“Territory,” the opening story in Family Dancing, revolves around the first meeting between the two most important people in Neil Campbell’s life: his mother, Barbara, and his lover, Wayne. Although the action revolves around Barbara and Wayne’s meeting, the most richly detailed and emotionally powerful relationship in the story, as in much of Leavitt’s work, is between mother and son. Barbara has been a devoted mother, PTA member, volunteer at school, and active member of the Coalition of Parents of Lesbians and Gays. Neil’s father is “a distant sort,” often away on business and emotionally absent even when home, so it is Barbara to whom Neil feels emotionally bound.
Neil is flooded with memories as his lover’s arrival forces him to reconcile the boy his mother knew with the man whom Wayne loves. As he nervously awaits the visit, he remembers the day he “came out” to his mother and “felt himself shrunk to an embarrassed adolescent, hating her sympathy, not wanting her to touch him.” He also recalls the Gay Pride parade his mother attended to show her support, succeeding only in embarrassing Neil and inflicting pain upon herself.
The story revolves around simple events: Wayne’s introduction to Barbara, their first dinner together, and a trip to a theater. The meaning, however, lies not in the events themselves but rather, as is the case in the fiction of Henry James, in the small gestures. When Wayne takes...
(The entire section is 454 words.)