#01: Conversations with my father

[image credit: Jon DeJong on Flickr]

The Canadian comic Scott Capurro once said there was an order in which people found out they were gay: “first your friends, then you, then your parents”. Apparently, he wasn’t quite right. The first person I came out to (in a way) was my father. At least, he was the first to provoke the conversation.

My dad lives in the middle of nowhere. No one is completely sure why — he and his wife seemingly moved on a whim last year to a place they had never visited before, where they knew nobody. He is semi-retired (apart from a bit of consulting to keep his hand in), has limited mobility, which may become more limited over the next few years and like me, my father is a pragmatist. These factors converged into a ‘wish-list’ of what his new house should look like and contain, from the Laura Ashley swagged curtains and flagstone kitchen floor to the disabled ground-floor toilet, in case he should become fully wheelchair-bound at any point. It so happened that the first house that matched was four hours from me and 30 minutes from anywhere else. But they bought it anyway and moved in.

The result is that seeing him is now a bit of a mission, involving either a long drive or two trains, a ferry and a cab. So when he decided he wanted to see my almost-17-year old daughter during the half term, arrangements were made for her to travel on her own on Thursday, with me following on Friday after work so I could bring her back to London at the weekend.

So it was that four of us went out for dinner at their local. After we got back to their house, my daughter and stepmother sloped off to bed pretty quickly, so dad and I opened another bottle and chatted for a couple of hours about my job, how he was settling in with the new neighbours and how my life was panning out generally.

So far, so normal. Then came the snowball that started an avalanche in my personal life. “So when are you going to ‘come out’ and get divorced?”

After 12 years of marriage, I was pretty confident that I had a lid on this. When you think one thing and say another for that long, it becomes second nature to deflect. If anyone else had asked the same question, I would have reeled off a natural-sounding rebuttal that would have raised a laugh and gone unremembered — that’s what I do.

But this was my dad. And I was a little bit drunk, in what therapists call “a safe place”. I immediately, instinctively knew the answer was ‘two years’, but I replied with: “I don’t know.” This in itself was an admission and it shocked me far more than it did him.

That was the moment it all became clear, this jumbled-up mess of thoughts finally crystallised into a two-word answer. If it was that obvious to my dad, with whom I had never discussed my sexuality, why had it taken so long to be clear to me?

He calmly considered his champagne flute and said, “It’s the right thing to do.” There was a pause for us both to consider this. “ Listen”, he continued, “from my point of view, you’ve fulfilled your biological imperative: I have a granddaughter, who is happy and healthy, smart, funny and well-adjusted. You’ve done your job. Now it’s time to think about you.”

That was how Strexit began: I triggered my own article 50 to leave the marital union.

This story is continued in Strexit Volume One: Coming out to myself, available in the Kindle store…

Read the Strexit blog from the very beginning…

Pick up from the start of Volume Two…