Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Comfort of the Closet

It's not like anyone was shocked. We knew before he even started dating a close girlfriend of mine, Patti, in what was easily among the more awkward of relationships any of us had ever seen. She: beautiful beyond words, intelligent, funny, friendly. They made a devastatingly attractive couple. And they had fun together, but she couldn't shake the feeling that something MUST be wrong with her, that she must be unattractive or something (whatever) because he just didn't seem to like her "in that way" throughout the nearly 6 months that they dated. Thankfully, he ended the relationship while they could still be friends. They're both dating people they really care about now, and they're leaving for a previously planned European vacation together as friends. It's the best of circumstances.

But anyway, we knew before all that. Sure, he was meticulously groomed, expensive taste in everything from clothing to his yuppie condo, loved the arts and the opera, favored showtunes and (totally gay) europop to mainstream music... but there was something about him that bypassed metrosexual and nestled comfortably into the archetypal closet case.

People would always just assume he was gay, which he would vehemently deny with increasing frustration over the years that I've known him. When Patti mused about why he wasn't more interested in her, everyone would chime in "because he's gay".

While I can't attest to knowing exactly what he was feeling, his ambivalence about coming out, his desire to fit in, his paranoia about what people might think... I can relate to this. Now that he's come out to his friends, he's crossed the first hurdle and realized that none of us cared in the least. To his chagrin, no one was shocked. It's kind of funny. But those were his friends.

It was easier to tell my friends that I'm not having children. And, like many people have done with our newly out friend over the years, some people, like my mom, have just *known*, instinctively, that a childfree life was the path for me. And while it's something that I've grown more and more comfortable with over the years, I'm still plagued with worries of making people uncomfortable, especially those I care about. The fact is, most people couldn't care less. It's the select few that I let get to me.

So while my friend adjusts to life as a (mostly) out gay man, he too must figure out how to deal the blow to his very traditional Christian family. These people met Patti and were so overjoyed (and likely more than a little relieved) that at 28 he'd finally met a nice girl to settle down with. Like me, he has to deal with the possibility of really disappointing and potentially devastating people that mean so much to him because he has to live the life he's meant to live. Sure, they might already know, they might not care, or they might be, as Patti believes, in complete denial. He has to get them to accept that he will never have the traditional family they want so badly for him. So yeah, I understand a little of what that feels like.

We're taking baby steps to coming out, telling people and hoping word spreads, but I think for the most part people know. Most of them probably won't care all that much. But it's fear of those who do, the people who once cared who decide you're damaged... it's that fear that makes it hard.