It started with Mary Poppins. Perfectly harmless, but the seed was sown. When I didn’t baulk at that, the bar was incrementally raised: Doctor Doolittle/The Jungle Book/Oliver/Bugsy Malone, even Camelot (which was really quite grown-up). Still I did not flinch. Then the heavy artillery: Cabaret/Grease/Jesus Christ Superstar/New York, New York/A Star is Born. I took umbrage at the latter, my tender sensibilities already affronted by the vulgarity of Hollywood pizzazz. But still they kept on coming: Evita/A Chorus Line/That’s Dancing. And then I knew. How could I continue to live this lie? The sleepless nights, the deception, those red velvet trousers I had always secretly despised? No, the time had come: I had to tell my mother I was straight:
Mother: Oh, don’t be ridiculous!
Me: Ma, I am. I think I always have been. I’m sorry.
Mother: It’s probably just a phase, dear. Lots of boys your age go through it. Now, settle down and I’ll pop on some Barbara Streisand.
Me: Please don’t. I’m serious about this.
Mother: Of course you are. Let’s have a cup of tea and you can tell me all about it.
Me: You’re not listening to me, Ma. I’m straight. And no amount of cups of tea or Barbara Streisand will change that.
Mother: Yes yes yes! No need to shout. Now, I’ve been flicking through the papers and they’re showing West Side Story again at the Ritzy on Saturday. Thought we might…
Me: You’re just not getting it, are you? I don’t want to see West Side Story, I don’t want to see The Sound of Music and, to be frank, I don’t want to see any more musicals. Ever. Again. Do you understand?
Mother: I’ve seen you watching Cabaret alone in your room. And singing along.
Me: Cabaret is different. The narrative is the driving force behind that film, and the music just so happens to be great as well. But without the former, they’re just songs looking for a vessel. The combination of the two is a heady mix. It’s the unsurpassed, bitter-sweet genius of Bob Fosse.
Me: See what? Look, just because I like Cabaret does not make me gay, ok? You’re just going to have to get used to it.
Mother: But…but what will I do?
Me: I know it’s hard for you right now. But lots of straight men go on to lead happy, fulfilled lives and I’m determined to be one of them. I just want you to be happy for me. Do you think you can do that?
Mother: Yes…I think so. But are you sure? I mean, have you actually tried it? You know…
Me: Yes, I have.
Mother: Oh God…(sobs)…I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry!
Me: Please don’t be, Ma. It’s ok, really. And I think, given time, you’ll come to love Echo & the Bunnymen as well. They’re super on stage, and you’ll die for the hairstyles.