Despite what you may think, Mother’s Day isn’t just a money-making scam dreamt up in a Hallmark boardroom. The history of the day dates all the way back to the annual spring festival the Greeks dedicated to Rhea, the mother of many deities, and to the offerings ancient Romans made to their Great Mother of Gods, Cybele. Even the early Christians celebrated this festival in Lent in honour of Mary, mother of Christ.

However the Mother’s Day celebrations we all know and follow originated in more recent years, thanks to American Appalachian homemaker Anna Jarvis. Jarvis dedicated her life to raising awareness of poor health conditions in her community, a cause she believed would be best advocated by mothers. Nearly 150 years ago, she called it “Mother’s Work Day.”

When Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter, also named Anna, began a campaign to memorialise the work her mother did. According to legend, Anna remembered a Sunday school lesson that her mother gave in which she said, “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day. There are many days for men, but none for mothers.”

Anna approached many prominent politicians and businessmen to help her introduce a day dedicated specifically to mothers, including Presidents Taft and Roosevelt. In 1914 Anna’s dedication paid off when Woodrow Wilson signed a bill recognising Mother’s Day as a national holiday. Unfortunately for Anna, her message was blurred as the national holiday became a commercialised money-making event. She believed that the day’s sentiment was being sacrificed at the expense of greed and profit.

She even went as far as filing a lawsuit to stop a Mother’s Day festival in 1923, and was arrested for disturbing the peace at a convention selling carnations for a war mother’s group. Before her death in 1948, Jarvis is said to have confessed that she regretted ever starting the mother’s day tradition.

Well, we don’t hear mother’s around the world complaining when we shower them with lavish gifts on their special day. But have you ever wondered why gay men are stereotyped as being “mommy’s boys”? Well this could very well be the reason: moms might hold the controversial “gay gene”.

According to new research, mommy-dearest might be the reason homosexual men even exist. Sven Bocklandt of the University of California suggests that a mother’s X chromosomes partly influences whether her son is gay or not. “We think that there are one or more genes on the X chromosome that have an effect on the sexual orientation of the sons,” Bocklandt said.

“Coming out” might be one of the hardest things a gay man has to do, and many closeted guys choose to come out to their mother’s first. This could be because mothers are often more closely in tune with their children on an emotional level. Local DJ legend Stuart Hillary highlights this fact, saying that his mother “knew from when I was only three years old that I was gay”.

Trend guru Dion Chang agrees, saying that gay men are generally closer to their mothers. “In many cases it is the mother who is more empathetic,” he tells us, and is happy to have a mother who supports him fully. “She has an amazing philosophy of just playing the cards that life has dealt you. There are times she has to deal with those awkward questions (marriage, etc) from distant relatives, but other than that she is very supportive and gets along fabulously with my partner,” he tell us.

“I would tell my mom a secret before I told my dad. I can relate more to mom more than my father…”

Mothers also tend to be more accepting, further highlighting the special bond between mother and child. However many parents take the news badly. According to Glenn de Swardt from Cape Town’s Health4Men, “Parents need time to mourn the loss of what they had hoped for their children – a stable marriage and children”.

He told Health24 that: “They need the space to go into shock and to come to terms with the news they have received. Coming out is a long process for a child and parents also need a lot of time to work through this.”

While more conservative mothers will have a hard time accepting the fact that their little boy likes other little boys, love usually tends to win out in the end. “Initially she didn’t like it, and there was a lot of drama during that first year. But she’s settled down now and she’s ok with it. She’s very conservative though, and gets annoyed because she thinks that I over-emphasise being gay,” Member of Parliament Ian Ollis told us.

Up-and-coming author and writing teacher Morne Malan said that while his mother wishes the situation were different, “she’s learning to accept the situation.” He notes, however, that he is definitely closer to his mother than his father.

While performer Brendan van Rhyn – known for his roles as Cathy Specific and Rocky Horror’s Frank ‘n’ Furter – said that he’s close to both his parents, he admits to a special relationship with his mother. “I would tell my mom a secret before I told my dad. I can relate more to mom more than my father. Plus, Mom thinks rationally; she doesn’t just blow up,” he said.

Dion Chang felt fortunate to have gained both of their support. “I lost my dad unexpectedly two years ago, but when he was alive I was close to both my parents. I came out to both of them, at the same time. It took a while for it to sink in for my mom, but my dad – without skipping a beat – just reassured me that it was OK and that I still had their unconditional love. I consider myself very blessed to have the parents that I have.”

So how are you going to celebrate Mother’s Day? There’s the traditional breakfast in bed route, or perhaps a pampering day-long spa… Or you could just shower her with gifts. What are some of South Africa’s leading gay men doing for their special ladies?

“I’ll be taking her to a drag show,” Hillary tells us; something which may be a step too far for those less progressive mums, while Chang is taking the more gluttonous approach, spending the day eating: “…is there another way?” Unfortunately for many, their mommies live terribly far away…

“I’ll be in Pretoria for the [Presidential] Inauguration and my mom will be in East London, so we’ll probably just do something tomorrow,” Ollis said. Distance also complicates artist Nuno da Cruz’s plans: “She lives very far away so I’ll probably just give her a call. But when she’s close I always give her a day where she doesn’t have to do anything. We have breakfast together; go out for supper and a movie, and maybe I’ll take her to the hairdresser.”

Van Ryn said that he’s planning a simple day with the family: “I’m going to my folks and we have a big lunch with my sister and her husband. We’ll spoil her rotten”, adding with a laugh, “after all, good girls deserve to be spoilt”.

Whatever you do to honour the most important woman in your life this Sunday – whether it’s simply making your own hand-drawn card or treating her to an expensive lunch and gifts – just make sure you don’t forget to do something. Or prepare to face the consequences…

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