IF YOU MISSED THE FIRST PART OF THIS MINI SERIES, YOU CAN CHECK IT OUT HERE.
IF YOU MISSED THE SECOND PART OF THIS MINI SERIES, YOU CAN CHECK IT OUT HERE.
It’s kind of ironic how parents can predict things before we have any inclination whatsoever.
I know I’m not the only one who has been in a relationship where you make the mistake of telling your parents too much. This trust we have in our parents, to them, seems almost like an invitation for their input and skepticism.
Soon you’re hearing, “Is David* still selling drugs to high schoolers? I really hope you’re done buying that stuff from him.” or “Did Tom* unfollow that girl on Instagram whose pictures he kept liking?” and “From what you told me, it sounds like Kyle* has some serious issues. Run.”
*Names have not been changed to protect the identities of ex-boyfriends
Next, they’re giving you advice about how he’ll probably get a girl pregnant before he can start his life and that the two of you are so toxic you’ll end up ruining each other’s ideas of love forever.
All of a sudden, you’re 23 and you look back and realize, holy shit my mother was right.
Except, when I told my step-dad I was interested in this girl as more than a friend he told my mom he always thought I would end up gay.*
*I do not identify as a specific sexual orientation
I don’t know how parents are able to predict this kind of stuff, but this was news to me. Because up until the very second I kissed this girl, I had no idea how I felt about women.
Telling My Family
Before we jump into the terribly awkward, self-humiliation that is my true coming out story, I want to preface this by saying I am so incredibly thankful to have the friends and family that I do. Daily, they have continued to make this process as easy as I could have hoped it would be, and how I hope it can be for everyone.
The first night Jillian came over to hangout with me, I told my mom a “friend” from school who I had recently re-connected with was on the Cape for Christmas (we hungout for the first time December 22) and neither of us had anything to do so she was coming over to make a gingerbread house with me.
This wasn’t a total lie, we did make a gingerbread house, but she definitely wasn’t a friend from school. In fact, I had no proof she was even a real person at this point so I kind of just invited a stranger to my house based on a few days of text exchanges and a cute picture of her online.
Thankfully she wasn’t a serial killer.
My parents weren’t home when she got to my house because, unlike me, they actually have lives. We set up the gingerbread kit, starting pasting chunks of icing onto a cardboard house and every so often (probably every 10 minutes), I checked the window to see if lights were coming up the drive.
I’m not a very good liar, especially when it comes to myself. I like to be truthful with my parents and get their advice on things but this whole “thing” was so new and so unexplored that I honestly didn’t know what to say. So I lied.
When they finally got home, they asked her the standard questions. Did you go to Roger Williams, too? Where on Cape are you staying? What was you major?
Thankfully, being the paranoid freak I am, we had gone over all of these questions except she didn’t go to Roger and her family wasn’t staying on the Cape and although she said she majored in business, she actually didn’t go to college at all. Now we were both lying.
This would all come out on my moms birthday few days later but until then, we had passed the friendship test and went to the basement to watch a movie.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I had someone over that I was interested in, I would invite them to the basement to watch a movie. My parents definitely caught on to this and there were only so many times during this “Christmas break” that I could invite this girl over my house to watch movies in my basement before it got weird.
And weird it got because one day, my mom was driving home and the words spewed out like vomit.
“Hey mom, yeah Jillian’s here again yeah she’s gay and I might be too and I don’t want you to be weird about it when you get home so just act normal, OK? See you in bit. Bye,” and I hung up.
She later told me that the pure shock of this sentence alone made her almost drive off the road. Not because she wasn’t accepting of me but simply because I had dated guys my entire life and not once did I mention any sort of possible interest in women.
I had decided to hold off a bit longer to tell my step-dad but the morning of my moms birthday (December 29), as Jillian parked her car at the end of my driveway and walked towards the house in stilettos and a black dress, I blurted it out.
“Jillian’s gay,” I said as I stood in the newly remodeled kitchen, leaning over my phone with my elbows perched on the island. I didn’t even glance up.
“OK,” he said back.
“I might be, too.” My face was now buried in my phone, Jillian was almost at the door and my moms coffee just about spewed out of her mouth.
“Ok and?” he said. He kind of chuckled and went back to drinking his coffee.
At this point, Jillian was walking up the front steps, hand in a fist, ready to knock.
“I thought you were going to wait to tell him?” my mom said as the knock echoed through the living room.
For whatever reason, I had invited Jillian to a play with my family and me in Boston. Little did I know, when I texted her and asked her, she paced through the kitchen coming up with all of the reasons why she shouldn’t go before texting me back an hour later saying yes.
Now, we stood side-by-side in the kitchen, the abrupt announcement lingering in the air. Oblivious to what had taken place seconds earlier, Jillian gave my mom a bottle of red wine and wished her a happy birthday. We filed into the car, shipped up to Boston and up until the day I asked her to be my girlfriend a couple of months later (February 22), it wasn’t brought up once.
Not because they didn’t care or because they didn’t approve but because as long as I was happy, it didn’t matter who I was with. So I guess, in a way, they didn’t care that I was seeing a girl. I had fantasized about the scrutiny I would get from family members, concerned glances in my direction as I paraded her around family functions, snide comments as we wafted past.
But it didn’t happen. The conversation didn’t come. The concerns weren’t voiced. The questions weren’t asked. Instead, I was flooded with congratulations as we made our relationship “Facebook official,” comments from relatives excited to meet her, likes from past friends and family members I hadn’t seen in years. All writing the same thing; you look so happy.
I was relieved. Still, it would take me some time to tell my dad.
The first time my dad met Jillian was on New Year’s Eve. We stopped by the house before our first “public” night out together. I introduced her to my dad the same way I introduced her to my mom; an old friend from Roger that was on Cape for the holidays.
Once it was made “official” online, I knew I had to tell my dad. I didn’t want him finding out from someone else, so I made plans to have lunch with him the following day.
We have a really good relationship but we’ve never talked about relationships. Since I lived with my mom, she was always the one that saw my significant other the most and was forced to get to know them. My dad would be introduced eventually and they’d make small talk, always cordial with one another, mostly around holidays or family events.
I was more scared to have the conversation with my dad than I was with my mom. Again, not because I feared judgment but these weren’t exactly the conversations we were used to having. Unlike my mom, my dad doesn’t have much of an opinion on who I date. He is very passive with mine and my sister’s life choices and rather than telling us what we should and shouldn’t do, he lets us figure it out on our own.
Sitting across from him, I could feel the anxiety creeping up into my throat as I forced down my food. With every bite, I hoped I would be able to swallow my unease.
He was picking away at his sandwich when I decided to start the conversation.
“Do you remember that girl you met on New Year’s?” I asked him. I took a sip of my drink and waited for him to look up at me.
“Yeah,” he said in a drawn out voice.
“Well, her and I are kind of dating,” I said. The words trailed off at the end as he finally looked up at me.
He paused for a few seconds as I choked back an awkward laugh.
“Like lesbians?” he asked me. He sat back in his seat a bit more and had a funny look on his face. That look you get as a child when you know you did something wrong, like poop in the litter box, but your parents are laughing too hard to punish you.
That was the look.
“I guess,” I said as I sipped at the empty ice at the bottom of my cup. “But I’m not gay. I just really like her.”
I was waiting for a reaction but nothing came.
He just adjusted his glasses, picked up his phone and leaned back into the booth. He mumbled something about it being a phase and how most women go through them. I didn’t want to correct him or argue with him so I let it go.
It wasn’t brought up again. I asked a few times if he wanted to talk about it but he always said there was nothing to say. I was happy, so he was happy. Simple.
I would wonder about the simplicity of coming out for months. How could it be so simple, so passive, for me to announce I liked women, but so brutalized and condemned for so many others?
I had hyped up the idea of being gay. I had given it it’s own place in my head where it could live and wonder. It’s own secret garden. I planted flowers in my mind and watered them with my thoughts. Fuel to flourish and a place to feel safe. Confidence to speak and courage to accept. To accept myself. They would sprout from my ears, petals falling from my eye lids and like a mid-summer rain, I’d open my mouth to catch them on my tongue. I’d swallow them whole until I was almost bursting. Full. Whole. Ready to show the world what I had so preciously built. And in the center of it all;
If you missed the first part of this mini series, you can check it out here.
So how did I know? How does anyone know what they like?
The answer is simple: try it.
Looking back, part of me wishes I had just swallowed my pride and the little bit of humility I had left and explored the thoughts of my adolescent mind. Honestly, it would have been so much easier had I come out when I was 13 or 14. Then, everyone would already know when I got to high school. Girls that maybe thought they were gay or thought they were curious would probably talk to me, maybe I’d have a few girlfriends here and there. I would be the girl that I eventually became jealous of; the girl who was confident and fluid in her sexuality.
Then I’d go to college, probably date a few more girls, be asked to do a bunch of threesomes,* and find the love of my life. Simple.
*If you don’t know this already, guys are obsessed with hooking up with two gay girls – we are not your entertainment; we never have been and we never will be.*
But instead, here I was at 23-years-old, straight (lol) out of my college experimental years where I didn’t experiment, trying to find girls to talk to. Do you know how difficult it is to jump into the gay dating scene when you have absolutely no experience and have never even flirted with a girl before?
It goes a little something like, “Hi, I don’t know what the f*ck I’m doing but I think I might like girls and I don’t know if I want to kiss you or just play with you hair but would you like to talk to me for two months before I make up my mind?” In the meantime, they fall in love with you because girls are the most emotional creatures on the planet and then you’re just doomed.
I felt like I was jumping head first into that scene in Shark Boy and Lava Girl where they’re just passing through the Land of Milk and Cookies. The girls were the cookies, I was the ridiculously out of place girl with flames coming out of her head.
If you don’t get this reference, you’re too young to be reading my blog. Or too old.
How I Knew
I had asked a few of my friends who were bi/gay/lesbian/pan, “How did you know?” and they all said the same thing. You’ll just know.
And I’d just respond, “What does that even mean?”
And they’d say, “Just download tinder, find a cute girl and hangout with her and for Christ’s sake Jamie, stop thinking about it.”
So I did. But getting a girls attention is so much harder than getting a guys attention. When I had dating profiles before, I would post cute pictures of me out with my friends, pictures from the gym, pictures of me holding fish.
If there is one thing I have learned from social media, women hate when men post pictures of themselves holding fish. Was it the same with other women?
I wasn’t trying to impress men here so I limited it to one fish picture (which I used as my last picture), a bunch of selfies without other girls because I didn’t want these new girls thinking I was posting pictures with past girls, and a picture of me in the gym because let’s be real, if I was a guy, I’d be a Brad. We all know this.
Honestly, the worst part about this whole dating app experience was coming up with a bio.
“Curious!” You’re on a women’s dating app, obviously you’re curious.
“Hi! Not sure what I’m looking for but maybe you’ll be it ;)” I would throw up if I read something like that in someone else’s bio. No.
“I don’t know what the f*ck I’m doing here.” Genius. Absolutely perfect. This is it. You’re ready.
I was not ready.
The first few girls I matched with immediately asked me to have threesomes with them and their boyfriends. I was warned about this.
A few other girls said they had hotel rooms downtown and I should come over. This terrified me.
One girl invited me to a sex battle and when I asked what that was she told me to google it. Don’t google it.
And then there was her.
Our conversation started simple. Me saying her dog was cute (trying to break the ice), her responding that her dog was dead (the ice was not broken, it was shattered).
We chatted for a few days, exchanged numbers and truth be told, I didn’t think it would go anywhere. Honestly, I didn’t even intend to hangout with her. I was just trying to get into the mindset of talking to a girl as more than a friend because love stories don’t happen when two people meet on tinder. Nothing usually happens when two people meet on tinder. Except maybe herpes.
But our conversations were easy. They flowed. One topic to the next, I started to look forward to the moments I could lose myself in our exchanges. I started to look forward to the moments I could lose myself in her.
A few days later, I invited her over. All I remember from that night was watching Bird Box. The days went on. Talk of my anxiety here, a dab of her depression there, a sprinkle of self-reflection topped with the whopping secret that, holy shit, I like girls.
I invited her over again and this time, she kissed me during Harry Potter. It was like my brain had re-wired in this exact moment. It was like everything I had envisioned a relationship to be was gone. It was like everything that never made sense in my life suddenly blossomed into this gay awakening.
They’re not kidding when they told me I’d just know. That it would just feel right.
The “married to a man with two kids and a dog” scenario had vanished. It was replaced with gentle thoughts of holding her hand before bed, simply admiring her femininity and knowing that I possessed it too, tender kisses on a park bench in the middle of a city, painting our first crappy apartment, walking barefoot across the beach in white dresses.
OK, maybe I was moving too fast. Take a step back, try to get her bra undone or something before you start picturing your romantic, gay future together. You could hate it for all you know.
Although I didn’t know it then, she would redefine love for me and I for her. She would teach me what it felt like to be truly and selflessly loved. She would teach me to be fearless and unapologetic of my feelings. She would help me come out as me. And I would fall in love with her in the process.
But telling my family, sharing this huge secret I had been carrying around for so long, was the scariest and most relieving moment of my life.
(Coming Soon – Part 3: Telling My Family)