I live in a small city, I came from the country near an even smaller township. The problem with that is I have a huge family, our neighbors all had large families and when children and grandchildren get older, they move to this city for work. That makes me think of the game "six degrees to Kevin Bacon", you know the game where you try to figure how close actors are to knowing Kevin Bacon by who he has worked with. Only with me I think the game should be called two or three degrees to Steven because that is how close everyone seems to be to knowing my family. I have around forty first cousins, (Irish Catholics) yes I said forty! So you can imagine if you add in there, second and third cousins plus all the husbands and wives. I can even be in a strange city, partly lost and one of them will appear in front of me. Trust me it is a full time job to keep from being discovered.
This has come up again with a vengeance, it has to do with meeting my friend last week. Of course I did not tell him, the last time we saw each other was in our teens and at that time he was very homophobic, to be fair to him so was I, or at least pretended to be. He made it clear to me that he would like to resume our friendship. When I mentioned some of our other childhood friends he told me that he recently bumped into some of them as well. One guy he meets with every week and the other monthly. They have coffee, go to lunches and sometimes hang out. There is the comfort of familiarity and I could see quickly becoming friends again. However that will put me back into the position of having close friends who do not know that I am gay. Feeling tire of hiding and pretending was the reason I came out to my close friends. That has been dealt with and I no longer have to worry about slip ups with the exception of Elly. I am not looking forward to being put back into that situation.
There is the uneasiness that my friend has some ties to my home town but the real trouble is one of the other guys has almost the same large family ties back home. Even if they accept me there is always that chance for a slip-up and I'm not ready to deal with my parents, if ever. Any one from a small town knows how uneventful life is there, so every bit of news is spread quickly and in the haste to pass it around, it gets pulled and stretched a little. The last big event there that just happened is Fern's cow was found dead by the feeder (I'm not joking), she was fifteen however so a good life for a cow, now imagine if the hot wire got a hold of the news that Fern's, neighbor's son is gay! Talk about a gossip feeding frenzy, I would be OK but I would not want a wave of ignorance to come my parent's way. I will have to wait and see just how open minded they have become before saying a word. Maybe he even suspects, he asked if I was married and when I said no I am still single, he suddenly looked at me like if he just realized something. I quickly changed the topic and he jumped into the new subject right away, maybe to save me from the awkwardness. Usually with other people, I find this the beginning of a flood of questions and they will not let it go. When we were leaving he made the comment that he can't stand any kind of bigotry and won't put up with it. I kept wondering if he was trying to make me feel comfortable and let me know it was OK to tell him or was he just trying to come off as a cool guy.
The more I come out, the more complicated it seems to become. I almost feel there is a no win situation here, become friends only to be rejected, to be outed or do I decide not to take up his offer to start the friendship over. It kind of also is not fair to him, as he is smart enough to figure out that he would be getting the cold shoulder after extending his hand in friendship. He would realize it and not understand why.