How did I get into this predicament? How did I not see this coming? I mean... really.
My sons are both 10. Our family tradition follows that of many others: A jolly old man with reindeer arrives mysteriously to our house late Christmas Eve and leaves wonderful gifts for them under our tree.
It is magical. It is wonderful. It is life as they would want it to be. Except... it isn't real.
I have been more than a participant in this happy charade. I have been the mastermind. Granted, I had the help of the whole world around us, all of society and the collusion of modern media.
So why is it, now that we are getting to the age when "the truth comes out," that I am feeling like I am in strangely familiar territory... and territory that I never wanted to be in again? Because this is another coming out.
I am flashing back almost three decades. I was in lockstep with another family tradition, the one that said that the eldest son would go find a girl, date her and marry her. The need to do so would supposedly enter mysteriously into my consciousness, ultimately resulting in little grandbabies under my parents' tree... er, in the nursery. It would be magical and wonderful, life as my parents wanted it to be. But of course, that was not real, either.
I worked very hard on my subterfuge back then. Everything was at stake. If my parents found out, they would not love me anymore, and all that would be left for me would be a life of shame and loneliness.
It is no wonder that this current subterfuge came so naturally, then. I was deeply comfortable with creating an alternative reality and making a great case for it to the casual observer. Back then, I cruised attractive women in the presence of my parents and feigned embarrassment when they noticed me doing it. (How embarrassing: You caught me looking at a pretty lady whom I have absolutely no interest in!) In the current version I've upped my game by leaving footprints, making sure the exact gifts my sons request just hours before Santa's arrival are under the tree the next morning, and forging photographic evidence of a surprised Santa in front of our very tree. My evidence has been so good that when my sons recently started to realize the truth, they reminded themselves of the "proof," and faith took over again.
So here I am, looking out from closet number two. This time, the hangers are doing a "Jingle Bells" clanging thing.
My first step needs to be answering the ultimate coming-out question. Do I bring it up first? Or do I drop hints and let them bring it up when they start to figure it out? I employed the latter with my coming out to my parents. That did not go very well. "Have you gone gay?" That was the question my sloppy behavior led them to ask. "Has Santa gone nonexistent?" No, I can't face that coming from my sons.
This time I have to bite the bullet. I need to be the one to bring it up. That would make the parallel dialogues go something like this:
Me: "Mom and Dad, I have something to tell you." / "Jess, Jase, I have something to tell you."
Them: "What's that, son?" / "What's that, Daddy?"
Me: "It's about my sexuality." / "I's about Santa."
Them: "Oh? What is it?" / "Oh? What is it?"
Me: "I have not been honest with you." / "I have not been honest with you."
Them: "You're... not... g... g.... Are you?" / "Wh... what do you mean?" (Tears start to well.)
Me: "The whole thing is not real." / "Santa is gay."
Them: "Huh?" / "Oh... cool! We already knew that!
Yeah. Yeah. That is a much better approach. Thank you all very much. This has helped a lot!
OK, OK... That did not really help at all. I am going to have to own up to the truth about Santa. I am going to have to tell my sons that it is not all about some story and a fantastical view of life. It is really about caring and giving. It is about holding someone so dear that you want to see them light up with happiness and joy... and that you want to keep seeing them do it the rest of your life. It is about affection from a real person to another real person, no fantasies, no preconceived notions, no letting others determine what "should be," no pretense, no illusions. It's the real deal. It's about love.
That's probably what I should have said to my parents when I told them I was gay.