Maria Bello had a very different kind of coming out from most public figures. Last year, the actress penned a piece for The New York Times’ Modern Love column where she wrote about having a “modern family,” including her son, his father (who she’s no longer romantically involved with) and her female partner, Clare. Maria knew that sharing she was dating a woman would make headlines, but she wanted to control her own story, saying she didn’t find herself identifying as a lesbian or bisexual or anything really. She found herself more of a “whatever.”
While some outlets placed labels on Maria after the column was published, she eschewed them all in favor of her “whatever” identity. But in her new book Whatever…Love is Love, Maria opens up conversations about the different labels that pertain to her (feminist, mother, actress, humanitarian, etc.). Maria doesn’t think labels are completely unnecessary—she just wants people to know they can find power in the labels they choose for themselves, and let others know those they are comfortable with.
“There are so, so many labels and traditional labels just don’t seem to capture the reality of who we are in our time,” Maria said. “I think there are so many more labels to explore and the LGBT community which I’m proud to be a part of—look where we were yesterday, in the Supreme Court. And the people rallying outside. I don’t know who they’re having sex with. Gay, bi—I don’t know. But at the same time, they are fighting for people to love who they love, and we’re on the verge of something incredible right now because of the LGBT community that we’re moving in this direction.”
Maria credits both her coming out column and the title of her book to her son, Jackson, who, after she told him about being involved with Clare said, “Whatever, mom. Love is love.”
“This younger generation—they seem to know so much more than I do, then my generation, I’ll tell you that,” Maria said. “They’re sort of leading the way. They don’t want any labels. That’s a big thing with millennials—they don’t want labels. It feels like our generation needed to put people in tiny little boxes.”
Maria said that she had a friend help her cut the original draft of Whatever down from 600 pages to 200, and that Clare tried to help edit, but Maria said it didn’t work so well.
“The truth is Clare’s not my best editor. Clare is a writer herself—an incredible, incredible writer. She has a book called African Moods that she’ll publish. It’s very poetic about her time growing up in Zimbabwe. And because she has a very distinct voice and so do I, sometimes she would edit my stuff and it wouldn’t quite sound like me.,” Maria said. “‘Uh, no, you can’t change it to that. That’s what I need to say!’ That’s what it might be like for most people who live together: One co-dependent mash-up.”