Saturday, 23 September 2017

Life is too short to be pretending

A friend of mine was telling me about this funny TV series she is enjoying at the moment, Grace and Frankie. So funny, she said. Husbands announced they were in love for years! Hilarious situation! 

It reminded me straight away of a real life story that I heard while on holidays in England last summer.

I was staying at a girlfriend's place and we got chatting one night. A childhood friend of mine is going through a nasty divorce. He had an affair for many years and was finally separating from his wife, and the whole thing was very unpleasant for him. I was telling my girlfriend about it when she got annoyed. Well, he is an asshole! She exclaimed.

I guessed she felt quite strongly about the whole thing and decided not to discuss any further. 

In a few days, via the same girlfriend, I met a very cool gay couple.

It was a beautiful warm summer evening and a group of us sat in the garden. Prosecco was flowing, the sun was setting slowly behind those beautiful trees… A perfect evening for a pleasant chat with a handsome gay man sitting next to me.

He was in his late fifties, with a fabulous career behind him, and he was a great person to talk this whole-you know?- life shit with. Intelligent, witty and just very pleasant overall.

I asked him about his son he had mentioned earlier. 'Oh yes' he said, 'I was married to a woman before. And I have two children. Because, I tried! I tried very hard to be straight! For 13 years!'

Wow, I said. That’s a long time to be pretending to be someone you are not. That must have been awfully difficult. (And WOW?!- the size of the balls on that guy?! To come out like that after thirteen years!?)

On an assignment somewhere in Asia, he met his English partner. The rest is history.

Life is too short, he said, to keep pretending.

Later, when everybody left and I was helping my girlfriend to tidy up, I asked her about the gay friends of hers. Oh yes, she said, aren’t they adorable?

I waited for her to add that the friend was also an asshole for making his wife believe he was straight (and quite successfully so, judging by the fact that they had two children together) for such a long time but, interestingly enough, she seemed fine with that story.

So, listen! I asked, getting excited. How come you don’t think he was an asshole? Is it just because he is gay? Is it better then? If you husband leaves you for a man rather than a woman-is it not so painful?

Hmm, she thought about it. 'I guess so? I guess if you find out he is actually gay, that makes it a little easier to accept. Because he can’t help it, can he?'

But isn’t it the same thing, in the end? I asked. If you are fundamentally unhappy in your relationship, if you meet someone else, if you fall in love- does it make any difference whether it is male or female? Making a decision to leave your spouse can’t be easy, whether you do it for another person, Salsa dancing, a cult or a newly-found love for Jesus; and surely, the very same set of difficult issues would have to be dealt with? So isn’t it a little strange that your reaction should be so dramatically different?

Isn’t it peculiar, I said to my friend, that we live in such a world, where being gay actually makes you look better in the eyes of the society, should you decide to make such a big change in your life? Both of us, not just my girlfriend who might have been a little biased since the guys were friends of hers, but myself too, were impressed by their love story. So brave! So cool! So romantic!

But what about the ex wife, I wondered. Would she have been just as accepting and understanding?

-Sorry darling, I am leaving you after all these years, but hey, don’t be too upset I am not going to be with another woman, I am in love with a man!

-Oh, honey I am so proud of you! Kids will understand! We can be friends with your boyfriend and have sophisticated dinner parties together!

It made me think though. Every relationship, every story, however banal and predictable it might appear at first, has its own nuances and circumstances. And who are we to judge without knowing the people involved? And even if we think we know, do we really? Yes, pretending to be straight when you are not cannot be easy. I can't even imagine living such a life. Making a decision to suddenly come out as gay and announce it to everyone- your parents, your wife, your children must be seriously gut-wrenchingly terrifying, and very brave. But so is admitting that your marriage is lacking something important, when you had invested years in expensive wine glasses, mortgages and cute babies, and having the balls to change things. In the end- theoretically- it is the honesty that should win, however difficult and painful it might be, however judged and hated you would be, whether you are gay or straight. Because yes, life is too short to waste it pretending to be someone you are not. And everyone deserves a shot at happiness: You, your partner, and your gay lover.