Monday, July 11, 2011

HOW OUT IS OUT--PART 2

At various times, I've subscribed to Out magazine and The Advocate. I've read the columns imploring all of us to come out, come out, wherever you are. Easy for a writer at a liberal (gay) magazine to say.

In sports, very few men come out and, if they do, it's typically after retirement. Even gay figure skaters play coy until the lucrative dollars from ice shows dry up. Sure, there are exceptions, but let's remember they are just that: exceptions. There are many male-dominated businesses where being openly gay remains taboo, all "not that there's anything wrong with that" banter aside.

I'm successful in my career. I've climbed as high as I want (and, really, I never planned to get where I'm at now--flukes happen). But there are times when I feel I am suffocating from my job. At work, I can chat about my dog, the Canucks, my run-in with the crazed lady who lifted the cauliflower from my grocery cart (a case where, indeed, size matters). But the boss doesn't have a dating life. (Even if I did, the boss doesn't have a dating life.)

It's not solely brought on by others. I perpetuate the notion that I must be the asexual one. Right or wrong, I can't break the established standard. Again, I'm suffocating. A career that I once adored and spoke passionately about for endless hours now seems to drag me down.

Am I out? No. At least not enough.

A career change would be prudent, but also foolish. At thirty, it was easy to deep-six the law career. I moved out of state to resist any temptation to change my mind, but my way of life wasn't tied to my salary. Sure, I took a huge pay cut, but my car was paid for and I didn't mind sleeping on sheets of cardboard on the floor of a rented bedroom. (Friends eventually pitied me and purchased an inflatable camping mattress at Canadian Tire.) I could "afford" to be young and stupid. Yes, Mick Jagger, time was on my side.

I should try to get in with an arts organization, a charity or a publishing house. Of course, I'd be the middle-aged apprentice. I could take the coffee orders, stuff the envelopes, at least temporarily. I'd be out again. Free. But, alas, my mortgage isn't free. And my house won't sell. (It doesn't help that the flooring guy I had in last week spotted a leak in the ceiling. Curse him! Keep your eye on the ground, floor man.)

At thirty, I thought my career change and country change constituted a premature midlife crisis. But now I can see that this is that moment. It's about feeling stuck. Quicksand stuck. I still smile, I continue to be amused by my blunders, but even my laugh has begun to sound more throaty, more muffled in the past year. Being out matters. Despite the fact that I cannot identify much that is gay in my current existence, it is part of an identity that I struggled for a dozen years to realize.

For now, I have to restart the coming out process that I hated so much all those years ago. I swore in the mid-'90s that I was done with the drama. Let them ask. Why was it always on me? But they don't ask. Not my generation anyway. Never will. Despite how much I loved the message of "It Gets Better", I don't think it does when you remain passive. Happiness is about more than being away from the bullies.

So for now I am not going to come out at work. I don't see that happening. And I'm not quitting. Can't. But I do have friends from prior work settings who still meet me for coffee and still only chat with me about dogs, hockey and large vegetables. I know they know; it's just never spoken.

My next trip to Starbucks will be more substantial. It's a start...

2 comments:

Brahm (alfred lives here) said...

Interesting post, and yes it is always a really personal and really timely decision if and when to come out.

I am fortunate that work in a fairly big city, and in a gay-friendly field, so when I came out years ago was no big deal.

Coming out to family was tougher and carried more wounds and ultimately estrangement. Was the right thing to do, though not without collateral damage.

Rick Modien said...

First, great piece from "Seinfeld" and SCARY picture of Jagger. But that's where we're all headed, isn't it? Gotta give him credit for not getting all plasticized.

Second, what a pleasure it is to get to know you better through your recent honest and detailed blog posts. We hadn't heard from you in a long time, and now, we've heard from you several times about very personal things. I bet getting it out there helps you feel a least a little bit better.

Now, let's talk. There's a lot of stuff going on in this post. I could make comments on all sorts of things, but what I really want to know is, At the end of the day, what do you want most (other than a relationship, I mean)?

You've already come out, in a past life, so that should be settled in your mind. For all intents and purposes, you're still out. Out is a state of mind, isn't it, even though your circumstances may change where no one you know realizes you're gay?

If you're not in a relationship, where people you work encounter you and your partner on the street and wonder how you're related, then why worry about being out?

It's the little things, right? Not being about to share small observations about an attractive guy you've seen, feeling frustrated about still being single, or knowing you have to watch everything that comes out of your mouth? I understand.

So free yourself. Come out fully at work, and see what happens (which may surprise you), or decide this is not the time or place. Either way, you need to take the pressure off. Maybe it is time for a job change, after all. Or maybe you don't need anything more than to be who you really are at work, and that would be change enough. (Easy for me to be cavalier with the advice, huh, when I know nothing about your work situation?)

Looks like there's another instalment coming. I look forward to it.

Hang in there.