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.
So....how 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.