Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sure Plays A Mean Pinball

Its funny how one thought leads to another, particularly when it comes to matters of the heart and soul. Of late I have been pondering if and when one tells children, particularly adult children. This has been of particular interest because Anna is twenty-six, residing under my roof and well aware of a certain stress level in the home – some of which relates to her erstwhile fiancé, but clearly there is more.

We celebrated Thanksgiving and as I have already written, the maintaining of a false façade, the putting on a brave face, took its toll on us. So I wonder why not tell Anna – I am not ashamed, or at least should not be. It is a fact of life. She is close with her Mom and this would explain all sorts of things. But there is the other side of the coin: her plate is full, she is still our child, not our equal: so my therapist questions who I am sharing for – her or me. The answer is easy – this would be for me, for my own guilt, my own needs. It is easy to step back and not pursue this.

Back from the therapist and there on my HOW group: an e-mail. Jasman writes of his choice not to tell his children, similar in age to my younger ones. His logic mirrors my own and I jump right in with my assent. Simple enough. A series of fifteen responses later, I am unchanged in my conclusion but deeply chastened and changed in my thoughts.

I have written of coming out – my siblings, some close friends, of course my wife. And most recently to myself, for when I came out to all the others I was still quite in the dark. But as I read the e-mails yesterday, I realized that I am not out at all. I have remodeled – traded in that little closet for a walk-in: quite roomy, well appointed, large enough to hold a few people. It cannot hold the entire group that knows because they are segmented, they would never crowd in at the same time. The whole crowd at once would almost be like being out – can’t let that happen.

Simultaneous with this, another thread, different yet really the same: I have Sam, my lunchtime squeeze. We get together, we talk, and yes we do more, much more. It works well. But Sam is more deeply closeted than me – his is not a walk-in – and our meetings are limited, stolen moments during the work day. Still not a bad deal and one Carrie seems inclined to tolerate for the moment.

So what does Nate do – he goes online, visits American Airlines and voila – a roundtrip to Chicago, a return to the “glories” of last May. First week of January: we are good to go. Now one can leave a spouse guessing as to whether today is lunch or “lunch”, even I can maintain a silence. But a weekend away – we have discussed it in these pages already: there will always be the leaving and worse, there will always be the return home.

The tickets are cheap enough – they can be burned, I can stay home. But it is too late for that: I have made a statement and frankly Carrie and I both want our lives to move forward. To skip Chicago now only to re-visit in six months – what does that really do for either of us? So Chicago it will be but it is now clear that when I return there will be a simple enough question. Is the trip to Chicago with its underlying premise of truly being out, if only for a weekend, a beginning or an end?

For it is now clear that upon my return I can remain in the newly built closet, have my discreet dalliances and maintain our home. Or I can choose to make return trips to “Chicago.” And if I choose the route of “Chicago”, even if the play moves to Broadway, there will be a price – a substantial price: the closet will be gone and I will find myself in uncharted waters.

Oh yes, the title: “That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball.” The thing is that none of our kids (at least not mine and god willing, not yours) are deaf, dumb and blind. And treating them as such carries its own set of risks: issues of trust and respect. Issues not to be taken lightly.


Paul said...


You put this out there. You know we’re likely to comment.

Without doubt, this pinball can’t keep bouncing around forever. I can’t believe that Carrie is just going to let you add a walk-in closet to the house AND go happily on down the road. (Even not knowing her, I assume that she's more self-worth than that.)

Haven’t I said before that most journeys have a destination?

I see that you’re already making plans just for yourself. Not for you and Carrie.

NO, this doesn’t seem to be the time to come out to your children ... unless you’re ready to reveal the destination. What are you going to say? “Hey, kids, I’ve decided that I really like to have indiscriminate affairs with other men; your mom and I may or may not stay married; the stability in your lives that is provided by this family is subject to change without notice; I’m really not a jerk; but don’t worry, be happy.” I can’t imagine that this is a comforting situation. As you said, you’re still the parent, they are not your equals. WHEN you figure out how this will affect them, only then should you talk.

I’m sure you’re right that your kids (and not just the older ones) are not deaf, dumb and blind. Hopefully, they’re very accepting.

Am I missing something?

Paul said...

PS. Clue me in. What's an HOW group?

Nate said...

HOW - Husbands out to wives. An online group.

You either have to be out to your wife or in the process of so doing. If you divorce or separate, you are welcome to remain.

And the problem is not the indiscriminate affairs - Carrie could surviv those - it is the regular ones that are the killers - the ones that add emotion to the sex.

Anonymous said...


Ah, the question of the heart. It is the border no wife can bear to watch a husband cross... and stay for long, I think.

As to telling the kids, I would maintain, in my moralist position, which is slowly acquiring the look and condition of swiss cheese, that you should NEVER tell anyone more than they are ready to know. Work hard at what they could understand and still manage -- I think if you hold their best interests before you, and let your own take a back seat for a moment, you will find the way. Which may be to wait. I don't know. [The understatement of the year, I know.]

My heart goes out to all of you.

The Troll

marsmsu said...

Have fun in Chicago. I'm going there myself next weekend. That said, it's really not about Chicago at all. There are men like us in every city. Men who have made the wrong choices in accepting our orientation, yet who have gamely stuck it out for one valid reason or another.

However, when that relationship is really as hollow as it seems (thank you Bob Dylan) those reasons vanish. A friend of mine once said to me when I was going thru this process "Don't you see that being yourself is important for them to see as well?"

Just posing the question, not presuming your answer is the same as mine was.

Have fun in the windy city!

Anonymous said...


I am in total agreement with what Paul posted and would like to touch upon what he stated in regards to Carrie one step further...

What does it truly say for the wife who wants to remain married to a man who either identifies as being gay or to a man who needs to fulfill a continual desire to be with other men?

In my opinion, the answer is it is a woman who has serious issues regarding self-esteem.

Doesn't she deserve a husband that is committed to her and ONLY her?

I am in a similiar situation and I am extremely thankful that my wife is cognizant of what being married to a man that is "less than straight" truly entails.

Does she love me? ABSOLUTELY. Deeply and on EVERY level. I am her best friend and I will continue to be so.

But, at the end of the day, in a "non-selfish" way, she loves HERSELF more.

Lucky for both of us...

Flip said...

Hi Nate,

I have not logged into my HOW email in the past few days, so I am possibly repeating something that has already been said.

I believe telling your children is about not only divulging the information but also about modeling behavior for them. What kind of behavior are you modeling when you tell them? What are you modeling when you keep it from them?

I told my kids - well, at least my older one. My wife told my younger one. I had planned to tell them, but not when and how it happened. I don't regret it. I think it explained a lot of things to them...and it certainly helps them understand what is going on right now - whatever that may be.

As to closets, I have recently read an interesting book that is partially about the concept of "coming out." It is entitled "Queer Geography." Without creating a firestorm here, it compares coming out to the fundamentalist Christian process of being born again - and proclaiming essence a very public declaration of a very private thing. Who and what you choose to share things with is your business. Of course it can affect your family. But the notion that closets always equal good and out always equals bad is not necessarily a healthy one.

Much too much to have mentioned in a comment...but sometimes when I start typing...

Flip said...

Correction: I meant "...closets always equal bad and out always equals good..." in the previous comment. Sorry for that and a not particularly well thought out comment.

Nate said...

I rarely comment on the comments - just try to incorporate what I learn into my next post.

But I am touched and moved by the thought of all your comments. I am also challenged and forced to think. One things comments do is highlight the "between the lines" that is there but not really conscious to the writer.

It seems there has been much of the between the lines of late and yes, there is a direction in my journey and yes, I am terrified.

And I thank you all.


Spider said...

"And the problem is not the indiscriminate affairs - Carrie could surviv those - it is the regular ones that are the killers - the ones that add emotion to the sex."

So Carrie give you "permission" to keep the one night stands going but not a "regular" relationship... could you or would you afford her the same permission?