Sunday morning after our first date, I woke up giddy from excitement, my head still spinning from the memory of Liana’s lips on mine. I found myself unable to erase a giant stupid grin from my face. I found myself singing Bollywood songs again, because she had put color back into my life. (This all proved to be awkward when I had lunch with my family that day. They didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell.)
I want to tell you guys about what happened with Liana. About how things ended with her.
But to do that, I need to talk about the second date. And to talk about the second date, I need to talk about Monday morning and coming out to my coworkers. And to do that, I need to talk about the LGBT happy hour. And to do that, I need to talk about the holiday party. So here’s how it’s going to work: this is going to read like Inception, where we backtrack through multiple levels of story, only instead of dreams, they’re flashbacks. (I’m pretty sure that’s lame. But whatever.) I’ve neglected to report on SO MUCH that has happened. Apologies in advance. Here is a floorplan of the levels:
1 – How things ended with Liana
2 – Crash and burn (the second date)
3 – Monday morning coming out
4 – LGBT Happy Hour
5 – Holiday Party
6 – Work crush
LEVEL 3: SHUTTING THE CLOSET DOOR BEHIND MYSELF ON A MONDAY MORNING, PART I
Monday morning at work, a coworker asked me, “How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun?”
Huh. Did I. (Snicker.)
See, my coworkers are pretty amazing people. And, I’m learning, my workplace is pretty damn LGBT-friendly. I’ve neglected to write about my coming out process at work, so here goes a quick summary of where I was in relation to the closet as of Monday morning.
Two of my coworkers – Robin and Melanie – have been slowly building friendship with me since I started the job. In the half-year I’ve been here, we’ve gone to lunch together, scheduled once-a-month happy hours, kept up a group chat on our phones. We’re not so close that we drunk-text each other, but we’re close enough to share things about our lives. In the last month, the friendship has progressed to a place where we are gossiping like schoolgirls about our romantic histories and current exploits. But it wasn’t until Monday that I stepped firmly out of the closet for all to see.
LEVEL 5: THE RED CARPET HOLIDAY PARTY, PART I
Rewind: December, holiday party. I had no idea what to wear. I wanted to look good. I wanted to look amazing in a distinctly gay way, but not so gay that the gayness took over. I tried on every outfit in my closet to see if maybe, just maybe I could feel comfortable in a dress. (Nope. I looked and felt like Shane did on that episode of The L Word where Carmen’s mother makes her wear a flouncy white dress. Comical, dysphoric, weird as fuck.) What I really wanted was a casual-but-classy red carpet look that Tegan and Sara would be proud of. Not too much to ask for, right?
I eventually gave up and wore a flannel shirt to work that morning. Whatever.
Around lunchtime, I had an idea: run over to H&M and make a last-ditch effort to find an outfit. If I find one, awesome, if I don’t, at least I can say that I tried. What happened is that the gods of shopping smiled down on me and hand-selected a gray blazer, a dressy button-up black shirt that appeared to be shoplifted from Sara Quin’s closet, and some skinny black dress pants. And a belt. I was essentially wearing a suit. (I really wanted Neil Patrick Harris to pop out of nowhere and yell at me, “Look at you, you beautiful bastard. You suited up!”)
It was a risky outfit. It was quite masculine, though my hair and makeup balanced it out for a more androgynous feel. It screamed gay. But it also looked good, good in a way that made me feel like I was glowing inside, good in a way that milks the Gays have fabulous style, don’t they? stereotype, good in a “I finally feel true to myself” way.
Unfortunately, word had gotten out that Jenny Went Shopping During Lunch for an Outfit for Tonight, so when I got back to the office, the girls swarmed to my desk and demanded to see what was in the bag. I don’t think I have ever blushed so hard in my life. “It’s not what you think,” I warned them. I don’t know what they were expecting. Some kind of dress? They weren’t sure how to oooh and aaah over something that wasn’t “pretty.”
I pulled out the blazer, and the shirt, and the belt, and watched them struggle to comprehend. Part of me wanted to crawl under my desk. I was 0% out at this point. Clearly, I’d been wearing a bunch of gay clothes, but nobody assumes anything these days. I got dressed a little later before we headed out. My palms were sweating when I walked out of the bathroom. I considered running back in and putting my old clothes back on.
But I didn’t. I walked out and acted like nothing had happened, even though people were staring. (I didn’t look THAT weird. Did I?) There was an awkward speechlessness for a good 15 minutes, but finally, one person said, “Is that the outfit you got? It looks good!” and conversation resumed.
This reminds me. There is another back story.
LEVEL 6: THE GODDESS IN MY OFFICE
At this point in time, I was pretty damn starry-eyed for this new girl in the office. She’s not in my department. I don’t have any interaction with her. I’m not sure how to describe her, except that she’s gorgeous, Latina, and dresses like a power dyke (read: dresses like a straight girl. She’s probably straight. Fuck me up.). Soft curly hair that probably smells like coconut, radiant dewy eyes that make the universe skip a beat when she looks at you. I swear to god, I only noticed her because one day she smiled directly at me from across the conference floor, and my sad gay brain went, “OHMYGOD SHE LIKES YOU.”
After that, I found excuses to walk past her desk (“I need to refill my water glass” was a good one) and smiled prettily at her every time. I yelled at myself internally (“Hold it together, Jenny! That’s not being a baller!”) but to no avail. One day, I found myself alone in the bathroom with her, and she said she liked my leather jacket, and smiled at me meaningfully. I almost ran into the door on my way out.
I was hoping she’d be at the holiday party, and that we’d strike up a conversation, and I’d find out if she was single, if she liked girls, if she wanted to maybe hang out sometime and you know, like, marry me. LOL.
Well, she wasn’t at the holiday party, I found out a couple weeks later that she has a 5-year-old daughter (not that that means anything, but it would probably make things complicated even if she is single and likes women), and at some point I’m pretty sure she figured out that a) I’m gay, and b) I have a crush on her. She stopped looking up when I walked by. To this day I have a hard time looking at her. She’s too fucking beautiful and I’m afraid I’ll say something stupid if I try to talk to her.
Back to the party.
LEVEL 5: THE RED CARPET HOLIDAY PARTY, PART II
The party ended up being amazing, despite my crush not being there. There was an open bar. This means free gin. This means wait until your boss goes home and then drink gin and cranberry all night. (This means your boss will be in the office tomorrow at 8 am on the dot, whether you’re hung over or not. Fuck that.)
One by one, everyone from our team left, until it was just Robin and me sitting at a table with some random guy from Accounting. He was trying to convince us to go to a karaoke bar. I was trying to sober up. Robin was moaning about the lack of cute men in her life, and begging the guy from Accounting to introduce her to some brokers.
This went on for a good half hour, after which Robin said, “Hey, let’s go to the after party! You going?” The guy from Accounting said he was going home, and during the next 15 minutes, we struck up a conversation with another guy, Alex.
I figured I might as well hit the after party. “Yeah, I’m in,” I told her.
Robin was ecstatic about sharing an Uber with Alex. Early 30s, facilities management, from the UK, reasonably attractive, has an accent (loud as fuck on the phone, but only I seem to notice that). Girls love him. “Melanie is going to be sooooo jealous!!” Robin giggled in my ear.
Five minutes later, I found myself jammed into the middle seat between Robin and Alex. He was uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable. Robin was hissing things in my ear about how lucky I was to be sitting next to him. “Want to switch?” I hissed back.
The Uber arrived. We got out of the car and Robin said to me, “Jenny, we need to find you a boyfriend.”
I laughed nervously. The moment of truth had arrived. It was time. I was drunk. It wasn’t going to get any easier than this.
“No thanks,” I said.
Robin paused at the door to the bar. “Well, why not?!” she said.
I took a deep breath. “Because…I don’t like boys.”
I ran inside the bar, shaking. Robin came in after me. “Well…that’s OK!” she said. “Let’s find you a girlfriend then!”
Relief erupted inside me. It was over. Robin was the biggest office gossip, so by Monday morning, everyone would know. I wouldn’t have to come out to anyone else. (As luck would have it, Robin did NOT end up telling everyone, but it was OK.)
LEVEL 4: THE LGBT HAPPY HOUR
Robin and I squeezed our way past about 200 people to find out group at the opposite corner of the bar. Some guy I’d never seen before smiled at me drunkenly, and I geared myself up for indignance, but then he opened his mouth and said, “I love your outfit. You look fabulous. I’m going to invite you to the company-sponsored LGBT happy hour next week.”
What?! I’d just come out to my first coworker not 2 minutes before this. How did he pick me out of a crowd? I couldn’t believe it!
He invited both Robin and me and put our names on the email invite. The next day, I discovered that my company is trying to launch an LGBT networking group. It’s still in the beginning stages. I don’t know if it will ever take off. But I was absolutely psyched to know that things like this exist.
In the end, Melanie and Robin (and 2 guys on our team who are gay) came to the happy hour with me. I still had not come out to Melanie. I’m pretty sure at this point questions were flying about my sexuality, but nobody asked, and I couldn’t find an appropriate moment to volunteer the information, so I awkwardly kept my mouth shut. It was still a good event.
The next day, one of the supervisors on our team, Laurie, emailed me to ask how the happy hour went. “I really wanted to go,” she said. “I have a cousin who’s transgender and the topic is really close to my heart.”
I emailed her back, saying it was a wonderful event, how lucky her cousin was to have an ally like her in the family, and that I wasn’t sure if she knew this, but I’m gay. (Side note: Laurie and Robin talk about EVERYTHING, so I was 99% sure she already knew, and that would have been totally fine with me, but according to Laurie, Robin hadn’t told her.)
Laurie’s response was amazing: “I didn’t know, but I’m glad you feel like you can talk to me about it. If there’s ever anything I can do to help you, just let me know.” I almost cried.
We chatted a little about coming out to my parents, about how if one of her kids ever came out to her she’d be their biggest champion, how I can always tell her anything. I’ll put it this way: I never expected to find a mentor/ally in a supervisor, but the feeling that she’s got my back has given me courage to be a lot more open and honest at work, and I wish every queer person could experience this kind of support.
LEVEL 3: SHUTTING THE CLOSET DOOR BEHIND MYSELF ON A MONDAY MORNING, PART II
Back to Monday morning (after my first date with Liana). Robin poked her head over my desk. “Hey,” she said. “Do anything fun this weekend?”
I blushed a little. “Well,” I said. “I went on 2 dates, with different people.”
Her jaw dropped. “Really!” she exclaimed. “How did they go?”
“Well, the first one was OK,” I said. “But the second one…OMG. She’s amazing.”
Robin’s face lit up. “Wow!! Do you have pictures? Are you guys texting? Will there be a second date?”
Melanie walked over. “What are you guys talking about?” she demanded.
“Jenny went on 2 dates this weekend!” said Robin excitedly.
“What?! Tell me everything!” Melanie said. “Does this person live close to you?”
I took a deep breath. “Well…..she lives in the suburbs, actually.” There was no going back. I was firmly out of the closet. The door slammed shut behind me.
A thousand thoughts flickered over Melanie’s face as she absorbed the infomration in the space of a few seconds:
Why didn’t she tell me? I knew it!!
OMG. That explains SO much!
But…she had a boyfriend…
So Jenny likes girls. No big deal, roll with it.
I want to ask more. But I won’t.
“That’s so cool!” Melanie said. “Where did you take her?” She didn’t even miss a beat. Kids, this is the coming out of the future: the non-coming out. The “Oh yeah, I’m dating someone. She’s awesome.” Where people simply discuss their dating lives and nobody bats an eye at the gender identity of the dates.
Then she said, “Want to go get coffee? I need to hear all the details!” So we did. I think at some point we’ll end up talking about my evolution of preferences, about my coming out process, etc. But for right now, it’s nice to have coworkers who knew me first as a person, and then as a lesbian. Not “that one gay coworker” but “that coworker who’s our friend, and oh yeah, she happens to like girls.” It’s refreshing and awesome. All of a sudden my friendship with my coworkers is deeper, and more real, more honest. (Melanie is even coming up with plans to set me up with lesbian acquaintances, if I’m interested.) And it’s all thanks to Liana that I had this opportunity.
Stay tuned for the story of our terrible second date, and the positivity that can be drawn from the experience.