The snap heard around the world: A coming out story

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One Sunday afternoon, before hopping in the shower, wearing nothing but a towel, I heard my mother walk down the hallway. I opened the bathroom door. Steam from the shower created a hazy shield around the doorframe. As she walked by, I snapped my fingers loudly, as though I had suddenly just thought of something I needed to tell her. Minutes before I had practiced this snap in my bedroom. It needed to be realistic and uncontrived, yet attention-grabbing. And timing was everything.


After the snap heard around the world, with my mother’s full attention, I exclaimed, “Oh, Mom, before I forget to tell you, I have a girlfriend.” Without waiting for a response, I closed the bathroom door, locked it and took my shower.


Outside the protection of the bathroom, I heard my mother’s muffled voice, “What did she just say?”


After my shower, I managed to make it to my room without having to talk to her. I closed the door and got dressed. My father came in an hour later, though. “So, does this mean you won’t ever move out?”


“No,” I replied. “I’m pretty sure it means I’ll be moving out sooner.”


The ride back to my college was awkwardly quiet at first, and then just plain awkward, as my mother went down a list of everyone I knew, demanding to know whether or not they were gay. “What about Katie?”


“Straight, but I dated her.”


“I knew there was something going on with you two!” She turned to my father. “I always knew there was something going on with those two.”


“Christine?”


“Straight and I wanted to date her, but that didn’t happen.”


“Jess?”


“Nope. Jess is totally straight.”


“How about Jackie?”


I shrugged. “Jackie does what Jackie does.”


“How do you know so many gay people? I don’t think I even know one.”


“You probably know more than you think. They walk among you, sometimes unseen and undetected, kind of like ghosts.” And we never spoke about it again. It essentially was a non-issue, the opposite of what I expected. Over the years, with no great fanfare, I occasionally brought by girls I was dating. But I never brought Donna over. We only dated another a month or so, which in hindsight wasn’t very surprising.


I ran into her a few years later. He went by DJ now and looked older, as the hormones he was taking made him look like a 15-year-old boy going through puberty. We didn’t have much to talk about, as we never had a thing in common. The whole time we chatted I wondered what I was thinking when we dated.


But then I remembered that snap of my fingers, the laundry list of lesbians that I gave my mother, and realized that maybe our brief relationship wasn’t as pointless as it had always seemed.

Donna was not my type.

At 18 and just out of high school, I had no idea what my type was. But I had a feeling that she was not it.

With her slender frame, short, spiky blond hair and emo couture, she looked more like a 12-year-old boy than anything else. Still, I dated her. Why not give her a chance, I figured, not understanding at that young age that it wasn’t one lesbian fits all, and that the world didn’t operate on the principle of have vagina, will travel. Having graduated from an all-girls Catholic high school, which I affectionately refer to as lesbian boot camp, you’d think that I would have been better versed in the ways of women. But, having pined over the same girl for three years, I was not. And so I dated Donna.

But life changed when I moved out of my parents’ house on Long Island and into the dorms of a local college less than an hour away from where I grew up. I dyed my hair various shades of blue, and, inadvertently, my hands as well, making it constantly seem as though I had just given a Smurf a handjob. I pierced things. Became vegan. Listened to obscure indie rock. Read Jack Kerouac into the wee hours of the night, annoyed at first that I didn’t have a penis and would never be like him, but then quickly realized I didn’t need one to sleep with a lot of women, write inappropriate stories and drink more than I should. And I dated Donna, though she smoked too much, did too many drugs and was dumb as rocks.

Despite what people think, Long Island actually isn’t that long, and everything feels like it’s less than an hour away from everything else, even if in reality it’s farther. So I’d find my way home on weekends and still see my friends from school, still see Donna.

My parents didn’t formally know I was gay. But one look at Donna, I surmised, and they certainly would. I figured what I needed was a pre-emptive strike, though I resented the fact that I had to make a big to-do over my sexuality, when straight kids didn’t have to sit their parents down and say, after a deep breath to compose themselves, “Mom, Dad, I have to tell you something. I’m straight.”

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