I don’t know if it’s the fact that my love life is as barren and devoid of life as Antarctica (which means “no bears” because “arktos” is “bear” in Greek and “a” or “ant” means “without”—it’s called the alpha privative—and which coincidentally is probably a good example of why I’m without love; because I love Greek etymology and the cool kids who had sex in high school probably only like cigarettes and nothing) or if it’s the rampant repression in my family, but the last time my mom and I talked about a relationship of mine, I was freshly fourteen.
She was driving me across town to hang out with my cool friends and the route took us past a huge cemetery. While driving past the cemetery, my mom asked me if I was going to give my girlfriend—yes, that’s not a misspelling—the bag I had bought for her—I just accidentally typed out “him” because my body is rejecting the notion of heterosexuality on base instinct, it seems—while we were in London over the summer. It was my first European excursion and I had spent some of my meager allowance on a tote bag—in a sensible ecru emblazed with red and blue ‘LON-DON’—for the love of my life. Unfortunately before I could give her the tote bag, she broke up with me via AIM. I might be dating myself with that reference.
A few months passed, and my mom was driving me to a casual hang with my now ex-girlfriend and our mutual friends. I can’t remember the details—selective blackout—and the friendships soon dissolved after that as I realized I was wildly and deeply swimming in the dude pond. “What happened?” My mom asked, concerned that her heterosexual son had ended his first heterosexual relationship, heterosexually.
Years later while heading back up to school, I was walking along the bridge that spanned the wide expanse of train rails when I saw her sitting on the floor, long legs curled underneath and looking flawless without makeup, with her new boyfriend, who I can’t remember—again, blacked out—but I’m pretty sure was the live-action inspiration for Prince Eric. Glad she’s happy. I walked past with my head angled the other way because the only thing worse than confronting your old girlfriend that you’re gay is confronting your girlfriend with her hot new boyfriend that you’re gay.
I was talking to some old (ish) friends the other day and I was relating the tale of dating my first (who am I kidding? Only) girlfriend. “I remember being twelve and dating her and being uncomfortable. I brushed it off as thinking that I was a “free spirit” and couldn’t be tied down in a relationship,” I said, pausing before adding, “That was a lie; turns out I was just very, very gay.” Wait for laughter. Be emotionally fulfilled by others’ external laughter noises.
During the conversation of the tote bag—custody arrangements were later made in the best interest of the tote—I was fourteen and for the next year, I steadfastly ignored the rising feeling that lingered underneath layers and layers of Irish repression and fear. I became permanently tense and headaches plagued me from the sheer effort of keeping the lid on my homosexual (porcelain, gilded) box. Finally, at fifteen, in the shower, I realized I was exhausted. “Fine, I’m gay,” I’m sure I said, face directly in the showerhead so that the gurgle of water blanketed my voice. And instantly, some of the tension let out and I unspooled from my sharp wire coil.
Something I learnt after I came out was that, apparently, everyone already knew and was dying to tell me. “I always could tell,” said one well-meaning, slightly condescending person after another. I played with Barbies until I was eight, wore a cape for a year when I was five, and routinely claimed that Prince Eric was my husband. Excuse me if I don’t doff my cap for your super-sleuthing and Holmesian detective work. If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. There’s nothing more disappointing to a theatrical gay that’s having potentially the biggest moment of his life than to find out that everyone already knows his big, juicy secret.
There’s also nothing more useless. In my Film Theory and Criticism class this past spring, we were reading incredibly dense theory by Slavoj Zizek, who I hate with a fiery, unrepentant passion, and someone asked a question about a particularly dense passage. My professor laughed and said, “Oh that’s so confusing. I have no idea what he’s talking about. That’s not really what I wanted you to focus on.”
The students looked at each other before the girl who asked the question raised her hand again and ventured, “What were we supposed to focus on?”
If I actually did the readings for that class, I’m sure I would’ve been as upset as the other students when they found out that instead of struggling through the theory for hours, they could’ve just focused on select passages. That sucks, guys; you totally have my sympathy.
See, that is some information that would’ve been handy before the fact. That would’ve made a difference. You telling me three years after I came out that you’ve “always known” and telling some charming story about me, I don’t know, making dresses for my Polly Pockets—which is a real thing that I did—is decidedly not helpful for me, neither before nor after the fact. Please keep the fact that you figured out my sexuality when I was four to yourself. It’s not needed. Thanks, but no thanks. The whole practice, the “Of course I knew!” routine, is largely demeaning and unfair to all queer people, who have struggled to come to terms with their identities for years.
In an effort to avoid the whole rigmarole of sitting down, finding the words and coming out to people, I’ve instead usually opted for the secondary route of loudly proclaiming which guys—celebrity, make-believe, or otherwise—I think are hot. It’s a method that has proven relatively successful for me, unless the person I’m talking around is deaf or one of those people who think that wrestling isn’t gay or that guy who says, “What’s better than this: Guys being dudes” in that video. Those people are deliberately obtuse. Also I don’t know the word for “gay” in American Sign Language. I could improve, but I don’t think that would end in any other way but a lawsuit.
“We just didn’t work out,” I sighed to my mom vaguely at her question and went back to staring pensively out the window at the passing blurs of cemeteries, thinking about wrestling.