So then…our boss Kate packs some files in her bag and says, “Hey, are you free for drinks after work tomorrow? I want to talk to you guys about something.”
Becky and I look at each other and say, “Sure.”
Kate says, “Tito’s?”
“Yeah,” we say.
As soon as Kate leaves, Becky says, “I wonder what she wants to discuss.” (Kate’s only a few years older than us – she’s mid-30’s and we’re in our late 20’s. She’s really smart and funny, so we love joking about our clients with her.)
“I don’t know,” I say. “We usually go to Tito’s after work in a group. Sounds like she has something confidential to tell us.”
Becky murmurs, “Yeah.”
“Maybe the company’s getting sold or we’re merging or something?” I suggest.
“Nah, I think it’s something personal,” she speculates.
“Oh!” I exclaim suddenly. “I know what she wants to tell us!”
“Me too,” says Becky.
Me: She’s pregnant!
Becky: She’s gay!
My jaw hits the floor.
“What? Gay? She’s married to Peter!” I say.
Becky says, “Have you ever actually met Peter?”
“No…” I admit. “But I’ve only worked here a couple months. But she talks about him all the time – he works in finance downtown – he travels; they go running together.”
“Yes, but you’ve never actually MET him,” she asserts. “I’ve been here awhile and he didn’t attend the summer picnic or the holiday party because he was on ‘business trips.’”
“Oh, I don’t know…” I say dubiously.
“Well, I guess we’ll find out tomorrow night,” says Becky.
As I head home, I ponder the secret Kate plans to share. I’ve already started thinking about decorations, gifts, and cake flavors. But am I planning a Baby Shower or a Gay Parade?
That night I tell my boyfriend the mystery – and the two different theories.
He shrugs indifferently and asks, “Well, could she be gay?”
“I don’t know! I don’t know any gay people!” I say.
He laughs. “Of course you do,” he says. “You just don’t KNOW they’re gay.”
“Oh. (pause) Really?” I ask skeptically.
I’m from a small conservative town in Louisiana – and I attended college in Des Moines, which is not exactly a thriving metropolis. I’m not very sophisticated, but I sort of figured if I met someone who was gay, I’d know.
He teases me, “It’s not like they’re gonna wave a rainbow flag at you and wear a nametag saying ‘Hi, I’m gay!’”
I laugh. He’s probably right. I probably know people who are gay but I just don’t know they are – which makes me wholly unqualified to determine if Kate is or not.
And of course, I like and respect Kate regardless of her sexual orientation – but it would surprise me so much since she’s MARRIED.TO.PETER!
And no one’s ever come “out” to me before, so I go to the mirror to practice my casual head toss and shrug like “no big deal, man” so she’ll know I’m a sophisticated live-and-let-live chick.
The next day, I keep glancing at Kate to check for a baby bump.
After work, Becky and I meet Kate at Tito’s and order chips and salsa and margaritas.
Kate says, “I feel like I’m close enough friends with you guys to share something personal – I’m gay.”
I shrug and say, “That’s cool.”
But inside, I’m thinking: “OMIGOD OMIGOD! She IS gay! I can’t believe it! I totally thought the news was pregnancy! And did I just say “that’s cool?” OMIGOD I used a tone of voice like I was letting her know that her gayness is “cool” with me! Who am I to give approval over gayness or not? OMIGOD I’m trying to act all sophisticated and nonchalant but I’m coming across like a total moron! THANK GOD Becky gave me a heads up last night so my jaw didn’t drop open IN FRONT OF KATE – and so I didn’t ARGUE with her that she can’t be gay since she’s married to Peter and OMIGOD what IS the story with Peter? Does HE know? Shouldn’t she be telling PETER instead of us? Maybe we’re the practice run for Peter! OMIGOD am I handling this right? Am I frowning judgmentally? Am I smiling maniacally? Do I look confused? I want her to know I’m her friend no matter what she tells us — and that her gayness is fine with me. No, it’s MORE than fine – it’s terrific! I LOVE her gayness! How can I convince her I’m not anti-gay? I’ll tell her I LOVE gays! I’ll tell her I’M gay!”
As I’m whipping myself into an existential liberal crisis, Becky is smoothly thanking Kate for confiding in us.
Kate shares that she encountered some bigotry at her previous company when she was open about being gay, so at the next company, she just didn’t mention her girlfriend. But then everyone at that company tried to fix her up on blind dates. So at this company, she figured she’d just give her girlfriend a different name (and a different gender) and then she could speak freely about their activities, vacations, etc.
She said that worked for awhile, but as she gets closer to her coworkers, she feels deceptive to leave that detail out – so now she’s telling us.
Oh thank GOD! “Peter” is really Marnie. And Marnie DOES work in finance downtown, travels, and runs on the weekends – and she is absolutely lovely and we like her instantly when we meet her later.
And based on how well we handled the news that night at Tito’s, Kate comes out to the whole office, which all goes smoothly. And Kate and Marnie soon take in foster children, eventually adopting 2 kids.
And I’m convinced that this happy ending is all due to my ability to react to Kate’s secret so casually. (I was practically like The Fonz in a black leather jacket, with a shrug and a thumbs up, like “Aaaaaay, that’s cool.”) Totally awkward and goofy – but hey, that’s me.
This is henceforth known as The Night I Blessed All the Gays – (Even Though They Didn’t Actually Need My Blessing).
— Darcy Perdu
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(Has your boss or coworker ever confided a secret? Are you sophisticated and worldly – or awkward and goofy like me? Have YOU ever confided a secret to a colleague – how did they react?)