Friday, November 19, 2004

A Long, Long Time Ago....

I randomly googled a friend of mine from elementary school the other day. I don't know why I did it; I just felt like it. Actually, I think it had to do with my college homecoming leading to nostalgia about my more "innocent" days, which led to the halcyon days of youth, with led to ... oh, never mind. The end result is, yes, I googled a childhood friend of mine.

I attended a public elementary school which was literally right across the street from my house. My neighborhood was pretty much lower middle class; my peers were a random assortment of kids of varying backgrounds, talents, and support structures. Yet even when I was under 10 years old, I remember most of my friends were the types who would end up in some sort of G&T program, whom the school singled out for some sort of academic strength. I was not destined to hang out with the classmate who still thought that the opposite of "boy" was spelled "gril." I know I sound like total insensitive snob for saying it, but academic achievement was such a big deal for me and my parents, even in grade school.

So only a few names popped into my mind when I got to thinking about kids I used to hang out with. One girl, R.O. (I'm actually going to try to maintain her privacy), came to mind, if only because she definitely had a distinctive name. And I liked her well enough. I remember learning, and playing, cribbage with her in the 5th grade. (Did I not tell you I was a big dork?)

It's surprising the stuff you find on the internet. I found out that R.O. was married by viewing pictures from her wedding. Surprisingly, I still recognized her younger sister, as well as her mother. And it's a little disturbing to see her mother, and other women her age, playing around with condoms at the bachelor party.

I also found her email address by looking at a list of her classmates in a doctoral program, from which she graduated last year.

(As an aside, I can tell you what you get if you google my not-too-common name: My work home page is buried in the middle of a slew of links to pages which talk about a guy who wrote some recognized scholarly treatise on the history of Asian-American civil rights. That's not me.)

I wondered if she would respond if I sent her an email. Heck, I wondered if she would even still remember me. But I figured I had to give it a shot. Because nothing sobers you to how life can change like talking to a girl you haven't seen for over 20 years.

R.O. did, in fact, respond to my email. She recognized my name, which quite surprised me. She's no longer living in Hawai'i, and she and her husband have at least one baby. We've been exhanging emails back and forth intermittently for a few weeks. I've told her that if she makes her way back east to she must tell me and we can get together. But I fear that travel with a baby may be tricky for her. (I hope her husband doesn't think I'm hitting on her or anything.)

Speaking of, seeing as we were prepubescent when we last exchanged any words whatsoever, she has no idea that I'm gay. She in fact asked about my personal life, including whether I was married and whether I had kids. I simply managed to avoid answering that question. It's strange, comfortable though I am with my sexuality, having to come out to all kinds of new people -- either if you've just met them or if you're re-establishing contact -- is still a somewhat tricky task. There's a balance to be struck -- it's something intimate enough that you just don't tell everyone if you're not positive they'll respond favorably, and yet by not saying anything, you lend some credibility to the notion that it's shameful (it's not).

If I were seeing someone, I wouldn't hesitate to tell R.O. that I was dating a wonderful guy. It's much more tricky to properly work it into conversation when you're trying to say, "I'm single, Bush won't let me get married, and even if I could I currently have no prospects anyway."

But after these past elections, I feel like I have to tell her. Being "out" is a political statement now, and there is substantial benefit to being as out as possible in this post-election "moral values" bullcrap society.

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