Last month, I was Christmas shopping at a mom-and-pop hardware store near my home.
It was late afternoon, and the store was crowded but not overly packed. Most, if not all, of the shoppers were elderly men and women. Some of them glanced in my direction as I walked in with Maggie in my arms.
I approached the register and waited patiently when a woman of about 60 or so stepped over and asked me what I needed. She was a loud talker, eager to help. I told her what I needed and she brought out a huge box from the back, struggling to place it on top of the counter.
“Is this for your husband, dear?” Her voice carried and the question echoed off the walls.
At that exact moment, a sweeping wave of silence enveloped the entire store. It seemed as if every person within earshot stopped what they were doing and turned and looked expectantly in my direction. I panicked and responded with a simple nod of my head.
The moment passed. And even though I regretted it instantly, I figured it was easier that way. I could just pay for the gift and slip out of the store without having to explain anything further. But then the woman asked me to fill out a registration card. And the questions about my fake husband kept coming.
“What is his name?”
“Will he be using it before the snow comes?”
“Tell him that if he brings it in, we’ll do a complete tune-up for him and get it ready for use. What will he be using it for?”
I stood there with Maggie in my arms, sweating like I had been caught cheating on a high school exam. I quickly told her just to use my name on the registration card, that it was a Christmas gift so it wouldn’t be used until spring, and that I’d pass along the info about the tune-up. I wanted out of that store and away from her, fast.
But then I realized I needed help carrying the box to my car. The woman volunteered to carry it and, before I could protest, she was stumbling along the sidewalk next to me, fumbling the box in her arms the entire way. I thanked her profusely, then sat in the driver’s seat and wondered at the absurdity of the situation.
I never lie about my sexuality or try to hide it. And to do it in front of Maggie made me all the more ashamed. What was I teaching her? Was I really afraid that this woman would judge me if she knew I was gay?
The truth is, she wasn’t judging me at all. She was doing her job. I was the one judging her. I assumed because of her age and disposition, that she would have a certain reaction.
I expected it, in fact. And so I thought it would be easier to lie. I’ve learned so much about society and myself since coming out in my early twenties. But the biggest lesson is that lying about who I am never makes things easier. It always causes more harm than good.
I have to swallow my pride as I write this . . . but I guess I’m still learning that lesson.