A Question of Happiness (sort of)

Last night, when I returned home from watching a film in town, I switched on my laptop, got online, logged onto my Facebook page and opened a message that read: Are you gay?

Before I continue with this story, some disclosure is in order: My closest male friend, whom I’ve known for more than twenty years is gay and comfortably so (among family and friends); he’s as close to being my brother as anyone could be, and his longtime partner might as well be my brother-in-law. I love them dearly so homophobia is clearly not one of my strong suits. However… I am not gay, nor have I ever had the idea, interest or inclination. (It’s just that I’ve been single for… ohhh…a long time!)

And so, perhaps you can imagine that question hit me like a fast ball straight out of left field – especially since the person who sent it to me has known me a very long time… My first guess was that it was yet another one of his cryptic messages that he’s sent me over the many years we’ve known each other. But what I really hoped was that his Facebook page had been hacked.

E and I go back a long way. We met in high school when I was about 13 and he two grades above me. E befriended me because he had a crush on my older sister and, in typically awkward teenage boy fashion, pestered me with questions, trying to win her over a little at a time. (Figures… he became a lawyer).  Long after their relatively short relationship ended, E and I remained friends.

Over the years, our communication has been spotty; he moved far and farther away still, got married, had three kids, practiced law and went on to work in real estate. I did my thing. We rarely saw each other. Once in awhile, an email would appear in my inbox (or one from me in his) and we’d catch up a little – most recently when his father died a few months ago.

But this… this question shell-shocked and blindsided me. When I wrote back asking if his account had been hacked, he said that it hadn’t. The rest, well… will be sorted out in due time. But suffice it to say that the question in question was intended – for me.

Should I be angry? Send off an epithet-laden reply? Ignore him? The temptation was there, but naaah….

I’m old enough to remember when the word ‘gay’ meant happy, carefree, joyful, content. But then, that same word, a few decades back, suddenly transformed into a mostly hush-hush four-letter-word that you didn’t dare articulate unless you clearly meant homosexual… and in a pejorative manner at that. Or when you felt like making fun of your friends, so you yelled all the way down the hall for all to hear; you’re SOOOO gay!!

Those memories flitted through my head for a few moments until I was struck by the happy coincidence, that the film I’d just returned from was called Project Happiness. A documentary film worth seeing.  Happiness as in joy, contentment… gay. The short discussion that took place when the film wrapped up centered around what makes us happy. People echoed similar sentiments; living in Bali, the warm climate, engaged in things that matter, a sense of purpose and community, feeling connected.

And so, I think I’ll let go the sense of personal affront (because I hope that none was intended) and instead may write E back with the following: Well, in another era, maybe I would have been gay – but certainly not in the way you meant it; because I’m pretty happy with (and grateful for) my life just as it is right now!

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