For eight years, I have been going for coffee on a semi-regular basis with a couple of work colleagues. The conversation is typically dominated by work issues, but a friendship has evolved and both women chat frequently about their husbands and families. I used to talk about my dogs. They were family.
It didn’t take long for me to feel I was withholding a key piece of my identity. But I couldn’t get the gay out. It was maddening because I never felt there would be an ounce of disapproval. In fact, as time went on—years and years—I knew they knew. And I knew they knew I knew they knew. (I’ll stop there.)
For a while, I resented them. How could they sit there and never ever ask if I was gay, never ask if I was seeing anyone, never separate me from an asexual worm? (I’ve resented gay men for the same reasons.) I decided I was done with coming out. Let ‘em ask. Or not.
But obviously I was not so content with that. It continued to bother me. It felt like I was weighted down. For about four years now, I’ve resolved to go ahead and say it.
So easy. Been there, done that.
But coffee after coffee passed and I couldn’t blurt it. About forty minutes into the visit, I’d give up on trying to say it. I’d clam up, resentful that I couldn’t fit what I needed to into the conversation. After our goodbyes, I’d get in my car, shake my head and wonder what the hell was wrong with me.
Been there, done that, too.
Next time, I’d say. No kidding,…next time.
But, again and again and again, no.
Yesterday, we went for coffee for the umpteenth time. As I am heading out for a long summer break, they gave me some gifts as a lovely Bon voyage and then we spent the next hour chatting about work and some of their family issues. Once again, I felt my window of opportunity slamming shut. “Oh, by the way, I’m gay” just didn’t fit.
But I brought up my vacation again. And then I sucked up all that latent adolescent angst and said, “The hard part about being away for six weeks is I just met a really great guy.”
My face burned. My body overheated…and I couldn’t blame it on the coffee. I was slurping iced coffee.
They were as graceful and as accepting as I also knew they would be. They nodded and asked some probing questions before the chat naturally moved on to other things. Refreshingly, it lacked the Big Drama of a couple decades ago.
Whether or not things progress between Tim and me, something good has already come from it. For once, I had a concrete reason to announce my gayness. Context!
Suddenly, I am a little more open, a little more real. The relief and the liberation aren’t quite as great as they were when I was twenty. Still, it’s an essential step, even if the onus remains squarely on me.