Friday, October 19, 2012

To Tell or Not to Tell?

     There's a new girl at work I just adore.  We hit it off right from the start, and as we've gotten to know one another better we find we have more and more in common.  For instance, we are both stupid crazy about our dogs.  We each have pumpkin patches growing in our yards this fall, and both patches have produced underwhelming results.  (I'm talking puny pumpkins.)  We are grammar snobs, and we enjoy subversive activities like reading and decorating our porches with mums and scarecrows.

     She's the kind of person I could see myself spending time with outside of work, and I'd love to have her over to the house sometime for dinner.   Nosy person that I am, I'd also like to see her house.  (I heart real estate, big time.)  I'd like to share gardening ideas with her and just hang out every once in a while.  I am, in the jargon of reality tv, ready to take our relationship to the next level. to delicately mention that, by the way, I have a wife?

     I think my new friend will be a safe person to come out to.  But think is the operative word here.  Sure, she says, "Shit!" on a regular basis and has proven herself to be unfailingly kind and helpful in the time I've known her.  However, I also know that she is a devout Christian, and coming out to Christians is sort of a mixed bag.  There are plenty of Christians who are loving, accepting, and, well, Christian to people like Danielle and me.  Others, though, smite our very existence and show us the opposite of God.  More are somewhere in between: not outright mean or critical but happy to gossip about us and eye us with suspicion.  I can't even commit to going on a treadmill once a week; Lord knows I couldn't handle time in the rumor mill.

     As a Christian, it saddens me that it is Christians I am most fearful of when outing myself.  I'll feel quite close to a person and want to share a more full friendship with them but back away when I discover that they are Christian.  I feel like a nervous gay Dorothy eying Glenda upon my arrival in Oz: "Are you a good Christian or a bad Christian?"

     I used to think I could spot a "good" Christian a mile away.  His or her attire would lean toward the progressive side.  Think Toms, Chacos, or Teevas for shoes.  There would be a high presence of flannel, but not the form-fitting, stylish kind.  Outdoorsy clothes, dangly earrings, and even dreads might accentuate the look.  However, my "good" Christian theory went out the window when I heard a girl in striped toe socks, pig tails, and many ecclectic, not-particularly-clean-looking accessories go on an absolute diatribe about the wonders of Sarah Palin.  She also claimed Obama was a Muslim.  (Goodbye, theory.)

     So, to tell or not to tell?  It's such a crapshoot sometimes.  On the one hand, I can protect myself from ridicule, gossip, and rejection by staying in the closet and under the radar.  Sometimes, this is a smart thing to do at work.  There are plenty of people with whom I can interact cordially and do not need to see outside of the workplace.  If coming out happens on a need-to-know basis, these folks really don't need to know.  There's not much to gain and plenty to risk.

     Other times, though, the risk is worth it.  I have developed strong bonds with a small  group of co-workers, and they are not only work friends but just plain old friends.  I cannot imagine what it would have been like not having them to talk to about our struggles conceiving or the celebration of our first/eighth anniversary.  How lonely work would have felt!  Life is integrated, and you need people at home with whom you can discuss your work life and people at work with whom you can share your home life.  Otherwise, it's like you're living two lives, and listen: I'm busy enough as it is.

     In the end, I will probably come out to my new friend.  She's so easy to talk to, and I'd love to give a more honest answer to her Monday morning greeting of, "How was your weekend?"  My friend loves to laugh, and I think Danielle will absolutely crack her up.  I want them to meet so badly!  Selfishly, I also want people to know I'm not a 31-year-old spinster and that, yes, I am getting some.  All that pity they are taking on me?  So unnecessary.

    But coming out is still scary.  It feels a bit like jumping out of an airplane.  You can peer over the edge all you like, but you have no way of knowing how things will turn out.  All you can do is take a deep breath and pray like hell there's something to catch you.  Because you can't un-jump.  You can't take it back.  You could crash and burn, get bruised or broken, and be dragged through God knows what hell. 

     So far, my parachute has been steady.  My friends have granted me a soft landing.  I've enjoyed a nice spell of time spent in safety and complacency.  But the sky is calling me again.  I look out the window.  It's an astonishingly long way down.  I close my eyes, and take a deep breath.

     Wish me luck as I fall.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Gayngst: How We (Awkwardly) Began

     I like watching couples fall in love in the movies.  The experience is always sweet, breezy, and lighthearted.  I'm sure having a musical score doesn't hurt.  However, I doubt there is a soundtrack peppy enough to counterbalance the turbulent start Danielle and I had when we first became a couple.  Sure, we had plenty of blissful moments feeling the first flush of love.  It's just that, at that time, we still thought we were just friends.  (Idiots.)

     At the height of our headiness about the wonderful "friendship" we'd found, Danielle and I moved to separate states to begin our teaching careers.  I remember the profound sense of loss I felt when I drove her to the airport and watched her embark on a new journey without me.  I was irrationally and obsessively concerned that I might become a lower priority in her life, that I would no longer be important to her. 

     I needn't have worried.  During the year we spent apart, we talked on the phone each night for at least an hour.  In addition, we wrote letters to one another and even kept journals that we mailed back and forth periodically.  (You know, totally normal friend stuff.)

     As I became more integrated into my new community, the middle-aged ladies at my new church took me under their wings and set me up on two blind dates.  For the duration of both dates, I remember wishing I could just sit across the table from Danielle instead of making polite conversation with strangers.  My connection with her was the deep bond by which I judged all other relationships.  Needless to say, my underwhelming enthusiasm and investment in these fledgling relationships led to no second dates.  The guys I met, nice though they were, did not make me laugh or make me feel as myself as Danielle did (and still does).

     For her part, Danielle recalls checking her phone frequently on these date nights.  The longer the night went on without a phone call from me, the more worried she became.  She admits to being secretly relieved each time I called to give her some ho-hum report about my brief forays into the dating world.  (Again, isn't it typical for best friends to hope their best friends have only bad dating experiences?)

     Much of our year apart is a blur to me at this point.  I remember feeling pretty down much of the time and chronically homesick for Danielle.  That spring, I decided that I would leave my job at the end of the school year and move to Washington, D.C., with Danielle.  Danielle offered to fly from D.C. to Texas, where I was living at the time, to ride with me during the move.

     Once our road trip was planned, we could talk of little else.  The promise of a fun-filled adventure together became the carrot we dangled in front of ourselves to help us survive what was, unequivocally, a difficult year.  Two best friends traveling across the country together- what could be better?

     Plenty, it turns out.  Even though we were riding in a Toyota Corolla jam-packed with my belongings, there seemed to be ample space in the car for tension and angst.  We spent long stretches of time not talking while our minds raced, worried, and questioned.  We had always felt so comfortable together, but something wasn't connecting now.  What wasn't lining up?   I began to question my decision to move in with Danielle.  Maybe our relationship wasn't going to be what it had been. Danielle feared that I would hate living in D.C. and resent her for encouraging me to move.  Of course, the move was a sensitive and potentially volatile topic, so we chose to avoid the subject- or any subject, for that matter.  It seemed the weight of even one word would break the fragile eggshells we walked upon.  When pressed about that road trip today, Danielle and I tend to laugh and exclaim in unison, "That was awful!"

     The road trip angst ended up being a harbinger for the drastic changes to come in our lives and relationship.  I won't go into the nitty-gritty details, but once I moved in with Danielle, we shared many kisses that we did not talk about.  At all.  For weeks.  I eventually wrote Danielle a letter to ask her what our relationship was and whether or not we should pursue a romantic relationship.  Conveniently, I gave her the letter before I left for vacation with my family.  You know, to keep the whole not talking thing going.

     Initially, Danielle was understandably fearful and apprehensive and expressed that she did not want us to become a couple.  I handled this news very badly.  Here is an illustrative example from that time period: when Danielle and I had lunch together at a local diner, my passive aggressive jukebox selection was Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces".  I find this is hilarious now, but I was absolutely serious about it at the time.

     Eventually, Danielle and I were forced to address our fears.  Fears of jeopardizing our friendship, of coming out, of being ostracized, of being so very vulnerable with another.  We could no longer deny that our bond ran deeper than friendship.  This time period involved more crying, hand-wringing, and drama than a telenovela marathon.  We were not at our best.  Our story would have made for a wretched romantic comedy.

     But, we got through it.  Even though our life still has its challenges, I truly believe that for us, the hardest part is over.  I don't feel particularly nostalgic for those restless nights or the pens I emptied scribbling furiously into my journal.  I do experience a certain wistfulness, however, as I marvel at how fragile we were in those early days of couplehood.  Very easily, there could have been no us.  And yet here we are, eight years later and going strong.  That realization fills me with overwhelming feelings of gratitude, abundance, and faith in the Thread that guides and connects us all.

     You know, kinda the opposite of angst.