How much do you share on a first date?
After I came out three-plus years ago, I embarked upon what could only be described as a dating blitz. I took to the dating apps and put – no, threw! – myself out there. In that first year, there were more first dates than I can recount, a number of seconds, far less thirds, and even fewer fourths. During the half of the week that I was not on daddy duty, I was refining the presentation of “my story” over cocktails or coffee. How do you encapsulate fifteen years of denial, a marriage to a woman who turned out to prefer women, and beginning to co-parent twins, while navigating divorce? I experimented with various ways to tell my story quickly, injecting humor into a complicated narrative, trying to balance appropriate first date disclosure and oversharing. Most guys seemed more intrigued than horrified by my path. Although, some of the exasperated reactions and deeply prodding questions made me wonder if I should not have shared (what I thought was) a playful note in the “most private detail” box of my dating profile: “I was married…to woman. She’s a lesbian. True Story.”
In some instances, my initial disclosure triggered the sharing of coming out stories—or lack thereof. One guy, an aesthetician also in his early 30s, could not seem to fathom the idea of coming out after high school. “I don’t know a single guy that came out later in life.” I was thirty-two — it was hardly late in life. There wasn’t a second date. Another guy, a banker, was obsessed with being “discreet.” After answering a lot of questions about my marriage and its demise, I thought we could explore his coming out experience. “I was afraid you would ask that,” he started, explaining that he was out to guys he met in bars and other gay circles, but that he was not out to his broader circle of friends, family or colleagues. Part of me thought that our timing might be good, our coming outs somewhat coinciding. Over a few weeks of dating, I was peppered with questions like “Does this outfit look too gay?” or “Would you think I was gay if you didn’t already know?” — and my favorite — “But, you’re way more gay than I am, right?” I began to realize that we were not in the same place. Three years and one impactful Supreme Court decision later, I wonder if he’s out.
In other instances, my story led guys to share intimate details of their lives that they thought I could relate to. A fun guy that I met during the period when I mistook my dissolving marriage for an open relationship, shared stories about polyamorous friends of his who had invited him to join their family. He had done a lot of research on the subject, and tried to enlighten me about what I was getting myself in to. I think he wanted to be my polyamorous fairy godmother. He seemed disappointed when I later shared the realization that I was just plain old gay. Another guy, a thirtysomething dancer whose own dad had recently come out was very interested in the fact that I was now raising kids as a single gay man. He may have been looking for a window into what kept his own father in the closet until his late fifties. Had his dad’s secret been disclosed sooner, the dancer’s own coming out may have been easier. Instead, he grew up in an atmosphere of hidden infidelities and unfortunate backlash when he began exploring his sexual identity.
As I made my way back into the dating world after a year and a half with Phillip, I found myself still unsure about the appropriate level of first date disclosure. Sharing that I co-parent twins with their lesbian mom is true, but incomplete, and failing to round that out upfront makes it seem as though I have something to hide. Most recently, I was on a date with a guy who had never even considered dating a woman. He must have asked me a half dozen times if I was sure that I wasn’t bisexual (as though there would be something wrong if I were). Sometimes, in trying to explain where I am now, I go with “it’s a really modern family,” which gets a few laughs. But as I begin to fill out the details, the parade of questions about my coming out–and why it didn’t happen sooner–follow. I suppose I’ll never be done telling that story.