When my mother visits my first real apartment, she comes with questions. Are you eating enough? Why don't you have a vacuum? Where's your toaster? Did you miss me?
But they're not just for me, they're for my friends. My straight male friends. Is Ariel cleaning her bedroom? Who's she dating? Who shouldn't she be dating? I sit at my kitchen table as the woman who gave birth to me and the boys who've seen me impregnated by too many burrito food babies toss around my sexuality over quiche. Three years into being an out bisexual, it's old news. But my mom has a new question. So, as a guy, would you honestly want to know the girl you're dating was bi?
The question is pointed, and I know exactly which direction it's leading. My adoring mother has been trying to protect me from the lethal Los Angeles dating game for years. Her number one defense: Don't tell men you date women. She believes that to get a second date, I need to hold the first one in the closet.
The first time I came out, it was at a different kitchen table. A shitty college table; the room beginning to accelerate, fueled by very shitty college vodka. "I'm bisexual," I said. Not much of a story.
As much as the LGBT community celebrates our momentous coming out memories, mine, from the phone call to my mom that started with "Please don't be upset but..." to finally changing my "interested in" section on Facebook, has been insignificant. Rather than the first time I came out, I tend to focus on deciding on the next time I will have to.
When you're bisexual, Coming Out Day is a lot like Groundhog Day. It happens over and over and over again.
Everyone you will eventually fall in love with is in truth a stranger, and stranger for whom you open emotional doors for until there's an undeniable, terrifying intimacy. But as a bisexual woman, I have to actively decide to open a door that most people forget is a door -- the closet. And it can be made of heavy, heart-pounding mahogany.
Do I tell him on the first date? Do I disclose to her after our first kiss? Or do I wait until we are bound by so many intricate memories that my bisexuality is just a stitch in the quilt of our relationship?
When is the right time? Is there a right time?
One of my guy friends is all about it. I think it's hot, he tells my mom. She's shocked. I'm not. I've dated guys who've been very into it, sometimes alarmingly so. Who? Where? What did you do? How did you do it? They never ask me to go into details about screwing other guys. But the image of me and another girl is a sexy scene they want me to play over and over.
But I don't feel sexy. I feel like a fetish, or something worse. Who's best in bed? Me, obviously. Have you ever had a threesome? Yes, you, me, and all my multiple personalities are about to get it on.
When did you know you liked girls? a fling probes, my naked body pressed against his chest. When I ask why he wants to know, he says it's interesting. Interesting has a hollowness, a sense of shame. It's the kind of word you use to describe an exhibit or podcast. Not the girl moments ago you called brilliant. Not the woman who makes you stay.
I start to tell him about the time I slept with my best friend freshman year, chanting I'm not gay like a priestess chasing off demons. I start to tell him about realizing I'm in love with my roommate and throwing up so brutally, breathing so full of panic until I was just a giant, terrified exhale. I finish telling him that no matter how far I wander from the first time, that saying I'm queer will always taste a little like yesterday's shame.
I say witty things. Snarky things. I say I'm bisexual, by the way.
I've got all the retorts, all the ways to sass up my sexuality. I also have the silence. The "entire relationship and never telling him I'm queer" silence. The "I don't want her to think I'm not queer enough" screeching silence.
But since I've started working full-time for The Advocate, I've lost my timing. Or at least control of it. What do you do? They ask. I write for a gay magazine, I answer. There it is, right out there on the table. So I offer up something else to chew on. I write from experience ... from experiences I've had and am trying to have, or at least understand.
Somehow, coming out is easier when it isn't a choice. Just like being queer is when you accept that it isn't either. Being bisexual is much like my job here. It's something I have to do. Not for anyone else. For myself.
And if someone doesn't like it, why should I like them? And if someone thinks it's sexy, I should too. The intense, rambling, unapologetically silly way I love other people certainly is.
This National Coming Out Day, people will tell the stories of finding the right letters to spell out their sexualities and also share how the people they love most read them. But, when I wake up tomorrow and have to restart this never-ending holiday, I won't be giving the gift of my identity to other people. I'm giving it to myself.
ARIEL SOBEL is an editorial assistant for The Advocate.