I had this unnerving urge to stay private.
Private about my homosexuality. You see, most mornings I go swimming at a local pool, and over the last few weeks, a guy who has often seen me in the change room after my refreshing dip, struck up a conversation with me.
He teaches English to migrants, and also teaches Greek to primary school students. Or something like that. You know how with new relationships you often confuse your facts. He is studying part-time at university and has lived in Paris for several years. These are the facts I have remembered clearly.
He knows I go for a coffee after my swim.
There is a café attached to the pool and gym centre, and he knows I enjoy coffee after exercise. He’s seen me there. He orders a brew as well. So he asked if I was having a coffee. I kinda lied. I said I had to go to work and that I’d be having my morning kick-starter close to my place of employment. I actually walked to another café nearby.
Why did I do that?
He’s straight. Part of me felt the need to hide my sexuality so I put up a wall. And it was such a stupid thing to do. He’s from an academic world that doesn’t care. I have been spoilt by working in media for over two decades, and currently teach volunteers developing their craft in community radio. So sexuality hasn’t mattered in the workplace. Yet here I was in a perfectly normal social situation feeling scared. And it unnerved me.
I’ve spent most of my life comfortable in my own skin, and one other regular swim buddy knows I’ve written queer novels. And I proudly mention my partner who has been by my side for a quarter of a century to just about anybody. But I avoided sharing my life with a perfectly decent guy.
We did have that coffee last week.
We talked about work. We compared Melbourne to New York and Sydney to L.A. Even a former American who was within earshot agreed with us. We had a pleasant half hour chat, yet I still didn’t share my private life. And I still can’t fathom why.