How to Live with a Closet Case
Q: I’m very comfortable with my sexuality, but my partner’s not out to his family or colleagues. It’s driving me crazy. How do we handle the tension?
A: I’m wondering whether you mean the tension between the two of you, one out and one closeted, or the tension you feel in the presence of your partner’s family, when you are being asked to lie about your relationship. They are probably somewhat entwined.
Your real issue is that your partner, for whatever reason, is not able to be honest with himself or his family. Perhaps it’s his fear of emotional rejection, the threat of financial or professional ruin, or concern that news of his homosexuality would be too much for his parents to accept. But the truth is that because he’s an adult with a partner, it’s time to develop a coming out plan. Life in the closet is difficult enough for the guy in the closet without spreading the burden around by asking others to lie (or cover up) for him.
You may want to suggest he contact PFLAG and/or find a therapist to discuss his coming out issues—and offer to support him through the process. In the end, of course, the decision to come out remains a personal one. Either your partner will or he won’t. And you will either stay with him or move on. If he does remain in the closet and you do stay together, by the way, you may find it easier to limit your visits to his family so as to forego the pretense of being a “friend.”
Help for drunken groping?
Q: Not too long ago my girlfriend and I went to a posh dinner party hosted by my best friend Georgia, also a lesbian, who – truth be told – has a problem with alcohol. Late in the evening, flush with excitement (and wine), Georgia put her hand up my girlfriend’s skirt. GF made a big scene and insisted we leave. We’re both furious, but what should we do?
A: Well, what are you furious about most? That your best friend can’t control her impulses? That she accosted your girlfriend publicly? What about that your girlfriend might think you didn’t stand up for her?
It’s easiest to wag your finger at Georgia: She violated your girlfriend’s body and your trust (and may well be an alcoholic). I’d suggest either calling or making a coffee date (not a drink date) and telling her how you feel about what happened that night. I also suggest doing a little asking and listening, however. While I can understand that you’re furious, it sounds like Georgia may need more help than you need retribution. And isn’t that what best friends are for?
As for your girlfriend, she has good reason to be mad at both you and Georgia. Why was it left to her to make the move to leave? I’m sorry to say, but that was really your job and you let her down. Take the initiative and say two of the most difficult words in the English language: “I’m sorry.”
Help for Valentine’s Day?
Q: I have been going out with this new guy for about two weeks and lo and behold Valentine’s Day looms ahead. I’m kind of freaking out – and not sure what to do – if anything. Help!
A: What do you do for Valentine’s Day when you’ve only been dating for a short time? Many of my friends in the early stages of relationships have been vexed by this dilemma over the years. You don’t want to let the holiday slip by unnoticed (as if that were possible in this culture), but you don’t want to do “too much” in case that shows you’re more invested than your new flame. On the other hand, maybe you’re just having fun and sex and that’s your end game—and love’s got nothing to do with it.
First of all, stop the mind games. Ask yourself how you feel about your new beau. How would you like to express those sentiments? Then follow your intuition. Another option is to talk with him before the 14th and say something like, “I know we’ve only been dating for a little while, but do you think we should celebrate Valentine’s Day?”
If you’re still not sure how to handle the big day, under-do it rather than over-do it. Buy or make a card and write something authentic, like: “I’m really glad we’re getting to know each other.” Or if you’re feeling that this is more of a sexual tryst, “You’re so hot!” When all else fails, there’s the stalwart: “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
By the way, if you haven’t said, “I love you” in real life yet, don’t sign your card, “Love, John.” Other options are: “XO” (for hugs and kisses) or “Fondly,” or just your name if you can’t decide what suits your current emotional state.
Steven Petrow is the author of The Essential Book of Gay Manners & Etiquette. Find him on the web at www.gayandlesbianmanners.com