Every once in a while, you get a swift kick to the head to let you know you’re not the same person you were at an earlier time in your life.
On a recent Friday night, I was up late working on an AnnArbor.com article about an event that happened earlier that evening, and an IM chat began with a guy I knew in college. This in itself didn’t phase me, because he seemed to be a night owl, and we’d exchanged occasional late-night small talk (How was your Christmas? Have you been to this restaurant? Did you see the Michigan game? blah blah blah) via IM a few times previously.
But on this one night, after some typical chit-chat, he wrote, “Can I ask you something personal?”
“Are you bi?”
This is the moment where I should have sniffed out precisely where this was going. And a younger version of myself probably would have. But no matter how educated or semi-worldly we are, marriage and parenthood inevitably jettisons us into a completely different mind-space than that of our sex-obsessed, twentysomething selves.
So here was my first thought when I saw this man’s question about being bi (and I’m not kidding): “Oh, my God. He’s developed an attraction for men, and he’s confused by it. He’s politically conservative, so the only person he can talk to about this or trust is someone he hasn’t seen in 18 years.” So I take the question at face value, thinking I’m empathizing with him, and write, “No, but I once had a crush on a close female friend in grad school.”
“Did you have sex with her?”
Oh, no, I thought. Something already happened between him and another man, and he doesn’t know how to process it, or what to do, what it means. So I wrote,
“No. I imagined it occasionally, but if I was ever actually faced with the situation, I’m honestly not sure how I would have reacted.”
He wrote, “You miss the point.” (He didn’t know the half of it.) But this baffled me. Here I was, trying to be honest and help him. What else could I do?
Then he wrote, “Do you remember my wife?”
I wrote that I did, and then I thought, Oh, I’ve misunderstood and read this all wrong. Maybe this guy’s wife was having an affair with a woman, and he’s just learned of it? (By my own calculations, I’ve since determined that I had just fallen off a turnip truck the previous day.) Continue reading