Saturday, November 24, 2007

Six Degrees To Steven's Bacon Exposed

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.


Jess said...

he made the comment that he can't stand any kind of bigotry and won't put up with it

I think your hunch probably is right. He was letting you know it was fine by him that you're gay. I understand your concerns, and, considering your home town's nature and your concerns about your parents, I might feel exactly the same way if I were in your place.

With that said, if your friendship with this man is to be a good one, he needs to hear the truth from you. Also, you may want to give very serious consideration to telling your parents. Secrets are unhealthy. Yes, it has to be your choice. Even if I knew you "in real life," I wouldn't presume to try to force the issue. I just know that coming out is, in most cases, a very liberating thing. Parents know their kids and usually suspect anyhow. Being open allows everyone to speak freely. There are exceptions, of course, because some people are just way too homophobic to cope with the news.

Speaking for myself, I was worried about telling my parents. It wasn't the kind of news they were thrilled to hear, but they always loved me, so they accepted it. In the end, they got to know Marc, and he became a real member of the family. Coming out was a very positive turning point in my life.

Whatever you decide, I wish you well. None of this is easy!

Anonymous said...

the six degrees is that close no matter what the size of city. Years ago I was walking down the street with my then boyfriend in a very downtown neighbourhood only to her "Anthony?" in a girl's voice. my mother's best friend's daughter... shopping with her mother. my boyfriend and I were caught red handed... hand in hand. Not only did she beat me in calling my mother, she outed me before I was ready... "E" suffered from foot in mouth disease, so I manages to talk my way around it, bu in the end it forced me to realize I can not hide forever, even in a city of over 2 million. Come out when you are ready, especially those that are close to you. "E" might have tried to one up me, but those who truly loved and cared about me only said what I wanted them to say.

btw, I came out to my mom a few months later and she had known since I was a toddler... who knew?

gay, christian and scared shitless said...

Dude, ive got 46 on my mums side alone and its a nightmare. lol

Paul said...

Sorry to hear about Fern's cow.

David said...

One of my friends found out about me and by the next day, I heard that an old classmate who lives on the other end of the country had found out. I wasn't happy about it but I really wasn't as mad as I thought I would be either. I have to wonder if it is better to just let go of the baggage.

Anonymous said...

Clearly he suspects. Just tell him...why start out a re-newed friendship on the basis of a lie? Besides, MOST people will keep your secret if you make it clear to them that you don't want it spread around. Then again, I tend to be a Pollyanna about these things...or I just don't care anymore. Yeah, that's it.

Matt in Argyle said...

I can see where you are coming from, everyone has those thoughts I reckon. I know even being in a city I am scared of the whole who connects to who effect. I know it is a likely possibility too, but I also know if I don't move forward I'll end up being stuck. Plus, its not like I broadcast 'hey I'm gay', if someone asks I will likely tell them though (if I trust them). Still, my very sad about Fern's cow.

Patrick said...

I agree with Jess and Kevin, he did seem to be going out of his way to tell you he would have no problem with it, and at this point, would starting a new friendship be healthy for you if you had to do it hiding a part of yourself? It's hard enough taking on the process with people already in your life, don't make more work/pain for yourself by starting a relationship in the closet if you can possibly help it. I realize though that this leaves you with only two options: 1)reject his friendship or 2)come out to him. A key part of the coming out process for all of us, I think, is asking ourselves "at what point does keeping the secret become more difficult/painful than coming out? As Jess says, this is a highly personal decision, not for me to make on your behalf; at some point you may just find that keeping track of who knows and who doesn't becomes too unwieldy. And as you already know, it's always better when you are the one doing the telling.
And you're remembering to be patient with yourself, yes?

Sooo-this-is-me said...

Jess, I can't tell you how many times that I thought a straight person knew and was giving me a hint to say something, only to find out later they had no clue and I misunderstood, so I am always cautious.

Anthony, people like "E" are poison and I know my fair share of them. A few weeks ago I made a quick stop into a mall that I usually never go to, I bumped into my parents. I could not help think what if I was with a boyfriend, it would have been awkward.

Dave, wow 46 on one side only! Plus you guys are all crammed onto that little island you call a country! ;)

Paul, we all went to the funeral, I found it to be a very mooving experience.

David, it bugs me to think people will use our private lives as fodder for their gossip.

Kevin, only for the ties back home I would just tell him right from the beginning, as you said I would then see if he truly wants to be friends.

Matt, I agree we just have to keep going foward, honestly I don't want to go back to the closet, even though I am only partly out it feels so much better.

Patrick, I did start to feel like my straight act was unraveling and people were asking me questions I could not answer, I was making slips and felt I did not have the energy to keep up the lie. That is why I don't want to have to go there again. I will see how they are with gay issues and will either get closer or cut ties.

john said...

This is my biggest fear to be outed before I can do it myself.

Stephen said...

I think I know someone perhaps a cousin twice removed form Fern's mother's side, they were talking about a cow that had died by a feeder . . . What color was the cow? On second thought, it probably wasn't the same cow. But those eggshells you are talking about, I know about all to well, large family, small town, and the all too important part of trusting.

Steven said...

I hear you quite well in this post. However, it's more friends and neighbors I run into. But after last weekend's trip to the restaurant and seeing old "friends" I seemed to be comfortable with who I was with, which is a good sign about my own "comfort level" as a gay man. I hope it only gets better for you!

Sooo-this-is-me said...

John, I understand that feeling. Why some people like to make everyone's business their business is beyond me.

Stephen, what eggshells? Cows don't lay eggs! The scary part is when the people you don't trust find out.

Steven, thanks I do think it is getting better, some things don't bother me like they used to.

StePHen said...

the hardest part for me about the whole situation of people not knowing was always feeling obligated to reading other's minds. the truth is that i have no desire to read into my hunches or not anymore because who the hell knows if im just making it up. half the time my thoughts were just placing my worst fears into what i assumed others thought of me. if someone wants to ask me something then i can assume that they actually were thinking about the subject outside of that i just have to be okay with myself now. it started eating away at my confidence always trying to guess what was on the minds of others. wishing you the best in all of this... i am definitely feeling you :)

Sooo-this-is-me said...

Stephen, I am learning that now, I try to stop putting my thoughts into their brain, most times in the past I was wrong anyway.