Nikki and I had dated the whole summer without telling anyone - other than Jan, and then Judd - that we were a couple rather than just friends. We realized that this couldn't continue.  How can you refrain from holding hands?  Around friends and family, that is.  Sooner or later you're going to slip.  Although "coming out" might be difficult, it wouldn't be so awkward as the alternative.  

[Note to readers: I'm backtracking again, a second time, to the end of August that same year.  Since lots of things were happening during the same time period, I decided it would be easier telling them topically rather than strictly chronologically.  I apologize if it's confusing.  So spank me!]

There was the decision, though as what to come out AS.  Neither of of was a lesbian.  We had both confided to each other that, in the right circumstances, we still "liked boys" (and as my later escapade with Hector would demonstrate for me).  Coming out as "bi" might raise still more questions, though.  We decided, then, that our "coming out" would simply be as a couple, Elise and Nikki together, and let other people categorize us however they chose.

I would start with my mom and dad.  This wouldn't be as hard as it might be for some people.  My parents had a number of openly gay friends.  We also belonged to what's called an "Open and Affirming" church. one that welcomes gay, lesbian, bi and transexual people.  The church didn't have many such members, but had consciously decided to be open to it.  Knowing that my dad had been instrumental in that policy choice, I decided he would be the first person I'd tell.  Although it was awkward for me to say, he accepted my news even more casually than I dared hope.  Every gay person should have such a dad.  He assured me that he wanted whatever made me happy - definitely no hand-wringing about "what he did wrong."  And he even offered to let me tell him and my mom together as if he were hearing for the first time, which I accepted.  My fear wasn't so much that she would he horrified by it, but rather that she'd just have too many questions.  My mom was a bit shocked at the revelation, or perhaps I should say unsettled.  Without her actually saying it, I somehow got the sense that this killed her plans for my eventual wedding, and her eventual grandkids.  She might also ave been a little concerned about what other people might think. Most of all, since she sees herself as being tremendously intuitive, the shock at the unexpectedness of it all led her to question how "true" it was.  And, to the extent she was viewing my announcement as meaning that I was a lesbian, she was right.  

However shocked my mom was, my parents were never anything other than welcoming.  Nikki was invited to dinner on many occasions, including Thanksgiving with the extended family.  My dad had a couple one-on-one talks with Nikki.  Although neither disclosed to me the details, Nikki simply shrugged them off as the typical father-to-boyfriend sort of talks.  My father also invited her to accompany us to church.  Somewhat to my surprise, Nikki accepted, becoming almost a semi-regular.  That was a bit awkward for me at first, but I have to say, the congregation lived up to its "Open and Affirming" pledge.

Nikki didn't have so much luck with her mom.  She didn't expect to. I would end up meeting the woman a number of times, and even having dinner with her and Nikki occasionally.  She was polite enough, just not very warm.  There would always be a bit of tension there.  It felt almost as if I couldn't really breathe again until the visit was over.

My friends at the college weren't so hard to tell, once I decided it wasn't such a big deal.  I could have saved myself some trouble if I hadn't been so reticent up through the debacle with Hector.  Yes, I eventually told him, and that helped put our friendship back on a better footing.  

For most of Nikki's friends it was no big deal at all. They all seemed to be softball teammates, with half of them being lesbian anyway.  Nikki said it was better that they did know about our relationship so they wouldn't be hitting on me.  It turns out she had already mentioned it to at least one friend who thought I was cute and was asking about my orientation and availability.

The hardest group to tell was my friends from high school, most of whom went back with me to middle school and earlier.  That plain, boring, shy Elise who they had all talked about boys and everything else with was now dating a woman would seem like a total disconnect, I was certain.  They had all disappeared off to their various colleges, though, postponing things until the holidays, when we'd likely all want to get together.  For this task, I needed an ally, and I picked Jessica.  Why Jessica?  Well, her brother had been openly gay for years, so she would be the one most likely to be sympathetic, or so I reasoned.  It proved to be a good choice.  

I had invited Jessica and my best high school friend Beth over to my parents during Thanksgiving weekend.  I had told Jessica an earlier time, and Beth was always late, so I knew I would have some time alone with Jessica.  I brought up my relationship with Nikki as casually as I could.  Jessica was enthusiastically giddy at the news.  Maybe it was because she'd no longer be the "odd one" with the gay brother, but I don't think it was just that. She was genuinely happy for me. We spent the next half hour comparing notes on her boyfriend and my girlfriend, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.  I didn't even get to - or have to - tell Beth when she arrived.  Jessica just blurted it out.  Beth seemed a bit funny about it at first - she kept asking things like whether I had ever felt attracted to any of our friends, meaning HER I think. It was Jessica who told her to drop it already.  By the end of the evening, Beth had loosened up significantly.  I think she saw that I was still the same old Elise, which was re-assuring.  When we hugged goodnight, she even gave me a playful squeeze of a butt-cheek, giggling afterwards.  

Jessica and Beth must have taken care of the rumor mill end of things, because by the time everyone was home for the end-of the semester Christmas break, they all knew.  I have to say that they were all pretty accepting.  Well, except for one girl whose name I won't even mention.  It was pretty clear that she didn't want anything to do with me any more, and certainly not with Nikki when she joined our group for a night out.  It can take something like that, I suppose, for you to really know someone, and to find out who your real friends are.

So, I was "out."  And it really wasn't that hard, not for me.  Other people must have far different experiences, depending a lot on their family and friends.   Of course, there was always my other secret.  It might be socially acceptable, in some circles at least, to have a same-sex relationship, but to admit you liked getting your bottom smacked - not a few playful slaps, but REALLY whacked - was something that I just couldn't see people understanding.  Surely, in some people's minds, THAT must indicate some psychological problem.  I could just imagine my friends trying to process that bit of information about plain, boring, shy Elise.

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