Saturday, 6 August 2011

Can I Come Out Now?

When I was a little boy and my parents found me guilty of some family transgression, I was made to stand in the corner until I had learned my lesson. The lesson to be learned faded into obscurity as I stared at the intersection of those two walls. I pleaded the standard parole plea with "Can I come out now?" As I got older and the wall effect had no effect, I was banished to my room. The exit requests didn't come for a while because my room was the cache of my worldly belongings... so I could play, I mean 'contemplate', with them until boredom set in. At this point I began my strategy to return from exile. When I discovered my sexuality “Can I come out now?” took on whole new meaning.

As an adult, who came out at the age of 53, I often reflect on the question of why I stayed in the closet for so long. After all, what is a closet? It can be a scary, dark place with dust and spiders - made all the more terrifying if you're arachnophobic. It seems we’re locked in that mental closet and what keeps us in there is fear. Ah, yes. Fear! The motivator of the ages.

On the other hand, that closet can also be a safe haven where no one can harm you.... except for maybe the odd black widow spider. It can be warm and comforting, just like the womb. Unfortunately, when you hit 30, the womb is no longer 'The Place To Be’.

My ex wife died when I was 43. On one hand, it was liberating, but it came with a price – and not something you could bid for on The Price Is Right. Four months prior to her terminal diagnosis, I had made the age old mistake of coming out to her, which she threw back at me. I detailed this experience in my previous blog“A Fault Bigger Than The San Andreas”. Reluctantly, I was back in the closet after only taking one step out.

As a single father, I was somewhat surprised at the amount of women who found me attractive. So there goes the theory that we give off a ‘gay vibe’. Naturally, I panicked in any situation which might lead to intimacy with the opposite sex. Having to come up with an excuse, I always said that I had to “go home to the children. . . now!!! “ I had a party once where one of the female guests declared that I was (and I quote) “the sexiest man she had ever met”. Apparently she didn’t get out much. She also came on to me quite bluntly by telling me she wanted to stay the night. When I responded with, “gee, I’m sorry, I don’t think my children would feel comfortable with that”, my daughter picked up the cue and added, “I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable.” Another woman threw herself at me and when I refused her advances, simply looked at me and said, “My God, what did she do to you?”. Ah, the one time I could shift the focus to the ex wife without saying a word!

I even had my own personal stalker. Stalker was her nickname, but was she really stalking me? Well, you be the judge. One day my daughter and I were parking the car, when I noticed my divorcee neighbor looking out her window. Being a friendly guy, I waved. My daughter then informed me that this woman was always in the window, watching me. If I came home after dark, she’d turn the light out so that I wouldn’t see her standing there. I thought it was just my daughter being overprotective of Dad, but her observations were confirmed by the neighbor across the street. Hmm… I’m flattered, but hey I’m a closeted gay man! I thought nothing of it, until she started showing up “coincidentally” at the café where I usually ate lunch. Hmm… a little more creepy than flattering… This went on until the day I decided to come out. She had “coincidentally” met me in the parking lot of the café. She bounded up to me and asked, “So what’s new?” I looked at her and said, “I’m gay. And I’ve got a boyfriend. That’s about it.” I don’t know if she thought I was joking or not, but I can assure you – that was the Day the Stalking Stopped. It was so joyous it would have made a great country and western song!

It was not a comforting to have these woman throwing themselves at me. My ego’s not big enough to think it was all me. I had a good job. Good money. I knew how to cook, clean and take care of a household. My sister explained it by saying that I was a good catch. Kind of like the big salmon that you’re going to throw on the BBQ.

As you know, I didn’t want any of these women sexually. As a matter of fact, none of them interested me in a companionship way, either. I didn’t mind seeing them at parties and through the kitchen window, but as companions they weren’t what I was looking for. When I started dating men, I almost lost hope in that department.

There was one guy I never really dated, but I was determined to get at least one date out of him. All he wanted to do was chat on MSN. What kind of a relationship was that? On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a zero! We actually met once for coffee and from that point on, it was online only. Being new to the scene, I thought maybe this is the way it should be. Fate intervened about 3 weeks into this routine when we had arranged a chat for 10:00 one night.  Yes, chats were always prearranged.  So, I go online and there he is.  Only problem is, not only does he NOT chat with me, he doesn't even acknowledge that I'm online.  Then I see him go offline.  So I sent him an email and told him that this wasn't working for me.  He replied with some gobbledygook explanation, that I just ignored.  I may have been closeted and new to the scene, but I wasn't going to have any jerk ignore the rules of Common Courtesy.

Then there were the gay guys wanted to cheat on their boyfriends – sorry, guys, not my style. It pissed me off that their relationship status was never mentioned up front. Seems they forgot they had committed to someone else. It was only when you tried to get them to go on a date in a public place on a Saturday night that the truth came out.

I had also gone out with a couple of guys (AKA Losers) who only wanted to see me every three weeks or so. And then it was for nothing more than a quick tumble and a shy goodbye. The idea of just doing something was not a part of the scenario. Yup, the future wasn’t looking optimistic at all. I had heard that there are a lot of great guys out there. I just couldn’t find them….. By the time I met the man who would become my partner; I had pretty much given up finding Mr. Right.

A good friend of mine, who was counseling me through the coming out phase of my life was quite blunt. “You’ll never find the man you’re looking for online.”, he said.” You’re just coming out. You have a son who won’t talk to you because he just found out you’re gay. Maybe you just need to back off for a while and get yourself together.” What he said made a great deal of sense and I agree do nothing. EXCEPT there was this one guy, who was a father like me and was just coming out himself and well, I had already agreed to meet him for coffee……

Of course, that man turned out to be the man who is my partner, my love, my best friend and my companion. My partner’s journey was fairly close to my own. He inspired me when he said he was telling at least one person a day that he was gay. When it came to telling people about our relationship, we refer to it as telling someone about “The Puppy” , suitably named after the Ellen DeGeneres episode. Interestingly enough, since coming out and partnering up, I have met lots and lots of gay couples who are just regular guys – just like me.

Can I come out now? Oh man, I should have come out years ago. So to you guys who are at the beginning phase of coming out and perhaps feel trapped in marriage, I say, “Hang in there”. I truly believe things happen for a reason and I’m thinking the reason is that I had to go and meet other guys, including the losers, so that when I met Mr. Right I’d know without hesitation that it was him. He is the man I love, the man I’m building my future with!