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.


David said...

I don't see why the childfree feel like they have to "come out." Being gay is something that you do. Being childfree revolves around NOT doing something. I don't see not doing something as a thing one needs to announce. If someone asks, you can tell them or you can tell them to buzz the fuck off, that's your decision. But I don't see how we childfree are under any obligation to announce our intentions. When you do something, like have sex with other men, you can't undo that. So, if it's something you want to continue doing, I suppose it's alright to let others know so they aren't surprised. But when it comes to children, just let others assume you might have them one day if that gets them through the day. Hell, you might. You never know. I'm 100 percent childfree but I can't rule out the possibility of being a father one day, whether by accident or a change of mind. But that's beside the point. I just don't see any reason why I have to answer to those who wonder about my decision. It's none of their business. But, as a male, I will admit that I don't feel nearly the pressure that women do. I must be pretty damn isolated, considering the fact that not having children seems like the most natural thing in the world to me.

Tiara Lynn said...

Thanks for your comment, David. I totally agree that it SHOULD be that easy. And it is with strangers. The emotions tied into it make it a hell of a lot more complicated when family is involved. Being childfree is natural for me too, but so many women in my life have made me feel like a dysfunctional freak because of it. I want to tell them to fuck off, but because I'm so sensitive a lot of times I'm too overwhelmed by the fact that it hurts. Telling family you're not having kids is also taking the promise of grandkids away from them, for example, and it's a hurtful thing for them. Because of that, and because I fear that feeling of being broken, it's tempting to just keep it hush-hush until the time is right. The problem is, the time's never really "right."

David said...

I can imagine that there are circumstances that must be a lot harder than what I'm going through. I'm probably confronted with the child issue once or twice a year at most. I'm blessed to have a family as well as in-laws who do not pressure us on the issue. Unfortunately, my wife gets a good deal of it from women at work and church that I simply do not have to deal with, which is why I admit it must certainly be much harder for women. If you're in a situation where your family is pressuring you, I really feel for you. There is nothing harder to deal with than the pressure from family. It's easy to tell strangers to fuck off, even co-workers and friends (albeit maybe in a gentler way), but it's hard to tell your mom. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I were lucky in that we never really got a lot of questions about when we would have kids. But right before my husbands vasectomy we decided to "come out" to both families. I am surprised how much easier it makes things. Although there was some disappointment, particularly on his side, everyone has accepted our decision. And it keeps those terribly hard questions away. If only it would work with strangers.


CFT said...

ME:"Hey mum, I"m GAY!"
Mum:"GASP! OH NOES! WHA..???"
ME:"Nah...just kidding...I'm just never having kids."

Would that work? :)

When my husband told his mother he was never going to be a father(loooong before he met me), he rang her up and said he wanted to tell her something. Dumbarse! He had her worked into a frenzy for a day til he came over. She thought he was going to tell her that he was dying of AIDS or cancer or something equally horrible.

When he admitted that he was *merely* childfree, she was visibly relieved and also not the least bit surprised.

And David's right...why should we have to tell anyone? Why should those who are homosexual have to 'come out'? Why is being something that is seemingly against the norm of society be viewed as such a big freaking deal and something that we have to 'announce'? I don't like eating eggs. Most people do. I hate the little bastards with the fury of a thousand suns. Do I have to 'come out' and announce to my family that I am an Egg-Hater? Should I also mentioned that I *gasp* married another Egg-Hater? OH NOES, THE HORROR!!

People. *shakes head*

My life. My choices. You get to have a say in them. Sorry.

Kenzie LaRae said...

Tiara, I am an editor writing a feature on people choosing to be childless. I am wondering if you'd be willing to take a few minutes to answer a few questions through email or phone. If you do, I'll highlight your blog in the article. We have a network of 73 news stations and I think this would be a good way for people to better understand the choice to be childless. Please email me at if you're interested.

Best Regards,