Thursday, January 5, 2012

No Longer Keeping Up Appearances

In my last post I wrote about my to-be-ex's desire to "keep up appearances." That has meant hiding both her five-year affair and my homosexuality from our three teenagers (and others). Her goal has been to "protect the family from public humiliation and embarrassment."

Ever since we separated a year ago, I have honored that request. But as I explained in the last post, I've come to realize that continuing the lies is doing more harm than good.

I recently discussed my concerns with my to-be-ex, Gabbie. We talked for about ten minutes, maybe less, before she agreed that the kids need to be told that Charlie is her boyfriend. We're holding off on the gay announcement for now.

I was a little surprised that she agreed so quickly. I asked her, "Why did we wait so long?"

Her answer: "I hadn't really thought about it. Also, I want to be respectful of you."

The irony of that statement made me groan. She thought she was being considerate? And yet I felt imprisoned. I kicked myself for not saying something sooner.

Just moments after we made the decision, we told our oldest, who is about to turn 18. His response? "That's fine. But if Charlie does anything to hurt you mom, he's going to have to deal with me!"

Um, sure. The kid goes to karate for 10 years and now he thinks he's Bruce Lee? Even with his youth, strength and technical training, I doubt he could survive a first punch from Charlie. Whatever. The protective warning aside, he obviously took the news well.

It turned out that we didn't have a good opportunity to tell the other two kids until two days later. The youngest one, our 12 year old daughter, spoke first, and instead of addressing us, she turned to her 14 year old brother John and said, "Now you owe me ten dollars!"

Yes, apparently the two of them had placed a bet on the subject. And THAT was what they wanted to talk about. The big drama for the night was the possibility that tight-wad John might have to pay $10 to his sister.

I decided that the bet was a good opportunity to learn more about their thoughts. I asked, "How long ago did you make that bet?" The answer: "About two weeks."

That was about the same time my daughter started asking me odd questions about her mother and Charlie. It was those questions that brought the issue to my attention.

Knowing that she's only been wondering for two weeks was a relief. It meant that I hadn't been needlessly treading water for months.

As I analyze the situation in retrospect, what I find most interesting isn't that the kids were observant. THEY really weren't. Only my daughter was and even then it took her almost a year. No, what I've taken from this experience is that kids will eventually sniff out the truth. And when they start to ask questions, that's the signal that they're ready to be told. It's as if their brains begin to "see" what's going on as soon as they're ready to emotionally process it. I'm not certain yet, but I may wait for the same phenomenon to repeat itself before I come out.

Overall, I'm very happy with the way we've handled each step of our split. It's felt strangely...natural. Hopefully the news that daddy is dating men will be received in the same way.

Here's a funny story:

About 20 minutes after Gabbie's big announcement my daughter said to me, "Daddy, maybe you should move to Texas."

"Why?"

"Because there are lots of women in Texas. And they wear big hats. You know, sombreros." I gave her a very puzzled look.

"You know. Lots of women, so you can date."

"Ooooh," I said finally getting it. I was confused by the big hats. What was that all about? "I don't plan on moving to Texas. And I'm not really into women that wear sombreros (or women at all, I thought to myself), so that's probably not going to happen."

Clearly the child has a way to go before she perfects her detective skills.

8 comments:

  1. Wow. That's a big step for the family. Glad it went over well with the kids. I would assume that your secret is up next for the gambling adolescent detectives.

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  2. Now that one mystery has been revealed, the kids will begin to focus their detective skills on you. Remember, it's not a source of shame. Good luck.

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  3. I think you guys have made a big step in being clear with the kids. I'm kind of surprised you didn't come out to the kids first. It would probably help them understand the dynamics even better of what is happening in their family. Being gay is not your fault, and nothing to be ashamed of. IMHO, they really need to know that piece to fully put all the pieces together.

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  4. It sounds like the kids may be picking up far more than you realize, "Cameron." Considering that "Charlie" did in fact rape your wife a few years ago, your elder son's reaction to the news about those two suggests that he senses some of the less savory things that have been going on.

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  5. Your daughter's remark - ladies with sombreros in Texas - is too good! But it might be a good hook to refer back to when you do come out to her. I think there are some nice guys with sombreros in Texas, too :)

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  6. Cameron
    Congratulations on this step, and it paves the way for you to make your disclosure too. It is likely the kids will conclude that Gabbie's taking up with Charlie was because you were gay...and I wonder if you think you need to anticipate and have a response to that misconception. On one level, it may not matter what they conclude on that issue, as the main focus should be on you hoping to have them understand that you are someone different than they thought you were.

    And while Gabbie has Charlie and that has not led to your moving out so far, they may be leaping forward fast to that question of Dad, if you are gay, does that mean you will move out to be with a man? Kids are very tangible and direct in much of their thinking - they zoom immediately to what the results of a process will be...and so this news of yours will lead them to trying to imagine you with a man, just like Gabbie is with another man, and what the heck that will mean for their own lives.

    You are the major caregiver and emotional center of the house, and so this is even a bigger announcement that could stir up fear of change than the news about Gabbie.

    What I take from their almost non-chalant response to the news of Gabbie and Charlie says a lot about how they view the actions and behavior of their mother. If your are right and they did not guess about the nature of the relationship between Gabbie and Charley until recently, the fact they were betting on it and discussing what they saw in the way they did - almost matter of factly...is because they know their mother as pretty self centered, tuned out of family life a lot, and not the central force in keeping hearth and home together emotionally and functionally.

    And the sombrero hat comment, while amusing, may say more about what kind of taste you might have in woman given that you married Gabbie - flamboyant, larger than life (maybe that is my stereotype of a Texas woman with a big hat). After all, they have watched you put up with and even play second fiddle to a larger than life dominant woman...to the point that you let her have a boyfriend and now tolerate that as a public relationship. This is certainly not what other married men might have done.

    So you do need to do this soon, and also be prepared for a very different kind of response, one that will be a whole lot more focuses on, Dad, what does this mean for us, will we still be the center of your life, and all that.

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  7. NewLeaf - Yes my secret is up next. It's hard to say when it will be revealed. Later this year is my guess.

    Bill - I don't think I'm ashamed of my sexuality. Had I not gotten involved with Gabbie when I was 20, I would have come out a year or two later. I only hesitate now because Gabbie has asked me to wait. I will say that thirty years of lying is pretty damn embarrassing. THAT is shameful. Still, the past is over and now it's time to have some integrity.

    Mack - Telling the kids about Gabbie's relationship with Charlie first seemed...logical. We discussed it a few days ago and Gabbie thinks part of the reason they took the news in stride was because they are familiar with him. The other thing is, I was 100% dedicated to making our marriage work. I would have gone to any kind of therapy she could think of, including sex therapy, if that's what she wanted. If a blame game ever erupts I want it to be clear to the kids that mom rejected me, I didn't reject her. I suppose that's a childish attitude on my part, but I can't help it.

    Anonymous - Over and over different people have told me that kids are so perceptive and they know what's going. Sure, many kids are very perceptive. My two boys are not. And although my daughter can be perceptive, she's not old enough to put all the pieces together. As far as the rape is concerned, apparently you and I are the only two people who remember it. I have never understood why it's a non-event, but it is. And as far as the oldest boy's posturing is concerned, that's his personality. He was picked on a lot in elementary school and now that he's had 10 years of karate he thinks he is The Great Defender. Several times in the last two years he's gotten into situations at school only because he decided to defend a friend. What he said to Charlie has far more to do with who he is than what he might suspect.

    Paul - Too funny. I'm not sure I'd like guys who frequently wear sombreros. But maybe if ALL they wore was a sombrero, I'd change my mind.

    Jayson - Loved your very perceptive comment. Thanks for bringing my care-giver role to my attention. You're right, my coming out could be much more significant for that reason. You were likewise very correct about Gabbie's larger-than-life personality. She would never wear a sombrero (even at Chevy's, even on her birthday) but clearly my daughter sees our imperfect relationship as something of a model.

    Your comment has helped me see that I need to think more about how to make my eventual coming out as much of a non-event for the kids as I can. As tempting as it is to assume they'll be as blase' about me as they were their mother, I really should not expect that. Thank you for pointing that out.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your posts. You have kept your family together and are doing your best. Hang in there.

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