Thursday, July 17, 2008

Closet Systems

One of the reasons I stopped blogging was a concern of dragging those around me, the essential players, into my quasi-public existence. And while that still weighs on me, there is no way to continue this tale without dragging them into this.

Carrie always said I would find someone because I was not one to be alone. She intended the comment critically and I do accept a level of truth: I am a social creature and do enjoy companionship. But I disagree with the implication that my need for company would force me into just any relationship. I did manage to start to build a social network, limited as it was, on my own.

But the fact is that I do have a boyfriend – maybe a gay lover is a better phrase for a couple whose average age is closing in on sixty. I do not feel I have settled or jumped in: it more sort of happened. Phil was also married once, though having come to this world as a widower seems much more honorable than anything I can claim. We became friends and that is still the basis of the relationship, though I will readily admit that the sex is great.

Phil is compassionate, intelligent and quick to smile but also reserved as any good Methodist should be. There is some punch line in that I could have also written that sentence about Carrie; I am consistent in my attractions other than this little thing of gender. But it is that reserved quality which can be a bit of culture shock for a New York City ethnic like me. I came from a background which was not much for secrets or dancing around the point – perfect for one coming out late in life.

And it is this reserve which is Phil’s Achilles heal for as one would expect from one trained in the design world, he has designed the most impressive closet system one could imagine. When we met there were two worlds – a straight one with family and friends, even those who were gay themselves and a gay world with new, separate friends, different geography: not much cross over to put it mildly.

Then I came along – a friend to romp naked on the beach with and have nights of wild sex but who also dresses up nicely, perfect for a suit and tie and an evening of Handel’s Messiah. So we have become regular companions in both worlds. But there is a difference – I am fully out so when Phil meets my friends, siblings, others, there is little doubt of our relationship.

The opposite is not true. Phil has come out to some of his gay friends as we have met them for dinner or drinks. But his family – his children and aging mother – do not know. I was going to say they have not a clue though I wonder if the children are not smarter than they let on. They have met me many times at this point and we get along quite well. But there is a part of me that is terrified that they will someday hate me, and him, when they realize for how long this little thing was not mentioned.

One might wonder why write about this – it is my Blog, my story, not his. And so it is. But at this point it is also our story. We nearly live together – five or more nights a week sharing a bed, sharing evenings, learning to share friends. And it all came to the fore this week when we had dinner with his gay cousin and his cousin’s partner. Imagine four gay men in a cute little restaurant, but two of us are there as straight friends. It does boggle the mind, though I could handle it. Hell, there is not much I cannot handle at this point.

But I found myself in the one position I swore I would avoid- watching my words, editing on the fly. They are leaving on vacation in a few days. So are we but if I say that they will ask: “Where?” The response would flow easily: “Fire Island, some time at the beach.” “Oh, we were there last year – which part of the Island?” The moment of truth: “The Pines.” Might as well tattoo a rainbow flag on my forehead. So I let the moment pass, a pause, and on to the next topic.

Somehow I believe this will evolve – it already has to some degree, but it has proven to me one thing: I made the right choice and will not be personally investing in a closet system ever again.


Paul said...

A couple of years ago I met a new neighbor that I've become fairly good friends with. About once a month we get together for coffee or go out for burgers. He's in his late 40s, single, never-been-married, and has a very visible top-management position with a well-known company.

About a month ago, I -- somewhat jokingly -- asked if he's gay. After a very-pregnant pause, he admitted that he is. He's SO closeted, that he claims I'm only the second person that knows, the other being his closeted boyfriend living in another state.

On one hand, I'm glad that he trusts me enough to be honest. However, I just can't imagine what he and his boyfriend have to do to keep hiding.

And I wonder, how did they find each other in the first place?

Jen said...