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...