Coming out

This tweet about coming out as gay made me feel nostalgic. I kind of miss the days when if a friend solemnly announced they had something to tell you, the “news” was almost always that they were gay. At one point in my life, I self-defined as gay and so did most of my friends. But most of us were also in the closet and the process of all of us coming out to each other seemed to go on for ever. Of course, most of us already knew or guessed about most of the others, but this didn’t speed the process up one whit. (I suspect this is because we all secretly wanted to maximise the drama-llamas.)

But now? Most of my friends self-define as heterosexual or bisexual, and most of us are in heterosexual relationships (including me). And the big “I’ve got some news” conversation is about pregnancy, not sexuality. As with the gay thing, it’s usually obvious already but you have to spend even longer pretending not to know because of the whole “don’t tell anybody until after your three-month scan” thing (in which “anybody” is defined as “people you’re not really close to”).

I miss the days when I pretended not to notice Natalie Imbruglia posters and dissertations on Phallic Imagery in Old Norse Literature and k.d. lang albums and copies of Boyz and the Pink Paper and DIVA and people sneaking out of each other’s flats in the early hours. Now I have to pretend not to notice my female friends turning down glasses of wine – “I’m driving” – and wearing that unmistakeable look of pregnancy: subdued, excited, vulnerable and worried all in one baggily-clothed package. The business of remembering to look surprised and trying to keep track of who knows is similar, but somehow it’s not as fun.

And now – now it’s even more boring, because so many people are on their second child. It’s basically the same news, about the same people, twice, and you still have to pretend not to know for ages. At the weekend a friend mentioned a heterosexual couple we both know, started to say something and stopped. That alone was enough to tell me that they have some news they’re sort-of-keeping-secret, and that the most likely news is that the wife is pregnant with her second child. The news was conveyed in that second or two of my friend opening her mouth and closing it again without even getting a sentence out.

So for me, one type of news-you-already-know has been replaced with an even more predictable type of news-you-already-know. But I’m happy to accept that news of pregnancies and second pregnancies will remain the main kind of news-I-already-know for the foreseeable future. In fact, I want to cling to that type of news-I-already-know for as long as possible.

You see, I know what comes after this. And so do you. Not so long ago, I overheard two pensioners on the bus, and the conversation went a lot like this.

“Oh, have you heard about Harry?”
“He’s dead. You mean Harry with the dog?”
“No, he’s fine. I mean Harry married to June.”
“No, I don’t know him.”
“You do. Harry who lives round the corner from me.”
“Oh, yeah, I do. So he’s dead, is he?”
“Yeah.”

You’ll notice that as with the crockery conversation I recorded some time ago, the person being “told” the news guessed it before correctly identifying what the other person was actually talking about. If you can confidently guess the news without even being on-the-ball enough to grasp the subject of the conversation, that’s likely to be because it’s your demographic’s brand of news-you-already-know. And I’m in no hurry to get there. So please, bring on the baby announcements. I’ll do my surprised face and drink your share of the wine.

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