Friday, February 15, 2013

"How Do I Tell My Wife of 33 Years and Our Kids That I'm Gay?"

Last night I had another Blanche Devereaux moment -- which, once again, was unexpected because of all The Golden Girls girls, I'm a lot more Dorothy Zbornak and Sophia Petrillo. Don't worry. It didn't involve peaches and cream or sex toys. Remember the Valentine's Day episode when Blanche unknowingly counseled a gay man on how to propose to his boyfriend? Well, last night I had the same experience in reverse.

It began when I went to Pinocchio, the Italian restaurant down the road from my apartment in South Yarra, to celebrate the end of V Day with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and the man who loves me better than anyone else: me. Before long, I had company. I found myself deep in conversation with a somewhat inebriated man who appeared to be well into his 60s, though he was claiming only 50.

He'd just arrived in town on business from Perth, where he's been living for the past 16 years. That was how long it had been since he was last in Melbourne. He marveled at how much everything has changed. Not so much in the two and a half years since I first came here, but I took his word for it.

He wanted to know about the nightlife. Would he, as a 50-year-old guy, be too old to hang out at any of the bars or clubs in town? (He prefaced this particular question by saying, "I'm sure you, being such a young guy, wouldn't have any reason to even think about this," which immediately won me over to his side.) And where would he go anyway?

Not being much of an expert on Melbourne nightlife, I tried to assist him as best as I could. I told him that I'm not much younger than him (going along with the 50 ruse), and I'd never felt out of place anywhere in Melbourne, even in bars and clubs packed with early twentysomethings. I started tossing off the names of some of the hot spots I know, throwing in a few gay bars for effect -- and to test my gaydar. I was getting a vibe. He perked up at the mention of them. Apparently, he was talking to just the guy he was looking for on this lonely (for him) Valentine's Day.

He went on to reveal (totally off the record) that he's been married for 33 years to a wonderful woman, and they have four great kids, between the ages of 22 and 32. He loves his wife and his children, too, but there's one big problem: He's gay. He said he's known for years, although he'd never acted on his sexual impulses, and he's ready to come out of the closet.

But how?

It all felt very Christopher Plummer in Beginners -- only without a little naked gold man (Oscar!) at stake (though there's no doubt somewhere in Melbourne where he could have found one!). I wasn't sure how to answer him. Everyone has to come out in his or her own way, but when there's a wife and kids involved, it complicates matters in a way with which I have had no experience. From what I've seen on the Fran Drescher sitcom Happily Divorced -- not to mention the episode of The Golden Girls in which Blanche's recently divorced brother Clayton came out of the closet -- the best way to do it might be to just blurt it out.

He said he didn't want to diminish his devotion or even his attraction to his wife, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to continue living his old life while ignoring his rising desire, the burning yearning to be with a man. After buying me another drink, he asked if I would be interested in putting out the flame.

I politely declined. Like Blanche Devereaux (but alas, unlike Dorothy Zbornak), I'd never knowingly hook up with a married man. Rather than passing judgment, though, I told him that he owed it to his wife to tell her the truth -- and before he even considers finding someone to douse that flame. The life he'd save would be more than just his own.
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