As a young twenty-something recently returned from the Peace Corps, I had high hopes for my dating life back home. After living in Cameroon, where I had innumerable suitors and was surrounded by some of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen, it was a bit of a shock to return to Washington, DC. There, suitors were rare, and dating seemed full of pitfalls worse than cultural differences and the fear of HIV that surrounded dating in Cameroon.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of my friend, Maddo, as a potential date. We met in the Peace Corps and had numerous adventures together, but never anything romantic. A few days before he came to DC for a visit, while I was complaining to a friend about my unluckiness in love, she suggested: “What about Maddo?” Yes, what about Maddo?! Fun, attractive, easy to be with, and we already had a friendship, so we could skip those awkward first dates I’d had so many of. If nothing else, we could have a fun weekend of hooking up. Maddo was a typical, easy-going Midwesterner. A strong guy with a little bit of softness. So I was surprised when I met up with him at a bar and noticed that he was more buff than he had been before; that he had picked up a bit of a New York edge. He was still the fun-loving, easy-going guy I knew from Cameroon… just even cuter.
I sat there imagining us making out and cuddling for the next few hours, nervously shifting in my chair, trying to find the right way to tell Maddo that I was interested…
I’ve never been good at the dating game. The last to pick up on cues that a guy is flirting with me, and painfully awkward when trying to flirt myself. I clumsily entered this evening with high hopes that Maddo would pick up on my subtle cues so we might have some fun–or even better, some romantic connection–before the night was over. The evening was a blur of laughter, reminiscing, dancing, and drinks until we ended up back at a friend’s house. It was late, maybe 2 or 3am, and Maddo and I found ourselves on the front porch… alone… the last two awake. Here was my chance, I thought. I nervously sat there trying to figure out what my move was. So nervous and consumed in my own plan that I failed to notice for a minute that Maddo seemed to have something on his mind, too. It was clear he had something to tell me and I had no idea what could possibly be making him so nervous.
As I sat there imagining us making out and cuddling for the next few hours, nervously shifting in my chair, trying to find the right way to tell Maddo that I was interested, he told me he was gay. Wait, what?! Gay? My fantasies dissolved as I came back to the moment and the friend sitting nervously in front of me. I hadn’t seen that coming. I felt embarrassed that as he was preparing himself to come out to me, I was planning our make-out session.
More than anything, I was struck with the simple fact that just because he was attracted to men, my dear friend had to prepare himself for so many conversations like this, concerned whether his friends would still accept him because of his sexual orientation. It seemed ludicrous. I don’t have to navigate through life, revealing my sexual preferences. How ridiculously unfair. Maddo coming out to me didn’t change our friendship or my view of him–except for the fact that I had to cross him off my list of potential dates.
There have been many moments when I’ve wished Maddo could be my partner, but I’ve never wished he was anyone other than himself. Whether he likes men or women or both is none of my business. I’m both honored and saddened that he felt the need to come out to me that night, because I hope he knows that I didn’t need to know his sexuality in order to love him. I only needed to know it to spare both of us the awkwardness of my clumsy advances.
Now, I’ve said it. Yes, Maddo, I was scheming to make out with you that night. My own little coming out. I hope this confession will make you laugh, and that you won’t think less of me for being so painfully oblivious so many years ago.