There are ways people come out of closets, different closets for different deviations, that reflect the kinds of people they are. My nerve-wracking coming out – at least, the “official” one to my parents – at nineteen was blunt, uncomplicated, and full of implicit assumptions: “Mom, I want to bring my boyfriend home for Christmas.” Without skipping a beat, replied: “Hmm. Well, we’ll have to somehow make more room in the car from the airport…” They always knew and were perfectly accepting of my homosexuality. But what got their hackles up was my second coming out, of which I didn’t even realize was a closet I was in.
Looking back on it, how many years it took them to fully accept my then-boyfriend, I must commend them for their diplomatic congeniality. At the time, I thought the deep affection and respect we had for each other should have overshadowed any of their concerns. What I didn’t know about were the months of mental anguish my parents went through after my other coming out. My father couldn’t eat or sleep for days. My mother sought out group therapy and toyed with suicidal thoughts. What was the source of this dissonance, this deep emotional strife? He was twice my age. And in my parents’ eyes, a 37-year-old preying after their young son has “sexual predator” written all over him. I honestly didn’t know being a daddy chaser was a closet needing to be declared.
Our society makes light-hearted references to May-December relationships all the time – but only if the older partner is male is it acceptable (I can’t imagine what their reactions would have been if we had both been women). It’s not as though I went out of my way to shock them, to seek out their disapproval; I got and still get sideways glances from my closest friends and sidewalk strangers. It all comes down to the way I can so quickly build a rapport with older men: their experience and stories enrapture me, their confidence and stability comfort me, and their devotion and independence resonate with me. I find nothing so beautiful as a face that has come so far. My then-partner and I were together for five wonderful years. And, yes, he was finally welcomed with open arms for our family Christmas, along with my brother and his wife. Two years in a row