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Alone for the Holidays

Well, today is Thanksgiving in the United States, the first in a number of major holidays this season. In the lead up to today a sense of loneliness has been building and I expect it to continue over the next month or so. The ill feeling is a mix of being alone relationship-wise as well as recognizing that it was about a year ago now that the troubles with John and I really started to come to a head.

gourdsJohn and I talked about the upcoming holidays some and while we’re still friends we decided it would be best not to make major plans together for the holidays. As a part of our new lives apart we need to make new traditions for ourselves. Besides, I expect we’ll both be emotional about the season and its not good to try to vent that together.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make plans to visit my family back east for the holidays. That leaves me wondering what I will do for Christmas and New Years. Fortunately, for today I received a gracious invite for lunch.

Here’s wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving.

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Homeland: Perhaps We Can Go Back Again, Pt. 1

I have mentioned before that I thought that telling people that I was interested in older men was like coming out a second time and that the age difference between my partner and I was where I felt I would encounter the most resistance about our relationship.  I visited my parents over the holidays and really confronted the consequences of coming out to them face-to-face for the first time; thankfully without much anguish.  It is also now coming upon one year of being out to them and, in a way, that means one year of really, truly being fully out to the world.  It feels like a good time to reflect on the past year and this final, monumental step of coming out.

During November and December of 2007 I began seriously considering coming out to my parents.  For the first time in my life I was in a committed relationship, and the idea of coming out started to feel less like a lie of omission and more like a bold faced lie.  I began reading a number of books about coming out; I found Betty Fairchild and Nancy Hayward’s Now That You Know exceptionally helpful.  The idea of coming out to my parents filled me with anxiety.  We were always the sort of family that never talked about controversial topics, so sex and religion were generally off the table.  I had no concrete idea of how my parents felt about homosexuality.

When I went home for the holidays that year I intended to come out, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.  There was another sort of family crisis happening at the time that was already affecting the mood back home, and so I decided not to add to the stress of the season.  However, the visit was incredibly stressful for me;  having to make secretive phone calls to John, being unable to talk to my brother about the relationship for fear of being overheard, and the general dis-ease created by denying my relationship.

Upon returning home I decided that I needed to come out sooner rather than later.  In late January I mailed a coming out letter to my parents.  This isn’t a method I’d necessarily recommend to everyone, but I decided for my parents and I it was the best option at the time.  In my letter I discussed how I came to identify myself as gay, my personal journey with that identity, and how I now felt happy and successful in my life.  However I did not state that I was in a relationship or discuss John;  I decided I’d let them acclimate themselves to the idea that I was gay for a bit before jumping into the relationship side of it.

I waited about two weeks after mailing the letter before I contacted them.  I had hoped that they would call me first, but after giving them some time for the letter to reach them and for them to process what they read I called.  I spoke to my father first and was buoyed by his reception of my letter.  He told me that the thought that I might be gay had crossed his mind in the past and said that “people are they way they are, you can’t try to change them”.  He also related a story about someone he had gone to school with that had gotten married and had kids, but later came out and now lived with a partner.  I was elated at my father’s willingness to try to relate with me.

During the first call my mother hadn’t been at home, so I called back a couple days later.  She was clearly much more uncomfortable talking about the subject than my father was.  She asked some questions and didn’t seem too upset, but overall she seemed to want to avoid the topic.  She did ask me if I was in a relationship with the man I was living with and I admitted yes, but said I’d prefer to discuss him more later after they’d become more comfortable with the idea of me being gay.  I did convince my mother and father to check a copy of Now That You Know out of their local library.  I think it helped them innumerably as well.

Over the proceeding months I began to reveal additional information about John.  Eventually I wrote them a second letter.  Through both the letter and phone conversations I explained that I had always been attracted to older men, that John was exceptionally important to me, and that I considered him my partner.  I also sent them some photos of John.

By the time it came time for me to return home for Christmas of 2008 they were getting a pretty full picture of John.  They knew he was much older than me, though I still have yet to give a precise age, they learned he has adult children, and I often spoke to them about our life together.  However they seldom asked about John or even alluded to him in conversation unless I brought him up first.  I was anxious to see my parents face-to-face, to see if they would be more willing to discuss my homosexuality in person, and what questions they might ask about John.

Coming up:  My visit home during Christmas 2008.