I believe human sexuality can be a very fluid element of our being. If you believe in the Kinsey Scale, however, I'm definitely a six. But I remember well a conversation I had with my first real boyfriend, Tom. I was nineteen or twenty; he was eighteen. And straight.
After months of pining away for him, having never even kissed him, yet spending practically every waking moment together, and assuring him my love was real and true, one day he asked me, "Why do you want to sleep with me?"
It was one of those questions you assume you would be able to answer without thought or hesitation, but I could not.
After a minute or two, though, I had my answer. "To communicate my love for you." And at the tender age of nineteen or twenty, I realized that, for me, making love is a form of human communication. A special language two people create and share for themselves alone.
Now, that story has little to do with how I came out. So let me tell you: I never really did. Or, perhaps I should say, I never really had to.
A year after Tom had asked me that question (he subsequently stopped defining himself as straight, and we became boyfriends for a few years), my father came to visit me in my college apartment on Gold Street, just a few blocks north of Manhattan's South Street Seaport. Tom and I were spending that summer together -- he on vacation from Dartmouth, I on vacation from Parsons School of Design. It was 1983.
After an hour in the apartment alone with my father, who had grown up in a Jewish household in the midst of Depression-era Brooklyn, fought in Korea, and got a degree in engineering from Columbia thanks to the G.I. Bill, I suggested we go for a walk.
We wound up a few blocks away, in Battery Park, where he casually said, "So, you've never mentioned dating any woman. Can I assume you date men?"
My heart and breath stopped. I remember feeling very adult. I said, "Yes."
My father paused and simply said, "Well, you don't know what you're missing." I smiled. Relieved, I said, "Well, you don't know what you're missing."
And that was that.
A few years later, Tom and I having long been over, I moved back home after college to save some money and to find myself. My parents, divorced since I was a junior in high school, didn't speak much, and my father had told me he would let me share who I was with my mother when I was ready.
I never really felt the need.
The last night in my mother's house, as I was packing to move back to New York, and into an apartment my boyfriend Mark and I had just rented, my mother came into my room, and asked, "I just want to know, are you going to be happy?" I told her, "Yes, very."
She said that was all she cared about, and whatever that looked like for me was fine with her.
And that was that.
Keep in mind, this all took place a quarter-century ago. And without fuss, bother, or recrimination.
I lost my father to cancer five years ago. But I'm blessed to still have my mother. My parents, who met at Columbia University when they were undergraduates, came from incredibly different backgrounds. My father descended from Slavic Jews, my mother from Latin Roman Catholics.
And while their marriage didn't work, they never faltered in their wish for me to have my own.
My father, despite our often strained relationship (for reasons far removed from my orientation), often wrote emphatic letters, begging me to "find the right guy and settle down."
My mother often asks if I have met someone new. And still asks, from time to time, after all my past boyfriends. So, Caleb, Dennis, Robby, Mark, and Tom, my mom wants to know how you guys are doing. Feel free to give her a call. She worries. Moms always do.