Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Coming out is easy if you don't tell anyone

The early morning hours of my 26th birthday were miserable.

I hadn't intended it to do it then, but I came out to my wife of two and a half years.

She didn't take it well; she fell to the ground and sobbed uncontrollably.

When she regained her composure she spent the next two hours attacking me in an brutal tirade that can best be summed up as, "YOU RUINED MY LIFE!"

Eventually she heeded my plea for a temporary truce; we both had to go to work that day and I reasoned that two hours of sleep were better than none.

Later I thought about how dramatically my life had changed in less than a day. When I had left work the previous night I was a young married guy, living a straight life. Now, as I was driving back to work a few hours later, I was a newly out gay man who had just left his wife for a 20 year old college kid he had met only hours before.

At work I called the college kid, my new boyfriend Jim, to tell him what had happened between Gabbie and me. He was very proud that I had come out to her, that I had told her the truth. I felt proud too. But I also felt like a failure---I had just lived through the nightmare scenario I had always wanted to avoid.

My birthday night and the two days that followed were very awkward between Gabbie and me, but one good thing came of it. Gabbie said she had always hated where we lived so she was going to move out immediately. That made it official, we were splitting up.

Another thing she did, which showed that she was headed toward acceptance, was that she told her parents exactly what had happened. Thankfully she didn't want to tell any others yet. I didn't feel ready to come out to anyone else; coming out to her was stressful enough.

Within a few days Gabbie did move out; she rented a room in an apartment 30 minutes away from me from a co-worker. It wasn't the big move, she only took a few essentials when she left. And her departure did not mean that our relationship was over. I still had much to work out with her...and a lot to look forward to with Jim.

Jim was always a delight to be with; I tried to spend as much time with him as I could. He was extremely supportive of my changing life, but he set one condition which was that I could not tell Gabbie about him. He had been forced to testify in court during his parents' divorce and it was one of the worst experiences of his life. When he told me, "I testified for one divorce and I never want to do it again. Keep me completely out it," I understood his concern and did exactly as he asked.

Jim had one other requirement that I complied with, albeit with some anxiety. He said that we couldn't have any kind of sex again until both us had been tested for HIV. I wouldn't have thought to get tested, but he was right, it was the smart thing to do.

He found a local clinic that offered free, anonymous testing and we went together for both the blood draws and the results, which were delivered a week later. It was my first HIV test so I found it embarrassing to be quizzed by the counselor about my sexual activities. When it was time to reveal the results, even though I didn't think I had cause to worry, I still breathed a huge sigh of relief when I heard the news: negative.

As expected, Jim's test was negative too. Sex at last! Well, sex again at least. Jim's request that we get tested caused me a double dose of embarrassment; the testing itself was no pleasure, but even worse, his request implied that he had no intention of exchanging blow jobs on our first date. I hadn't planned to either, it just happened. But his request made me wonder, Did I 'make' him do something he didn't want to do? I felt a twinge of guilt that perhaps I had seduced him against his will.

Speaking of guilt, managing my relationship with Gabbie was not easy. While I was able to easily change my feelings for her, she was not prepared to let me go so easily. I felt that I had to help her along by creating some distance between us.

At first, I didn't answer the phone when she called. But that didn't work because she kept leaving exasperated messages on the answering machine. Then I tried disconnecting the phone for hours at a time but not long after I reconnected it she would call and want to know why the phone just rang and rang.

I then considered using a more direct approach, such as telling her to STOP CALLING, but after thinking about both how pathetic and how vicious she could be, I really didn't have the stomach to do that. Eventually I decided that as much as I wanted to run from Gabbie, I really couldn't.

She called a minimum of once a day, but frequently more often. When she called we talked about her day, just as we had done for the years that we had been together.

It was clear that I was going to have to slowly, not suddenly, ease her off her dependence on me.

Hiding my relationship with Jim from Gabbie was sometimes frustrating. I looked forward to any time that I could spend with him but Gabbie often stood in the way. The weekends with Jim were especially precious. It seemed like Gabbie and I had at least one social or family event to attend together every weekend, which meant Jim got the leftovers.

It was at one of those family events that Gabbie's sister Crissy pulled me aside and said, "I heard that you told Gabbie you were gay. I just want to tell you that I love you no matter what. To me, you will always be my brother-in-law." That was incredible to hear, and I responded that I felt the same way about her. We gave each other a nice hug and at that moment I felt better about myself than I had in a very long time. That brief conversation, more than any other, created a bond between Crissy and I that has endured for the many years since then.

During the parts of the weekends that I was with Jim we always did something fun. We went to the movies or to a comedy club to see his favorite comedian or we went out somewhere. Once we went to a poetry reading his friend gave in the City. By coincidence, after we arrived I noticed that one of my female high school classmates was scheduled to do a reading at the same event. I was really nervous about her seeing me with Jim. My instinct was to leave. But without voicing my fears to Jim, I calmed myself down and decided to just deal with it. Ultimately my worries didn't matter, because for a reason I never knew, she never showed up.

On another night Jim and I decided to go to the Castro, the gay epicenter of San Francisco. It was a tremendously liberating feeling to publicly hold hands with him as we browsed the bars and shops. I remember thinking, I can't believe I'm here with my boyfriend, living life as an out gay man.

My jubilant feelings of liberation did not last long, however. The more time we spent in the neighborhood the more convinced I was that I was going to turn a corner and suddenly be face-to-face with someone I knew, like Gabbie's gay friend from college Dario and/or his boyfriend Matthew. Even though they were gay I felt like the shock would be huge for them.

Clearly I had a lot of work to do before I would feel comfortable being out.

Later that same night Jim and I decided to check out some gay dance clubs on Fulton Street. Neither of us knew where exactly to go, so when we saw a long line for a particular club, we decided to get in it. If it was that popular, it had to be good, right?

The line was very slow moving, but that was ok because I enjoyed talking to Jim and holding his hand. As we talked, both of us were checking out other people in line and those who walked by. I turned to my right to look at one particularly interesting couple and I got quite an unexpected surprise when my eyes locked with a female friend of Gabbie's from college, Francesca. She was not part of our regular college social group but she still was one of Gabbie's better friends. Fearing that she would see me with Jim, I panicked.

I dropped his hand, told him that we had to go "right now!" and took off in a fast walk. When Jim caught up to me I quickly explained that we had been seen together by one of Gabbie's friends and he understood. I have no idea if Francesca tried to follow us or not but after taking an erratic path around several blocks I saw no sign of her.

My freak-out killed our interest in going to any clubs that night so instead we drove back to Jim's apartment and had substituted sex for dancing; it was a good trade off.

Sometime in early September Jim came out to his roommate Wes. Wes confessed that he had had some bisexual fantasies so he took the news well. Once Wes knew, Jim's apartment became our home base. Except I didn't sleep over. I would have liked to but there were two reasons I couldn't: it was too far from work, and, I had to be home to answer the phone when Gabbie called every night.

One of the highlights of coming to Jim's apartment was the reception he gave me when I arrived. He always said something nice like, "Oh! My boyfriend is home from work," then he'd give me a kiss and say, "How was your day, hon?"

Every time he called me "his boyfriend" or "hon" my heart melted a little. As much as I loved it when he was verbally affectionate, I still found it embarrassing when he did it in front of Wes. I was always nervous about displays of affection that were not private. Jim was not afraid. I liked him all the more because he did not have my inhibitions.

Although Wes was likable enough, he seemed to never leave the apartment. Both Jim and I thought it would be rude to ignore him when we were there so we made an effort to stay in the living room or the kitchen whenever Wes was around. This cut down on our time alone.

At one point Jim got so frustrated by Wes' continual presence that he agreed to spend an evening at my place. He did it very reluctantly because he had no sympathy for Gabbie and he wanted no part of her in his life. I, on the other hand, was kind of giddy about having him over because I was starting to hope that someday it would be OUR place. My optimism faded somewhat, however, when one of the first things he said after entering was, "I am NOT going anywhere near the bedroom where you two slept."

"Um, ok...I can make up the sofa bed and we can cuddle on it and watch a movie. Would that work?"

"Yes, let's do that."

I opened up the couch and put a sheet on the bed. Then I pulled out a VHS tape of the made-for-TV movie Doing Time on Maple Drive. It was a new movie at the time and the main story was about a young closeted guy, Matt, who was engaged. In the movie he brings his fiancee' Alison home to meet his parents and while she's there she finds a love note to Matt from his recent boyfriend, Tom. The note causes her to break off the engagement and abruptly leave. Her departure eventually forces Matt to come out to his conservative family. Jim Carrey starred as Matt's alcoholic brother and Lori Laughlin (Full House) was the fiancee'. Matt was played by eye-candy actor William McNamara.

Like Matt in the movie, I had gotten engaged and tried to live a straight life because I thought it was the life I wanted. The movie really resonated with me so I wanted to share it with Jim.

We cuddled up on the pulled-out bed and watched the movie.

About an hour into the movie our peaceful evening came to a very sudden end.

Both of us jumped off the bed when we heard a key turn in the front door. Seconds later Gabbie was staring at us with a very shocked expression. The shocked look quickly turned into a frown.

At a complete loss for what to do, I introduced Gabbie to Jim. She said hello, and he said hello back. Then we all stood looking awkwardly at each other for a few seconds. Gabbie broke the silence and said, "I'm here to get a few things. I'm just going to get them and go." She did, and left.

Gabbie couldn't get out of there fast enough and as soon as she left, neither could Jim. "As long as there is any chance that she might show up here again, I'm not coming back. Sorry."

The next day Gabbie called me at work and we played 40 questions about Jim. Who was he? How did I meet him? How old was he? What were we doing together? Why was the bed pulled out? Had I done anything with him?

Because Jim was so upset by the incident I felt that my answers had to comply with his fervent desire to be left out of my impending divorce. So, I answered that Jim was a friend I had recently met through an ad. He was 20, and, nothing had happened between us. Gabbie was skeptical but she had no choice but to accept my answers.

With my place off-limits and Wes always in Jim's apartment, when the following weekend came, Jim and I spontaneously decided we'd take a romantic overnight trip to Monterey, a popular seaside town about two hours south of San Francisco.

The trip went really well. I found it very strange, however, to spend so much time with Jim in public as we toured the aquarium, the pier and the shops. We were a couple, like so many others, but we couldn't act like a couple. I couldn't hold his hand or lean into him or let him sit on my lap or hug him or kiss him. It was torture to be near him all those hours and not be able to touch him. The public aspect of being with a guy was so very different than that of being with a woman. I found it both very frustrating and very awkward.

Another odd thing was how uncomfortable I was when it came time to rent a hotel room. If I had been with Gabbie, it would have been a very routine matter. But because I was with a guy, I was extremely anxious. It didn't help that the desk clerk glared at us the whole time; we couldn't leave the lobby fast enough.

The trip was a good lesson for me. Because I had always lived a straight life I hadn't realized how differently routine matters, like walking with your partner in an aquarium or renting a hotel room, could be very uncomfortable. The whole experience gave me a new appreciation for those who come out with no support.

Between my weeknight visits with Jim, our weekend outings and our trip to Monterey, I felt like I was beginning to adjust to my new gay life. Closing out my old life was a different matter.

One of the many obligations that hung over me was a vacation that Gabbie and I had planned several weeks before I met Jim; a favorite client of mine from work offered me the chance to stay for a week in her timeshare in Orlando, Florida. All I had to do was pay the $55 weekly fee and buy the airplane tickets. Gabbie and I decided to go during the off season and we chose the week of her birthday at the end of October. Only days before I met Jim I had bought the non-refundable airplane tickets. Gabbie and I had discussed the trip several times in the weeks after she moved out. We both still wanted to go. When I broke the news to Jim that I was going, he was not happy. I was finally able to convince him that the trip was a good idea because it would allow me the time to talk to Gabbie and convince her that we both needed to move on.

The following week Jim warmed up to the idea a little more when I told him that Gabbie informed me that she was going on a date the next night. This was a very welcome sign to both of us that she was ready to move ahead with her life.

Our joint euphoria did not last long; Gabbie's date did not go well. Apparently it didn't take her suitor long to figure out that Gabbie was high maintenance. Obviously the guy was a lot smarter than me.

As the end of October approached I found that I was looking forward to the week alone with Gabbie. What I liked was that the trip would give me the chance to show her that our relationship had changed. If everything went well, Gabbie would accept the fact that I was gay and we could take the next steps toward splitting apart our lives.

During our time together Gabbie and I had often travelled together. From our first field trips in Oxford, to dragging her luggage through the London Underground, to our honeymoon week in England, to New York to see Todd and with her family to Italy, we had always been excellent travel partners. So as we de-planed in a city that was new to us, I realized how easy and comfortable it was to travel with her.

Within the first day I also found that I was enjoying my time with her. I had been worried that the whole trip would be awkward, but it wasn't. I was never a guy who looked for a fight and for whatever reason, Gabbie was on her best behavior.

Because it was just the two of us we spent every minute of every day together. We had fun. And why shouldn't we? All we did was go to amusement parks, had dinners out and lounged by the pool.

We left San Francisco on a Sunday and when I hadn't been able to call Jim by Tuesday I was feeling very bad. When Gabbie was in the shower that morning I made a quick call to him. He tried to be polite but I could tell he was somewhat annoyed, probably because I hadn't called in two days, but also because I wasn't miserable. I explained that Gabbie and I were always together and that it would continue to be difficult to call him. My excuses didn't make him feel any better. Before we hung up he said, "Hurry home!"

As the days in Orlando ticked by, I found that every minute was a pleasure. I hadn't expected it, but spending all that time with Gabbie was so fun that I found it impossible to talk about moving our divorce along. Wednesday night, her birthday, we had sex for the first time in more than two months.

I made a quick call to Jim on Thursday, again while Gabbie was in the shower. I told him I couldn't talk for long, and I was sorry, but I didn't think I'd be able to talk to him again until Sunday night; it was too hard to get away from Gabbie to call for more than a minute. That call put Jim on the back burner for me, allowing me to relax and enjoy the time with Gabbie.

On Saturday night, our last night in Orlando, we had a really nice dinner and did the whole New Year's Eve celebration and clubbing thing at Pleasure Island. We had sex again that night.

When I dropped Gabbie off at her apartment on Sunday, we were both sad that our vacation was over. The whole experience had rekindled a spark between us that I had never believed was there. I didn't know what my next steps with Gabbie should be. On the one hand I didn't like that we were going home to separate houses but on the other hand, I REALLY liked Jim.

I decided that I was confused because I had spent so much time with Gabbie. What I needed to do was spend more time with Jim over the following week and see how I felt about each of them.

For whatever reason, the first night Jim and I were able to get together was Tuesday. We were so glad to see each other and we kissed and hugged and I couldn't wait to be in the bedroom with him. But first he wanted me to tell him everything that happened during the week with Gabbie. I was embarrassed by his request; if I had been honest I would have told him that I spent far less time thinking about him than I ever would have guessed. Still, I gave him the most optimistic overview that I could.

Jim didn't like my yada-yada summary. He wanted all the details so he pressed me to tell him more. I complied as best I could but I'm certain that I sounded evasive.

Jim never asked if Gabbie and I had sex but I think my generally vague answers gave him a clue that the week did not play out the way I told him it would.

Jim and I had sex that night and I found myself comparing how I felt when I was with him to how I felt when I was with Gabbie. Perhaps it was the nine days apart from Jim but I had to admit that I felt closer to Gabbie during sex than I did to Jim.

For the next week I was in a fog. I couldn't reconcile the fact that I was gay, that Gabbie had forced me to marry her, that Jim was AWESOME and yet I found myself missing her. It was all such a puzzle, I didn't know what to do, if anything.

On Thursday of that week, more than a week after the vacation, the fog lifted when I asked myself if I WANTED to be with Gabbie more than I wanted to be with Jim.

Just as I had admitted to myself that I was gay at the age of 12, I admitted that the true, honest answer was: I wanted to be with Gabbie.

I called her up and asked her to dinner the following night. At the dinner, I told her that I wanted to get back together. "Will you take me back?" I asked.

She did.

The next morning I went to see Jim and broke the news to him.

"I, um, I can't really believe it, but I guess I'm in love with Gabbie and so we've decided to get back to together."

Jim was sad, but not angry. I tried to explain that my decision had nothing to do with him, but I don't really know how he felt. The conversation was awkward for both of us so neither of us wanted to drag it out.

All that was left to do was to wish each other the best, hug, and say goodbye. And that's what we did.

It was the last time I ever saw Jim, but it was not the last time we spoke.


  1. Very interesting. I like how you and Gabbie are such good friends. It's really hard to do that and connect with other men. As I read, you seem to be experiencing that, too.

  2. Really interesting. I wonder whether you were suffering at the time from the syndrome of "being with a woman and wanting a man but when you're with a man you want a woman".

    Great reading your story! Thanks for sharing.



  3. Okay. What I'm learning here is that I don't need to look out for gay boys. What I need to look out for is irresolute, fearful, selfish dicks who cover the selfishness with self-abnegation which must ultimately fail. Fair 'nuff. The problem's not that you were a closeted gay guy; the problem's that you're a closeted selfish guy who doesn't understand that it doesn't matter who or what you are, you have to make some decisions in life; you don't get to keep every option open, you don't get everything. Having read the latest in your blog, I don't see that you've made accommodation with that fact.

    A lot of people are commending you here for being brave. I don't think you're brave; I think you're kind of horrifying. Not because you're gay, but because of the way you chronically use people while excusing yourself. You just couldn't help it, or they were scary or angry, or you were chicken (the eyes roll upward with the confession of sin). I think you're still doing it with this Dean guy. Eventually you'll decide he's just too good for you, or that you have to [insert crap behavior], but that'll be it.

    I'm sure the shrinks have some kind of name for that behavior, but no, I don't think this is about gay and straight. Please become a person and knock it off.