Surrounded By Their Sex

42 Flares Twitter 21 Facebook 21 Buffer 0 Google+ 0 42 Flares ×

photo via

St. Patrick’s Day weekend, 1992. I was 16. We lived on the parade route so tons of people were at our house. Sandwiches, chips, green petits fours, doberge from Gambino’s Bakery, and ice chests full of beer and soft drinks were crammed into our kitchen. People were talking, laughing, licking fingers and looking at their watches to figure out what time to leave in order to catch the first float.

A Ford Escort parked outside. My father and two other men got out and came in the front door.  We’d found out a few months ago that Dad was gay, but this was our first time meeting his new friends. Dad introduced everyone to Kory and David, both wearing tight, short corduroy shorts. I cringed when they talked and gestured because to me it was obvious they were gay. I shifted from foot to foot, examining some crumbs on the grey slate floor. After saying a polite hello, I escaped outside with friends (who didn’t know my secret).

During the parade I tried to relax, but couldn’t help watching my dad and his friends in the crowd. As the mob pushed forward for every float’s approach, we covered our heads to protect ourselves from the flying cabbages. I cowered and peeked around to make sure there wasn’t any PDA going on. I wasn’t prepared for that, let alone ready for my friends to find out that way.

I stopped paying attention and started getting stepped on. I lost my balance and pitched forward, bumping into another woman. She glared at me while one of my friends grabbed me.

Are you okay?” she asked. “You seem…wierd.”

“I’m fine!” I snapped. Only I wasn’t: I was 16, my dad was gay and I wondered what he did with other men. Sure, all parents have sex, but it was embarrassing to think of my dad having homosexual sex. I squeezed my eyes shut against my imagination. Then came the thought of Mom with her boyfriend, who often slept over. I’d go downstairs for breakfast to find him sitting at our kitchen table. Heat rose to my cheeks because, well, what else do grownups do when they shack up? He lived right around the block. I was very much a virgin then, but I felt surrounded by my parents’ sex.

Looking back, I see they were happy. Divorced, Dad fresh out of the closet, they could’ve been ruined. Instead, we continued to gather as a family, including my dad’s domestic partner in parties and celebrations, as well as my mom’s boyfriend. We lived life. We made it work. It didn’t mean I was okay with everything, but I had a family that loved me. An unusual family, but a family nonetheless.

Today’s prompt: Think back to your own adolescence. With the perspective of time, try to find the beauty or grace in an awkward adolescent situation, even if there is only a sliver to find. Word limit is 400.


42 Flares Twitter 21 Facebook 21 Buffer 0 Google+ 0 42 Flares ×
This entry was posted in My Non-Fiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Didactic Pirate

    Thanks for this. I worry about whether or not my daughter will experience some shame, awkwardness or other tricky emotion when it comes to having a gay dad.  It’s probably one of my biggest worries.  I want to help her navigate it, and know that I’m just a regular guy, like I always was.

    I’m especially glad for your last paragraph.

    • Erin margolin

      Didactic Pirate,

      Mini Pirate is in a good place. I don’t think you need to worry about her. Your post made it sound like she’s very well adjusted, especially for her age. Also, given her age, and the year, I think what she will go through may be significantly less than what I’m describing. And I hope not to scare you off with my posts.  I am so grateful to have found you. Your Huffington Post piece was fucking amazing. Keep it up.


  • elizabeth traub

    Boldly writing your story of those first feelings.  We do live around the edges of sexual preferences.  We can embrace the decisions of others or continue to fade into the crowd.  My son, was sad when we had to move and give our dog to my brother.  My son did not want his dog to be gay. My brother is gay and I assured him that his dog would not be affected by Uncle “C”.  I love that my son could openly share his heart. His dog was his life. My son embraced Uncle “C” and now as grown-ups we find family more important than those edges of the unknown.

  • Jana A (@jana0926)

    Beautiful post. I’m proud of you. And all of your family, really, for being so awesome! 

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you, sweetheart. That means so very much to me.

  • Andrea B.

    I like it, Erin. I especially love the last paragraph. It sums up the beauty of it all – in retrospect you were living a happy life, despite the embarrassment you felt at the time. 

    Here are my 2 constructive comments. 1st, the link to Gambino’s threw me. I thought you were going to link back to a post of your own, a memory of the place, or the food and just going to their bakery threw me off a bit. I don’t think you need it.

    2nd – the Ford Escort paragraph was a bit chunky. I think formatting it in a broken up way would help bring forth a better flow. Mostly because this line below is my favorite and it gets swallowed up in that paragraph: 

    “I shifted from foot to foot, examining some crumbs on the grey slate floor.”
    Breaking it up a little bit spotlights that part, so I can better SEE you, shifting uncomfortably, feeling crappy, anxious, nervous, emotional, embarrassed. I can see where you’re standing. See your sneakers, even, if that’s what you were wearing. It honestly doesn’t matter what you wore – I just imagine it with your words because I feel YOU here. I hope that makes some sense.  Well done and thank you for sharing. You’re brave to have hit publish. I’m proud of you!

  • Ashley

    Your words share such a brave story in such a strong way. You make the reader feel as though they are going through this right along with you. Beautiful xo.

    • Erin margolin

      Thank you so much, Ashley & so excited now that I know you, Shell & Liz will be at BBC next weekend! Can’t wait! p.s. u are still leaving us hanging on your posts about your health…DISLIKE. must get scoop next weekend??

  • Lindsay @Lilloveandluck

    Great job, Erin.

    • Erin margolin

      Thank you, Lindsay! ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Once again Erin, my imagination is swept away in your words, standing beside you in the crowd. Watching. Waiting. Anitcipation growing. Envisioning my own self at 16, with all my insecurites and awkwardness, but not having to face my father’s homosexuality, I could barely handle accidentally seeing him naked exiting the bathroom. Eloquent. Poised. And certainly real. I think you did a wonderful job and thoughtfully wrote this out with love & acceptance for simply what is. Well done!

  • Anonymous

    Must echo Kaitlyn–very real, very honest. Kudos to you for opening up.

    • Erin margolin


      ANd thank YOU for reading! ;-)

  • sailwawasee

    So many elements of this story were difficult for you, no doubt.  I could feel your anticipation at the parade as to what might happen as if I was there too.It was fresh and honest so I loved reading.

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you so very much. I am always honest. In fact? I’m a terrible liar. People always know when I’m telling a tall tale.

      And after all?
      “The truth shall set you free.”
      Now who wrote that? because I can’t recall.

  • sailwawasee

    This is from Gina over at WOE. Quick fingers got me in a pickle.

  • Jackie

    I can’t imagine how you really felt and what you were going through as a kid when all of this was going on in your life. The ups, the downs, the confusion, and the awkwardness of it all. 
    What’s good is that you got through it and I think that you’re coming to terms with everything.

    • Erin margolin


      THe thing is? I feel like I can only say sooo much without hurting feelings. Even this little bit hurt some family members’ feelings. But I have to write my truth.

      Thanks for listening/reading. ;-)

  • Lindypsmith

    That is a lot to handle at 16. As an adult my family fell apart and I still felt like a lost little kid. I love that you were able to find the beauty in this. I also like how you told such a touching story in a simple 16 year old way, that way more people can relate. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Erin margolin


      Your comments made me happy. Thank you. Seriously! I appreciate your stopping by to read and leave me a comment. ;-)

      Have a wonderful weekend!

  • Amie Moonshine

    Great post Erin.  I love reading your posts about your gay dad because it highlights all the similarities and differences in our situations. I always dreamed of the big city and wondered if it would make it all easier.  Guess that doesn’t matter now, but it’s fun to think of when reading your experience.  :) 

    -Amie your fellow gay dad friend. 

    • Erin margolin


      When are you coming back home?!?! I can’t wait to chat with you again…I’ve been loving your posts and later this a.m. I’m heading to Jared’s to read your dad’s letter. Thank you for sharing, for coming out on your blog w/ all of this, and for “uniting” with me and Jared in all of this. I do believe we’re starting a wave of something.

      • Amie Moonshine

         Erin Erin!  I come home May 6 …. so soon … so soon.  I’m really enjoying all that we are doing with this and I hope we are starting a wave!  I love it!  :)  I’ve got a few more weeks on the Swedish party train and then it’s on like (gay) donkey kong when I’m back!  Can’t wait to collaborate more with you and Jared.  :D 

  • Jared Karol

    Erin, The feelings you shared were exactly the feelings I had when I was that age. I was constantly worried that my friends would find out, or that my dad would deliberately do some PDA in front of me and/or my friends (which he did do, by the way, when I was in college). It helped that I lived in San Diego and my dad lived in San Francisco, so my peer set never met him for the most part. Now, as an adult, I know it wasn’t that big a deal. But then again, neither was a lot of stuff that we thought was back then. . . Glad to be sharing these stories together. :)

    • Erin margolin


      I’m so relieved that you “get me/this.”  I’d be interested to hear about when they did PDA in college… Just came from Amie’s dad’s poignant post on your blog. Left a comment there. I hope my dad is reading, I just wouldn’t count on him for commentary. He can’t even figure out how to comment on my blog—he just replies to my posts via email (he subscribes and gets them in his in-box, replies that way—and not often). If he actually does read Pete’s letter, he may be inclined to write you one. We’ll see. I don’t know. I’ll ask him about it soon and see.

      hope you’re having a good weekend!

  • Victoria KP

    What a powerful post. I have a friend whose dad came out at a teenager. She’s never talked (to me) about  how it affected her back then. But I know as an adult she has a great relationship with her dad & his partner. It was clear at her wedding when her mom and her 2 dads stood up with her that they are now most definitely a family.

    • Erin margolin


      That is so cool!  I had both my parents walk me down the aisle….without their significant others. Because I felt that would be more like a 3-ring circus than just a wedding. You know? Blerg. Some of this stuff is so hard/complicated.
      Thank you for reading!

  • Angela Amman

    I know this was a difficult post for you to publish.  If it helps at all, I think you did a great job of showing us your emotion and apprehension of the situation at the time while balancing it with your adult understanding of the most important part of the situation–the love your family had for each other.  Finding out something so sexually based must have been so mortifying as a teenager, when all you want to do is pretend that your parents had sex only as many times as the number of kids they had.  Having your parents’ sex lives so much at the forefront of your thoughts sounds tough, and you showed it well here, with the parade incident.

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you, sweets! Was hoping for a bit more concrit (I nagged at Nancy too, don’t worry!). Yes, it was difficult to write/publish, but that doesn’t mean I can’t handle some advice/tips from the pros. Really. I need someone to give me some direction…. sometimes I feel like I’m just putting crap out there and I have no real feel for what people are thinking. Is it boring? Does it flow? Is it confusing? Is it shitty?

      • Angela Amman

        I’ll email you later this weekend. It’s not shitty :)

  • The JackB

    Hi Erin,

    I can relate to some of this. I was 17 when I found out my uncle was gay and that his roommate was his boy friend.

    It is not the same as a father, but I remember what it was like to try not to wonder what they did. I loved my uncle very much and spent a lot of time with him before and after I found out. But I would be lying if I said that it didn’t mess with my head a bit.

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you, friend. Your honesty and what you’ve expressed here in the comments helps me feel a little more human and normal. This messed with my head too (obviously!)!

      • The JackB

        Well age and life experience goes a long way to helping to make it easier.

  • Nancy M. Campbell

    The more you write about this, the more your family become so very real and dear to me. I adore how you found this moment of beauty during a time of upheaval.

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you, friend. But was hoping for some more concrit, especially given your expertise and heading up WOE now and the chats, etc…I know it’s in there, you’re just afraid to give it to me….please don’t be?

  • Kate Sluiter

    While my hubs didn’t have gay parents, when they divorced, he still lived with his mom and she brought guys home all the time.  The way he described it, he felt very much the same as you….being forced to imagine these guys with his mom.  He HATED it and it definitely affected his relationship with her for a long LONG time (as in until very recently). 

    The way you write about this is so…good.  I know, lame critique.  I’m not into critique anymore though.  And I just love how you go right back to that time and put what was in your head then out here for us.

    Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Erin margolin


      I am so grateful you read this. And it seems like very few people are into the concrit, which is frustrating sometimes (although there have been a few times where I confess I shed a few tears when it came to some harsher criticism, I need to grow some balls)….I just never know if I’m getting it right or boring people or being confusing or getting off track. I’m supposed to be able to count on someone like you, and CDG and all the others for some concrit.

      thank you for your comments. and for reading when i know you are busy w/ baby!

  • Elaine A.

    You had me right there, feeling the same with you.  Especially at that age, we do not want to think about our parents’ sex lives and I know your parents’ took a completely different turn than you ever expected.  And of course you did not want your friends to find out!  I’m sorry you felt uncomfortable but the fact that you knew and still felt so much that you were a family says a lot.  xoxo

    • Erin margolin

      I love you, Elaine. Thank you for this.
      <3 <3 <3

  • Kir

    first, the way you wrote this was perfect. I was transported and standing in that kitchen with you, the writing was very good.

    my parents weren’t gay or divorced (they fought a lot and so I saw my dad hit my mom more than a few times) but they were also very passionate, and I knew about “sex” and “loving” one another early on and like you it made me uncomfortable and uneasy because parts of me longed to feel that way and other parts (the Catholic parts) thought those thoughts were bad, evil and sinful. I was constantly at war with my own emotions, so I know how you felt.

    It was the way you wrote it that was amazing and good and heartfelt. Families make it work, families love one another and they make their own path. The path you followed was a good one my friend, thank you for sharing it with us, here. xoxoxo

    • Erin margolin


      I am so sorry for what you witnessed as a child. I cannot begin to imagine what that was like for you. I appreciate your compliments on my writing and wish so badly I could see you at LTYM. When is your big day?

  • Adrienne

    I’m so thrilled that you can look back and find that love in this pain. That’s beautiful, Erin!

    • Erin margolin

      THanks so much, Adrienne!!!

  • JR Reed

    Wow.  That was awesome.  It’s nice that time gives us perspective on past events.

    • Erin margolin


       Thank you!!

  • Cameron (CDG)

    And there it is, grace and beauty in something that is about as awkward as it gets when you’re a teen. Thanks for sharing, Erin.

    • Erin margolin


      Thanks so much for reading. Do you have any con crit for me? I know you’re super busy, though…no pressure. I look up to you so much. Sigh.


  • Susi

    An awkward age for sure and aren’t all teenagers mortified by the thought of their parents having the sex? :) I blushed right along with you…

    • Erin margolin


      YES!!! THat was kind of my point when I brought my mom into the post—because it was just as hard (maybe not QUITE as) being exposed to my mom. Parents and sex are just not things any of us like to deal with in the same sentence. Blushing indeed!

  • jessica

    Wow Erin, what a place to be in as a teen and you illustrated those emotions so well. I can only imagine going through the divorce of your parents but all of the situations that followed had to have been so tough for you. I’m glad you have a silver lining to hold on to.

    • Erin margolin


      You are so kind. Thank you so much for your comments, they mean a lot, coming from you. I need to remember that silver lining. And so does the rest of my family….there was some backlash here….

  • Lady Jennie

    I felt like I was reliving your teen years when I read this.  Not a place to go, right?  But you were sweet and vulnerable and coping.  I could barely get through my teenage years and my worst drama was parents who fought.  All my drama started in my 20′s but I might have been better equipped then.  Maybe.

    • Erin margolin


      Funny you say that, b/c I often wonder how I would’ve handled it all if it had happened later in my life…would it have been better? I guess I’ll never know…

      Thanks so much for reading AND I CAN’T WAIT TO MEET YOU AT BLOGHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Julia

    I love that you are able to look back and take that perspective from the teenage years and turn it into a positive outlook now. I have always believed it’s a strange transition to begin to see your parents as people, with all of the tragedy and beauty of their imperfections. Thank you so much for sharing your story. 

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you so very much. ANd you’re spot on–that thing about seeing your parents as people. I think I’m still working on that. Does it ever change/get easier?

  • Terri Sonoda

    I agree with the previous commenter.   Excellent post.  And that last paragraph said it all.  Thanks for sharing Erin.

    • Erin margolin


      You are a sweet, sweet friend. I appreciate your reading this and commenting. xoxoxooxxo

  • Allyson

    This is particularly powerful for me, because our teenage years seemed to have shared a difficult path. My mom came out to me when I was 15. Not long after, her girlfriend started spending the night. We lived in a small, historic 2 bedroom house with 1 bathroom. It was impossible not to run into each other multiple times in the hall. The entire situation was so stressful, I went to live with my dad and his wife, but there, too, I was surrounded by their sex..still a virgin. So, I’m 34 years old and mom and her partner of 19 years now share a home and they come visit almost once a month. And I *just now* don’t squirm when I see them together. It’s a horrible, judgmental thing to do, especially with someone who not only gave me life but has gone above and beyond for me for my entire life. But sometimes I become consumed with what other people will think and even in this new age, it’s hard to confess this about my mom to friends I’ve just met. It’s an enormous pink elephant in our room and one that I can’t figure out how to blog about. I’m so glad you did. xoxo

    • Erin margolin


      I know we barely know each other, but I love you. I love this comment. I love your bravery. As soon as you told me and left this comment? That enormous pink elephant starts to get a little smaller, you know. Each and every time you share. It gets smaller and less threatening. And if you ever want to talk, like really talk on the phone? Let me know. I would love it. But no pressure.


  • Jenni Chiu

    Awkward moments at any age, I’m sure.  Your last statements summed it up beautifully, though.  
    Also, now I’m thinking about my mom having sex – ew.

    • Erin margolin


      You just made me choke—w/ comment about your mom having sex. HAHAHAHHA and now I bet you are thinking it again! SNORT

  • Juliecgardner

    Oh, is there anything more awkward than being confronted by your parents’ sexuality? 
    And his coming out must have amplified it to a degree I can hardly imagine.

    When I was 16, I walked in on my parents in the daylight, in the midst of full-blown sex. I mean it was horrifying. Beyond. I do the math now and realize they were only 38 at the time, younger than I am now.

    It’s so hard to see our parents as human. In every way. 
    And your honest words here are a balm to an extremely raw subject.

    • Erin margolin


      I walked in on my parents before they split, too. I didn’t see much b/c they were covered by sheets, etc., but I knew enough to know what was going on. AWKWARD with a capital A.

      Thank you so very much for your comments, which are a balm to my soul. You are incredible.

  • Dr. Cynicism

    “but I had a family that loved me.” And that’s what matters — because many of us came from what’s considered “more traditional” family structures, but they were cesspools of dysfunction, anger, and depression. 

    • Erin margolin

      Dr. Cynicism,

      Thank you for that. I am hopeful many people will read your comment too, including my family, who I think was less than pleased with parts of this post. I know other families have skeletons in the closet, so to speak (pun not intended). I guess I just always feel so alone in this stuff. Because not many people really open up and talk about it…

  • Rachel Speer

    This post is incredibly heartfelt and, well, awkward, which to me means difficult to read.  I hard a hard time reading this because you made me feel your emotions.  I felt like I was intruding on your memory. 

  • Erin

    Being surrounded by sex from the people who also surround you with broccoli and talk about manners is very awkward. But you wrote about it beautifully.