A topic of late has centered on telling people that we are separated – co-workers and neighbors. It is not that we have a pressing need, but particularly at work there is a strangeness to answering: “Yes, Carrie and I had a great weekend – life is just great.” So it is time to practice a little honesty, if not on being gay at least on the fact that it is a very nice basement, thank you very much.
The thing is that people have an image of separation – voices raised, plates flying, an anger that is palpable. People separate for a reason – personal dislike, disagreements on child rearing: anything you can imagine but always – ALWAYS – a reason. A good reason, a bad reason, but a reason all the same.
Yet we talk at work and it is frequently quite an accurate answer in some strange way: “Carrie and I had a good weekend. We had dinner with friends, we had the big kids over: we are fixing up this or that in the house.” Separating couples do not typically spend an afternoon looking at new kitchen cabinets.
When I tell these friends that Carrie and I are separated, they suffer cognitive dissonance. Without knowing the gay, they cannot really comprehend the picture. Accept it on faith: yes, but really understand, no. Now I am somewhat okay with this. I do not have a responsibility to defend my life and the gay thing will come out sooner than later.
Today I realized that the cognitive dissonance is real, a very tangible problem. But the thing is that the problem is not co-workers or neighbors. The problem is ours: Carrie and mine. We are treading on such undefined ground. If we want to practice for a divorce, there are role models, on TV, in books, down the block. Hell, we have both been there, lived with the screaming, the lawyers, the loathing.
We joke about Will and Grace, but Carrie points out that Will and Grace were never married. They have no children and ultimately do not have a lot of – if any – sexual history. So on a day like today – Mother’s Day – what is the etiquette? (I brought flowers and we had a family day.) When is it appropriate to nod, to do a semi-low five or just to give a little hug? When is it appropriate to share with your best friend and when is that an imposition, sharing morphing into a reminder of all of the pain. Last week after my night of personal hell I called Carrie and she was there for me. But it also hurt her – being called on to listen to me feel bad about the pain I brought on both of us.
So yes, there is tremendous dissonance between our hearts and our heads, between the life of being separated and the life of sharing a home. And I do use the word “home” advisably – we are not living as college style roommates, I am no mere boarder. I go to work and all that I reap is shared and I come home and partake of whatever was made for dinner. Ozzie and Harriet on LSD.
I do not want to change it – living as a family, interacting with my children without the imposition of set times. And with luck we will pull it off. But is an ongoing act of creation as we both learn every day.