A long time ago at a party during an awkward conversation, I was asked the following:
Her: When did you come out?
Me: Uh, last week? Next week?
I didn’t have an answer. And everyone makes assumptions. You’re out. You’re not out. You like tomatoes. And I suppose all of that is normal. But when you’re gay, at least right now in this world, you’re always coming out. At least I am.
Next week, I’m starting a new job at a small company. And my new boss sent an e-mail to the whole company outing me, already. Some people might be horrified by this. I was thankful! Coming out can sort of be a chore. And it’s still awkward. And it’s still news.
And sometimes it’s just weird. Three years ago, I went to an important-people-at-my-job Christmas party. We were asked to bring a guest (eg spouse) and I was 22 months pregnant (Remember? I’m an elephant). I couldn’t find a maternity cocktail dress, because we don’t live in L.A. where J. Lo shops, and I couldn’t afford a dress like that anyway, so I wore a “regular” cocktail dress, size 20, and put a belt on it. Lovely. And I took my spouse.
The party was magical. Sparkling water was sipped. Tiny foods that are hard to hold were consumed. And I yelled at a lot of people. Because cocktail parties are loud and no can hear you if you’re not shouting.
And then, we all came back to work on Monday.
As it turns out, one particular individual at the party was quite surprised that I showed up with a woman that I was calling my spouse. And he was none too happy about the fact that no one had informed him about this, before the party. So, naturally, he came to my desk to confront me.
“What are you?” he said.
Thinking all my life that it was fairly obvious that I was a human just like everyone else, I was shocked and confused by the question. I stared at him blankly.
“A Heffalump,” I said, because I couldn’t think of a better answer.
If you’re not intimately familiar with Winnie the Pooh stories, you would not know that a Heffalump is an imaginary elephant that Winnie the Pooh and Piglet try to capture. And he wasn’t a Winnie the Pooh fan, clearly.
“A what?” he said.
“You know, uh….. the character in Winnie the Pooh.” I shot a look of desperation at the woman who was sitting next to me, who also sat frozen in her chair. And we waited, very still, for this awkward moment of silence to pass. And since there was nothing else to clarify, he left.
I hope that never happens again, I thought. And later, much to my regret, I thought of a better answer. I should have said I’m a HOMO (sapien).