I’m almost everything my mum and dad wanted me to be. I came so close, and yet I’m so far. I don’t own a car or a home, I not socially conservative like they are—and recently I told them I’m gay.
Uh oh. Well, they had it coming. And they probably knew they had it coming. I haven’t ever had a partner and have basically played the role of an asexual person. So they must have suspected something…
When I came out they said they want me to be happy (I am) but that they wish I could be normal. Oh, that’s nice. Let me clarify something: I am happy with everything about myself except parents who attack me like that. In fact, the devastating thing about this is not that they don’t like my being gay. The devastating thing is the KFC advert that came on the TV just after I came out.
In 60 seconds, the advert portrays the coming of age of a boy into a man. It starts with his adoption by his parents, and goes through some of the tests of his childhood like exams and his first kiss. Then we see him graduating and, later, as a father himself. His own adoptive dad smiles down on him at this moment, enjoying the circle of love and the continuation of the family. The three generations (including pregnant wife of the main guy) all tuck into a bucket of fried chicken and the jingle plays out to their loving laughter.
I know why this advert makes people cry. It’s so pure and simple and lovely—and there’s a bloody soft piano playing too!
But remember when I saw this ad. I’d just come out to my parents. We talked about it for a while and then Dad went for a bath. Mum and I sat down in their living room to watch TV, too awkward to look at each other anymore. And that sodding perfect happy family with their perfect straightness came on.
I wouldn’t ban ads from depicting happy straight people. But right then at that moment—when my parents had just told me that my life would be difficult because I’m gay and that really they’d rather I was ‘normal’—I didn’t need an emotional reminder smothered in 11 magic spices and accompanied by piano that I was the one denying my parents their happiness.
Of course I believe it’s them, not me, who are zapping the happiness out of our lives. But still, I got a lump in my throat at the thought of that fried chicken because I knew what Mum was thinking. She was thinking she wouldn’t ever have the same joy as the parents in the advert—that of seeing her son bring home a woman to meet them, and a pregnant one at that! Obviously this is what my Mum wants me to do, and it’s not likely to happen. So I felt sad for her. She can’t be happy because she has a picture in her mind of what she wants her son’s life to be like that, and it’s not measuring up in reality. I’m sorry for her, but there’s nothing I can do about it besides try to help her to see that my happiness can equal her happiness.
I was also furious at the KFC ad people for being so insensitive in that very touchy moment between me and Mum. They weren’t to know. But at the same time, they are using the dreams of people like my mum to sell fried chicken, to make people feel part of a certain kind of family. I guess that foot fetishists who use bondage are part of another family, but KFC isn’t going to sanction this kind of family with a portrayal of them all noshing on a spicy drumstick after a particularly sweaty session.
That’s the thing that caused the lump in my throat. The fact that as far as most adverts and TV shows go, there is a gold-standard family. It’s straight and it involves children—and preferably marriage and home ownership, which is implied in the KFC ad. We’re bombarded with stories of this kind of family, from billboards to soaps and now to ads for fried food. I’d like to know: does my mum want this kind of family for me because she’s so used to seeing in the media that it leads to happiness? or because it led to her own happiness? or because there’s something universal and natural about it?
You can tell from my tone that I don’t believe in the latter. Even if it were true, it wouldn’t be right to stop people living alternative ways if they chose to do so, and these ways didn’t harm another person.
In any case we have a problem. My parents want a certain kind of family life for me that is probably not going to happen. I don’t want this—I’m not rejecting it; I just don’t feel attracted to it. I’m perfectly happy really. But this makes my parents unhappy.
I just hope they don’t eat buckets and buckets of fried chicken in the vain hope that it will make them happy.