“Do you have a spare toothbrush?” my mother asked. After a year in my new place, my parents had made the cross-country trek to see my new apartment, my new work, and most importantly (for them) my new boyfriend. Hell had frozen over, not only had I found an appropriate man, they were meeting him the next day. A strong night’s sleep was needed for tomorrow’s excitement. Obviously this began with clean teeth.
John and I had only been dating for a few months. Early to introduce him to the family, but my parents live in the rural south, and subjecting this nice east coast city man to the 10-hour car ride to end up in what I call “the footloose town” was not going to happen. I got my mental act together and decided a dinner on the neutral ground of my new town was what it was going to be. As I cleaned the bathroom in preparation for the parental visit, I stashed John’s toothbrush, the second toothbrush out of sight.
And that, was the only spare toothbrush in my house that evening when my mother asked. It was just she and I in the room, and we have always been close. So I quickly blurted out “no, John used my spare, you are old enough to know that he stays here sometimes.” My mother looked at me and cheekily replied “well yeah, you’re grown. Your father and I kind of assumed he did. But it would be weird if I used that toothbrush.”
My parents and I have always been pretty open. Being that most of my relationships up to that point had been either urban legends or disasters, they were very curious about John. But like any good daughter, I didn’t want to flaunt in their face that their little girl was getting it on the regular. However this is where I underestimated them. They had stopped seeing me as their little girl a long time ago. I had stopped seeing me as their little girl. For all their faults, this was something they got right. I grew up, and they let me. Policing who I dated and how we expressed affection was not a part of the process of having an adult daughter. When I returned to church after their visit, I felt grieved. I felt a flat resolution to keep keeping my dating life to myself. My actual flesh and blood family weren’t going to judge my relationship, my actual flesh and blood family weren’t going to turn me into the sex police. But my church family? That was and is still too much of an unknown. My church family wasn’t letting me grow up, they haven’t figured out how to have an “adult daughter.” I do wonder if the church as a whole will ever catch up, will ever learn how to have fully formed adults in leadership. I hate being made to feel like the proverbial loose women because I have an adult relationship with my adult boyfriend. I hate wondering what would happen if it ever “got out”. I hate wondering how long will I have to hide the proverbial toothbrush. But I still do it, I still feel it, and I don’t know how to change it. I’m certainly naked, but not quite unashamed.
My parents ended up sharing a toothbrush that night, that’s what three decades of marriage will do.