Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Coming out of the Closet

The other day my dear old husband told me he wanted me to buy some (and I quote) "hot lingerie". Okay, this is good, right? I mean at least he is still attracted to me, or is he so grossed out by me he wants me to cover up? Whatever, he is a guy, he wants the lingerie. Only problem is, I do not quite know what is considered "hot lingerie", and of course The Husband is no help.

"Well what do you mean by hot lingerie?"
"I do not know, just pick something out"

Big help he is right? So what's a girl to do?

Well, call my very very gay brother of course! Surely he will know what hot lingerie is, I mean the gay guys know all.

There is about a 7 year age difference between my brother and I, and yes, I am the older one (although may I point out I do not look like it). Growing up with my brother, my sister and I always knew that he was different. Not a bad different, just different. Sure my brother had posters of scantily clad woman hanging on his bedroom wall, Carmen Electra, Britney Spears, and even Madonna, but still there was something different about him. He was never one to play with the boy toys, cars, trucks, swords, playboys. He would have preferred to hang with me upstairs in my room listening to Bryan Adams. He even had a few girlfriends over the years, but still, always in the back of me and my sisters mind we knew that our brother was gay.
Sis and I were fine with it, I mean it is our brother, why wouldn't we be okay with it. We were just waiting for him to figure out he was gay.

And then one day in June of 2005 I get a phone call from my brother. Allow me to set up the scene. I had just had a baby, my hormones were out of control, and I pretty much hated everyone back then (which is really not too different from today). I was at my kitchen table when my brother called.
"Hey Jen, are you busy?"
right away I knew something was wrong, aside from the nervousness in his voice, he never calls. Never.
"No, what's wrong?"
"Nothing, I just have to tell you something"
"Has there been an accident?"
"No, I have to tell you something"
"What is it, you are scaring me"
(Looooooong pause from my brother)
"I came out"
"I came out"
"Of what?"
"Jen, pay attention, I came out"
"You came out of what, the shower?'
(Hysterical laughing from my brother)
"No Jen, I came out"
"I don't get it, I 'm slow"
"Jen, don't make me say it"
"Say what, I am confused"
(Big sigh from my brother)
"I am gay"
(Looooong pause from me)
"Oh,is that it?"
"Well we knew that, we were just waiting for you to know it"
"How did you know?"
"Hello, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and listening to Bryan Adams in my room, I may be slow but not that slow"

and there it was. My brother finally came out. But, the question of the hour was
"Have you told The Parents?"

Let me explain, we grew up in the church. For as long as I can remember The Parents have always taught Sunday school class. My sister and I were baptized in the church, every Sunday and Wednesday without fail we were at church,The Parents prayed before ever meal,we always knew what the real meaning of Christmas was about, church was always a good thing, however I knew how the church felt about gays, but this was my brother, so now all the rules change in my mind.

The Parents are the most supportive parents ever. I knew they would not kick my brother out of the family, I knew they would not look the other way,I knew that they would love him more than ever, but still, I could not help but wonder how they were going to take this news.


It's a pretty warm June evening in Connecticut. I'm away from our home in Oklahoma on business and I've just gotten back to my hotel room after a nice dinner and a few drinks. The meetings had gone well, as far as meetings go, so I was in pretty good spirits as I took my shower and got ready to watch the Yankees on TV with a nice glass of Scotch to keep me company.
The phone rings..."Damn" who is that now!" my first reaction was that it was my boss or someone from work wanting to extend the business day.
Oh-oh..... It's my wife, Rhonda. This is not good. It's too early for our nightly call and I always call her... she never calls me...kind of our routine.
"Babe, what's going on... are you OK?"
"Yea.. ( sob).... I just got back from dinner with Anthony.... he asked me to have dinner with him" (sob)..
Hmmmmm, I think to myself.... what in the world did you have for dinner???
"OK" I say... so that was nice, right?, did you have a nice dinner? Whats' wrong??
long pause.... two or three rapid sobs.......
"Anthony told me he is Gay"
Damn... it couldn't have been just some bad food?
(Sigh)...... I have to let this sink in for a moment..... Anthony, my son, just told Rhonda he is gay...I don't even know if I was totally surprised, but as can be expected..... it hit with quite a wallop.
"wow", I say...... that's pretty heavy...... how did he handle telling you?"
Rhonda went on to tell me that he was clearly frightened in telling her, but felt he had to. Apparently he was even more nervous about telling me. I wondered why why he was so frightened in telling us? Rhonda told me that Anthony had said that his family is the most important thing in the world to him and he was afraid that we would disown him... Now it's my turn to sob. Could he really think this? I know both Rhonda and I hated the thought that this weight must have been on his shoulders for quite awhile now.
I questioned how long has he known about this and I was told that he had been conflicted about his feeling since he was a little boy. Tough stuff, especially when you pride yourselves as the parents that can be talked to about "anything".
What does one feel at a moment like this? Naturally, as a parent, you look for ways to blame yourself, as if blame needed to be cast at all. In addition, as folks who were pretty involved in Church, the conflicts arose in our minds there as well.
Secondly, if you love your children, the very next thing you feel is protective... you want to be sure that they are happy and that everything will be ok. Those of you who are parents should be aware that we may not always understand, or even totally agree with the paths our kids take.All three of ours have taken various and diverse paths. Paths that I probably would not chosen for them.... but then again... it not my course to chart, it's theirs.Some of these roads have been more difficult than others, yet, no matter the course, they are still our children and they are still loved as individuals,not because of the path they choose. You simply love... perhaps even to a greater degree.
Rhonda then told me that Anthony wanted to know if she was going to tell me.
What? did he expect to keep it a secret from me for the rest of his life? That would be a trick, though as dense as I am sometimes, he may have been able to pull it off.
"Of course ,I'm going to tell him she responded, he'll know something is up as soon as he hears my voice."
He seemed so worried about my reaction, which was a bit surprising, in that I was always the more liberal parent, but, I guess a boy would naturally worry about the reaction of his dad in something like this.
Anyway, I told Rhonda that I was going to call him that very night, as I didn't want him to worry. It was very important that he knew all is well. He's still our son and nothing would ever change that.
So, we calmed each other down and I took a long, long swallow of Scotch and dialed his number. I think the Yankees were losing... figures.
He answered in that very familiar, flat tone of his... "Hey".....
"Hey, I responded..., I hear you and Mom had dinner tonight......."
Long pause....... "yea"..... with a rising inflection....
"Well, now I fully understand why you never knew if the Yankees were a Baseball team or a Football team."
Laughter from both us us.... good, real laughter. Laughter that only people who love each other can share... laughter that breaks the tension.... laughter that allows you to go on and know, without a doubt.... all is well.

Don Ortolano


Krystyn said...

Jennifer...your response is awesome and hilarious.

Don..You seem so supportive and open..and not angry like so many parents I hear about.

Ali @ Mommie Life said...

This was, in a word, wonderful! I think the MOST BEAUTIFUL thing about family, is the ability to support one another and love one another in EVERY situation.
My cousin had a hard time coming out to my uncle too and he was so worried that my uncle would dis-own him... How could someone turn away their son? That is what family is supposed to be about. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. :)

Kris said...

From both of you, for me, this evening . . . "laughter that lets you know that all is well." What a great gift, and what an amazingly supportive family you are.

You guys rock.

CherylT said...

This is a great article - good reading for anyone learning for the first time about a family member's sexual orientation. I'm a new follower and plan to stop by again soon.