June: Pride month. From two-years-old, my now-grown son would dress in my clothes, sneak into my make-up drawer, and slather himself with colors and lipstick. He ran to avoid the soccer ball, once almost drowned in the ocean and hated sports. He preferred Broadway shows to hanging out with friends. I missed the cues to his future career as a chef, but I did not miss the cues that he was gay.
Throughout elementary school, he’d burst through the door from theater or chorus rehearsal, don an apron, smear his face with rouge, drape a white dishtowel around his left arm and play chef and waitress. He’d sashay to the table, flip one arm up, circle his wrist and, with a perfect French accent, he’d ask: “que voulez-vous?” We’d answer, “what’s the plat-du-jour?” When he was six, Ramen noodles in varied forms graced our plates. At seven, he decorated les cartes du jour and presented his colorful menus to us for our perusal. Always outside-the-box of “normal” creativity or gender normative choices, at eight, chocolate chicken or maybe hamburger pancakes served, with flair, as main course.
I’m not sure his becoming a chef stemmed only from his youthful culinary research. In his early years, I never guessed his future chefdom. Rather, I paid attention to his dolls, his flamboyance, his fashion advice for me, his requesting sewing, singing, dance lessons. From the moment I knew him, I never believed being gay is a choice. Sexual orientation does not involve picking and choosing. It speaks to essence, to true nature, to identity, maybe to chromosomes.
At age nine, he concocted wasabi blueberry muffins topped with edible glitter. He started all his inventions the same way: open the fridge and cupboards and rearrange them from their order (I alphabetize spices) into some chaos of his liking. “Coconut goes here since I’ll use it in the meatloaf. Cloves go there for brownies. No need for spinach.” All recipes ended with sprinklings and sparklings of glitter.
Sometimes I’d wish he’d conform, even a little, maybe once. But no, that’s the point, isn’t it, the rainbow point? The sweetness of being-who-you-are point. The everyone-is-different point. The Pride-month-is-for-all-of-us point.
I did not know he would grow into a chef but I did know I would be a mother who held wide space, permission and reverence for however he’d grow, for whomever he’d become. I would not be one of those in-the-box adults who says, “no, no we don’t put salmon in cake.”
He blames me for his becoming a pastry chef since I limited sugar. The way I see it, I deserve credit for his career since he therefore had to tap his ingenuity to get desserts. He does thank his dad and me for seeing him, embracing him, hearing him, loving him.
At age 38, this sparkly man works as an executive pastry chef, for real, crafting menus, writing budgets, training sous chefs, plating yumminess, judging TV baking competitions. For years I wondered how to raise a gay child. I finally decided to nurture his genius, his talents, his passions, then get out of his way. Because whatever bright force or brilliant muse (that outshines me) knew better. I would coax, “Hey, Zac, can you clean up this mess?” All the while, something greater whispered inspiration in his ear.
Now I want his ear, when he returns my calls, texts or emails. I say things like, “Hi! Will you please send me one of your Piecaken? And please include some of your rainbow glitter cookies. Thanks. Love you.”