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Stepping Out, a Little Bit

Last night I asked my sister to call me. We don’t talk on the phone all that much, just text about projects or trivial nonsense. So I’m not surprised that she called about forty seconds after I texted her. If I ask her to call, she’s going to assume something is wrong.

“I’m dating someone,” Even over the phone I have my eyes closed, braced for yelling. It’s hard to know what to expect. She’s a lesbian, so it may be easier for her to understand alternate sexuality. On the other hand, she’s a registered republican, very conservative. This could go badly.

“What the hell?” Okay, at least she’s calm.

She has questions. Does Spouse know? (Of course, I’m not a monster.) Are you getting a divorce? (No, we’re doing fine.) Does the Techie know you’re married? (Of course. He and Spouse are friends, actually.) Is Spouse dating someone else too? (It’s complicated. I guess not really right now. He sometimes does.)

She says she doesn’t understand. That if her girlfriend were to go out with someone else and still want to be with her, she’d like to punch her in the throat.

“That’s not a good spot for punching.”

“That’s kind of the point. I couldn’t–I mean Jesus, Nic, there’s no way I could live like that.”

“No one’s asking you to.”

“Have you told dad?”

“I don’t think the afterlife has cell phone reception this good.”

“Fair point. What about mom?”

“Not yet. I wanted to ask you about that.”

“Don’t.”

It’s what I expected to hear. Expected can still be upsetting. I ask why. Clearly mom’s calmed down to some degree. When I told her I had a girlfriend in high school she cried for days, called a gay uncle and blamed him, shouted and denied and cried some more. Now she facebook chats with my sister’s girlfriend, and talks about her like she’s family.

“Why do you want to tell her? I mean, this is hard for me. Her generation, and the way she is about marriage. She won’t get it. I’m glad you’re happy, if everyone’s happy that’s fine. Mom will just hear that you’re cheating on Spouse, and Spouse is cheating on you, and it’s just going to make her miserable. It’s not like you live near home [over 800 miles] so you don’t have to sneak around and hope she never sees you in a restaurant or anything.”

She’s right. The problem is, my mother gets upset when she thinks I’m hiding things from her. I usually am hiding things. We had so many fights when I was a teenager, most of them because I was too blunt about things she didn’t want to hear (and also because I was a snotty monster of a teen). She’s been asking me to call more often, tell her about life and not just grad school. She met the Techie briefly in July, and has asked a few questions about him since.

The Techie won’t say either that he’d rather I keep quiet or that he wants to be a part of my life that the family knows about. I suspect that he has an actual preference one way or the other, but is trying not to influence my decision on the matter. Of course, I could be projecting what I would do and he may actually not care either way.

We talked a bit more, about her remodeling project and upcoming move. My hands were shaking when I hung up, so I IMed a very old friend to help process the conversation. One of the first questions he had was “why did you tell your sister?”

I’m not completely sure. A few reasons, maybe. I don’t know. I’ve been seeing him about six months. I think I’m trying to have enough faith that this is actually a relationship and not a fling, that he is going to be a part of my life for a while yet. It’s hard–not long ago I might have said impossible–for me to build real trust anymore but I trust the Techie. He says he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. The people I’ve known longest and care about most deserve to know about him.

I guess I’m still processing. I know not many people read this, but if anyone is, input on this one would be especially appreciated.

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  1. September 9, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    I wanted to comment from a non-poly but ‘had same-sex relationships and have d/s relationships’ perspective.

    I think the ‘why’ is really important.

    I told my sister that I was dating another woman way back when, and my parents asked me if I was gay when I was 17 or so. They were all ‘okay’ with it, but I got *nothing* out of sharing it. I didn’t feel like I had ‘opened up’, I didn’t feel like they ‘understood’, I didn’t feel supported. I didn’t feel more ‘free’. I didn’t want to talk about it MORE with them. None of that.

    It was just… eh *shrug*… and life went on.

    What I concluded was that there was no ‘why’ there for me. There was no value in telling anyone. Not for them, not for me.

    Nowadays, I really don’t share anything with anyone because I have no good answer for ‘why’. I’m typically not a sharer anyway (my blog belies this, I know!) but I’ve concluded that my relationships are nobody’s business but my own. I don’t even tell anyone when I’m seeing someone (much less divulging more). I figure it will become obvious if I keep turning up with someone to various social outings, or keep mentioning them.

    Ferns

    • gingernic
      September 11, 2013 at 11:13 am

      Left on my own I’m generally happy just not disclosing, from the perspective that it’s none of their business. The issue is that my mother is making significant efforts to try to have a closer relationship, asking for details of my personal life etc. I’ve been willing to imply that the Techie and I are just friends, but since she met him there have been a few questions that imply that she suspects either an affair or worries others will suspect an affair. (Questions like “does Spouse mind that you meet the Techie when he isn’t around? How often do you see him? When you went to the theater was it just the two of you or a group?”) So I’d rather have her know that this is a relationship and it’s okay than believe it’s a betrayal of trust. Then again, I’m not sure she can understand this. It’s rather frustrating, hence asking my sister for advice.

  2. Ewen McNeill
    September 10, 2013 at 2:28 am

    I agree that knowing “why” is important to figuring out what to do. Reading between the lines I think the “why” you told is because you wanted it to be a real relationship, and telling family members about relationships is one of the things (commonly) done. Beyond that there doesn’t seem to have been a compelling reasons to have told your family (eg, no real risk they’d find out some other way before you told). If so, my thought would be to tell your mother if a good situation presents itself to do so — with time to explain in detail what it means, and reassure her that everyone is okay with it (possibly including your husband being able to offer the same reassurance to her at the same time). But not to go out of your way to creat a situation (so no “can you call me” text :-) ).

    I know I felt a little odd with one “secret” that some of my immediate family knew and others didn’t, for years (about a decade actually), and happier when the chance presented itself to tell the ones that didn’t. But with the benefit of hindsight I still think I made the right decision to wait for the right opportunity.

    Ewen

    • gingernic
      September 11, 2013 at 11:34 am

      Intellectually I am aware that it is a real relationship. Having a panic disorder/serious trust issues makes that hard to acknowledge emotionally, but it’s there. I’m not just trying to come out out of nowhere, either; she’s a bit pushing the issue and I’d prefer not to lie to her. Thankfully she’s too conscious of propriety to straight-up ask if there’s a sexual or romantic component, but still.

      Living 800+ miles away does mean it can be a non-issue if I want it to, though, and for now at least that’s the plan.

      • Ewen McNeill
        September 13, 2013 at 4:39 am

        As a random thought, if you and your husband visit for, eg, Thanksgiving or Christmas, that might present a suitable opportunity, ie enough time to hear the whole story not just rush to assumptions based on one part of it, and your husband there to confirm that he knows about this and is fine situation. (The latter feels important to me given the circumstances: it’s harder for someone to go on believing “you’re hiding something from X” if the person you’re supposedly hiding it from is right there listening to you tell the story, and obviously perfectly okay with it.)

        But equally even if you do visit they may not present the right opportunity (eg, people too rushed/distracted/crowded, etc). And absent a compelling need to “come clean” created by events outside your control, I’d still go with the “wait for a good opportunity”.

        Ewen

  3. September 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    I’d guess the “why” is simply that you love your family and would like them to see you for who you truly are. And maybe a little bit just that normal impulse to squee to your loved ones when you’re smitten with someone.

    I remember a bunch of years ago my ex (who was a crossdresser*) and I went to Pride together. Monday morning, back at my office job, people asked me how my weekend was.

    I wanted to say “OMG my boyfriend and I went to Pride and he was dressed as a girl and he looked so beautiful that strangers were coming up and wanting to take our picture and we danced in the street while drag queens performed and it was amazing!!!”

    What I actually said was “Oh…it was okay. You?”

    I was afraid to share the nonstandard parts of my life with my coworkers, and because I couldn’t share it, I was never able to feel very close to them. And as a result, I felt kind of isolated and lonely when I was at work, even though I worked with great people whom I really liked.

    Sounds like you don’t want to put that kind of intimacy roadblock between you and your family, so you’re slowly trying to come out – first to your sister, because you feel she has a marginally better chance of understanding, and then once she’s in your corner, you’ll go to your mom.

    Am I close? :P

    *Actually, he now identifies as a she and wants to transition. But what I believed when we were together was that I was dating a boy who sometimes wore dresses.

    • gingernic
      September 15, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      You’re right. Emotional distance is definitely a big part of it. Part of the benefit of moving several states away from the family is that it does reduce the guilt of lying and the sense that we barely know each other, but that doesn’t make the lying or distance any more fun. Omitting that Spouse is genderqueer (I doubt my parents even know the word) is one thing, but hiding the complete lack of gender roles in our relationship is basically impossible (cover story [which happens to be true]: Feminism, rawr!).

      I love being able to call my kinky friends and gush about a great play party, or not have to check myself to avoid using the word “date” when someone asks what I did last night. There are practical considerations, too. As an acutely paranoid person, being able to talk over the crazy oh-god-I-can’t-have-relationships-at-all-ever thoughts that happen more often than I care to admit would help. My friends here are also the Techie’s and Spouse’s, except those I workor go to school with, so it’s not really something I have an outlet for. My mother is really, really good at helping with paranoia (she’s also an OCD person with paranoia and anxiety.), I know she’d be looking out for me and not in a middleman situation, and y’know, yay support.

      Then again, she’s got such bad anxiety. How awful would it be of me to call and make it worse, just so I might have an outlet to feel better?

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