You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t miss what you never had?” That wasn’t true for Jose, who realized what he had missed as a closeted teen.
Many people get introduced to the dating world – the happiness, the sadness, the drama – in their teens. But what if you feel like you have to hide your interests, and you find yourself in your 20’s with no relationship experience?
In his words:
I’m Jose Reyes, I’m from Corvallis, Oregon. I grew up in a religious and conservative household, I also went to a Christian school, went to church a lot. So for me, always knowing I was gay I felt often the need to hide myself and conceal that.
When I was 25 and in graduate school, I and my classmates and lots of people went to a conference and while at that conference I had seen a gentleman, a young guy, another student walking around, and we kept making eye contact and eyeing each other up and clearly showing interest in each other and so it was kind of fun and I kind of went with that because in the past I hadn’t but at this time I was like, “Hey, this feels good and I want to try this out.”
And at least flirt and I felt okay with that. So the conference was coming to an end and a friend came to me and said, “We’re going to this burlesque show, do you want to come?”
And I said, “Absolutely!”
When we piled out of the hotel van, I saw him sitting in front of the hotel. I’ve always been good at small talk and never been real shy so I just sat down and we started talking. And our conversation was light and nice and finding out where he’s from, but at the end I said, “We’re going to a burlesque show tonight, do you want to come?”
He was like, “Okay, sure!”
I had never dated a boy. I had dated a woman for 9 months but we never kissed. We held hands. Never beyond anything like that. So yeah, never kissed a boy or a girl up to this point so this was really, really new.
He came with us and we were affectionate all night and hugging and he was I think 6’4” and I’m 5’4” which meant that when he pulled me in for a quick little kiss, I went face first into his shoulder which is probably exactly how I’d want my first kiss to go, just totally wrong and awkward, so it’s a good memory.
After the conference was done, we all went home to our respective places. He lived in another state, quite a ways away. So we were chatting online, either Skype or IM or things like that. I was always really excited because we set up times to do this, it was like these long-distance dates. As time went on, I just built my hopes up more and more and more and was trying to think when we were going to get together in person next and trying to plan out all those future eventualities of like this is going somewhere, this is really, really cool.
So we got to a point where I was really excited to chat and I was getting somewhat kind of a cold response and finally I just said, “I’m just not sure you’re interested in me the way you were.”
And his response was, “Well, I’m seeing someone else. I can’t be in a relationship with you, we live really far away. It’s just not realistic.”
I just kind of sat in shock for a minute because I had seen in my visions of the future going such a different way. So I wrote back something really quick like, “Okay, okay, I’ll talk to you later, I understand, bye.”
And signed off. And I sat in that shock a little bit longer and then just exploded into tears. Just exploded. And was sobbing and fell to the ground and had this total outburst of what I call “Junior High Drama” of just disappointment. And I kind of realized I had never felt that before. And thinking back about how there were other people that I knew that got to experience that in junior high and I didn’t. I was 25 when that happened. And I look back on that though even though it was hard at the time, I look back on it as a very powerful and important moment in my journey and in my growth.
There are a lot of people who have either come from a conservative background which may or may not have kept them back and in the closet, but maybe who are later than many in experiencing dating, and learning what it means to date, what it means to experience rejection, what it means to reject others and how that impacts your feelings. And I just want people to know that, those moments where it seems really, really hard and really, really sad, sometimes are really, really good moments in that you’re finally there and you’re finally getting to experience something that is actually very natural and very normal and okay to have those kind of very dramatic reaction to that experience and to those feelings.
Originally published at ImFromDriftwood.com. I’m From Driftwood envisions a world where every lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer person feels understood and accepted, and every straight person is an ally.