So, I did it. Finally. Out to my parents. It seems a little ridiculous to me that at my age this should be such a huge issue for me, but, defying all logic, it is.
I spent the night before, sleepless, going through every possible scenario in my head, somehow rationalizing that if I had thought of every variable that I’d be prepared for their reaction.
The day I planned to tell them — my 40th birthday, by the way — I spent unable to focus on the easiest task, stressed out, nervous beyond belief. As co-workers came by my desk, wishing me Happy Birthday and making jokes about my age, I was barely able to banter with them, my mind so preoccupied with the task that was still in front of me.
Then I went from work to the gym for a session with my trainer. And babbled fairly incoherently at her for a good chunk of our time. She reassured me over and over that it was all going to work out okay. I almost believed her.
And then – to my parents’ house for dinner. I had decided that I was going to wait until the end of the meal to tell them — just in case they threw me out of the house, I wanted to have one last dinner. In celebration of my birthday, my Mom had made one of my favorite meals and I savored every bite even as my stomach roiled, nauseous at the thought of what I was going to do.
Dessert was doled out. I ate as slowly as I ever have, prolonging the moment. And then, as my parents looked at me quizzically, wondering why I wasn’t really eating, I dove in and told them.
And… silence. No reaction.
“We kind of thought so.”
Yes, they had suspected. It was something that they had discussed, and recently decided, based on some events that it was most likely true. I was just confirming for them that yes, I was gay.
Then, my Mom says, “Well, you know you have to be very careful now.”
And I was thinking things like, be sure not to let people at work know because you could get fired, or not letting my older relatives find out. You know, things along those lines. But, since I wasn’t sure what she meant, I asked: “Careful of what?”
As it turns out, her biggest fear for me is that I’m going to contract AIDS. I believe the look on my face when she said that was a cross between utter confusion and a dash of “Huh?” and just a hint of a smirk. I told her that it was a good thing I wasn’t also an intravenous drug user because then I’d REALLY be at risk.
For as much as we use jokes to navigate difficult conversations, my humor wasn’t appreciated and while I attempted to allay her fears, she wasn’t having anything of it. Luckily – for me – she abruptly changed the course of the conversation so I didn’t have to go into detail as to why it might not be as much a risk for me.
My Mom went on to tell me that they (my parents) had considered the possibility that I was gay for awhile, but felt convinced that was the case about a year ago when I started getting together with an old friend of mine more often. An old friend who also happens to be gay. Of course, me seeing this friend was entirely coincidental, but, proof enough for my mother.
She then looked at me, paused and said: “We thought it might be true, and from what I understand, this isn’t really a choice you make, but something you can’t help……. right??… ” As if I were doing this just to fuck with them. Um, yea. I reassured them that no, this wasn’t a decision that I’d made, and my Dad followed up with an awkward, “We tried to raise you best as we could, give you a normal life, let you do whatever you wanted to do…” and his voice trailed off as he kind of realized what he was saying. And so I reassured again: not a choice, not faulty upbringing, not their fault.
They told me they wanted me to be happy. And that they supported me and accepted me. And that I wasn’t thrown out of the family.
And I can’t express how happy I am at this. For the first time in years, they told me they loved me. Out loud. And that was wonderful to hear. Not that I had ever doubted it before, but there’s something about speaking it out loud that makes it more real, somehow validates it on an entirely different level.
But, I know I still need to give them time. Time to soak it in and fully realize what the consequences are now that I’m out. Time to start feeling comfortable with the fact that I date girls. To come to terms with the fact that I’ll most likely never get married, and might not have kids. Time, even, to figure out things like if they’re going to tell their friends about it, or how to deal with the eventual situation where I want to bring someone I’m dating to a holiday dinner.
Right now the best way I can describe their mindset is that they’re resigned to life being this way. Their reactions were very measured and my Dad kept repeating, “It is what it is.” Yes, Dad, that’s true. But it’s MORE than just that. They sat there stoically, unemotionally and I sat there and cried, relieved to have it done, not quite believing that they were going to accept me and also at the same time hating that I was the only one in the room shedding tears.
In a way, I don’t know exactly what I expect from them, to be honest. I’ve gotten more than I could reasonably ask, and yet…a small piece would like them to actually be happy for me. Happy that I’ve figured things out, that I stand a much better chance at living a full, rich life. And I guess there’s a part of me that feels like instead all I’ve done is give them the winning ticket to the That Totally Sucks Lottery. It felt very much like they were taking on this huge thing that they didn’t want, didn’t ask for, never thought they’d have to deal with and I gave them no choice but to handle it.
Time will determine how this all eventually works itself out, and so far they’ve said all the right things to me, but I’m hoping this doesn’t just become one of those things that we all know exists, but never talk about. That by not talking — something we’re very good at as a family — that it isn’t really happening and we won’t have to deal with it.
My biggest fear going into this was that things would never be the same ever again.
Now, I think my biggest fear is that things are never going to actually change.