incorporate a blog and more robust Facebook page. We will spend 2017 publishing essays by women in midlife, asking more of the women around us, and more of the men who live, love and work with us.

Midlife isn’t what it used to be. For many women it’s when they begin a family, for others it’s when they return to a career. There are midlife retirements, births, deaths, marriages, divorces, startups and travel. There are feminists and facelifts and feminists with facelifts. It’s not a homogenous group. The only thing that women in midlife share is a pool of wisdom.

Our particular journeys are taking us out of the most hands-on part of motherhood so it’s time for silk blouses and denim that doesn’t need to withstand finger paint.

The internet and all of her microblogging options have opened doors to take us from Motherhood to Otherhood. We’re having a blast being silly, being collaborative, being free and being women of a certain age with zero apologies.