John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Overheard at Starbucks

I’ve written several books now, and because for most of that time my home office was near the door to my house that my three girls and dog run in and out of, much of that writing took place in Starbucks. You can observe an awful lot of life by sitting quietly in the corner of a coffee shop with your laptop on your lap and earphones in your ears. So it was one day that I sat and listened to some guys from a church debate whether or not to discipline one of their staff members for “not avoiding the appearance of evil.”

Sigh.

Legalism sucks, by the way. It sucks the life out of churches and people, and it sucks me into conversations I don’t need to hear.

And so it was another day, as I sat in that same spot at that same Starbucks, that I watched a mother confront her college-aged son (quietly). From what I could piece together, he was home from college for the summer, and his mail was being forwarded to his parents’ house. He, apparently, subscribed to Genre Magazine. She wanted answers. He pretended ignorance.

Since I was online at the time, I wrote Dennis about this whole episode. His response led to a good conversation. He said, “Interesting. Genre Magazine is pretty specific. It doesn’t get a lot gayer than that. It’s so gay even I don’t read it! ;-)”

He asked how I felt about the whole situation and told me about how he came out to his parents. He waited until he was 30 (which was really surprising to me, because I knew about it when we were 17). He got married to a black man, and he’s not sure which freaked them out more – the gay thing or the racial thing.

The scene that played out at Starbucks was tense. The mother pressed a little. The son denied everything. She let it go, and they went on to planning all the things they needed for their 4th of July picnic. I know Dennis would have said, “Lady, if your son knows that you’ll need red, white and blue streamers and cocktail weenies AND he’s getting Genre Magazine delivered to his dorm…wake up. Your son’s gay!” I wanted to say it myself.

But the mother and son soon let the whole matter drop. The kid slipped the magazine into the trash on his way out the door.

I felt so sad for them. I thought about the system this mother had set up – a system in which her nearly grown child knows that certain behaviors will maintain her acceptance of him, and others will not. This boy could not be honest with his own mother because she would shame him if he is. That’s unspeakably tragic.

A son needs to know his parents love and accept him, even if he’s gay -- maybe especially then.