Out News Global’s Editor-at-large: Andy West still feels bad about the girl he made cry in bed
For most of us, our ‘coming out story’ is about how we felt, what we hoped for and how other people’s reactions made us feel. But recording the latest episode of a new podcast last week made me think again about how my coming out must have affected someone else.
In truth, I can’t even remember her name or, in fact, what she looked like. I know she was beautiful; I know she had an amazing smile and long, dark hair and I know my straight mates at university were very jealous that I was going on a date with her. I also know I treated her terribly.
I was panicking before we even met for our date. She’d approached me in a dark, sticky-carpeted club in Preston and chatted me up.
I felt sick talking to her because all I could think was that, at some point, she’d want to have sex.
I’d never told anyone I was gay and any vague attempts at school to do anything with girls ended in huge embarrassment. I’d become a sex-magician, utilising all sorts of mirrors and thick puffs of smoke to get out of bedrooms, toilets, nightclubs and house parties, just to escape the advances of girls.
At university, though, my tricks were wearing thin. People were becoming suspicious, asking me why I never dated the good-looking, clever, funny girls who expressed an interest. If I was going to stay in the closet, I was going to have to get into bed…a feat I could sooner have achieved literally than figuratively.
We sat together, this girl and I, in a varnished pub. We made awkward conversation as two of my housemates sniggered from the table behind us, chuckling away at their supposed disguises thinking we didn’t know they were there. I went to the toilet and tried to be sick. “Surely,” I thought, “Surely she won’t want to go home with me.”
She did. She smiled at the end of the date and invited me home for a ‘coffee’ and I, in my most confident voice, said “Okay sure. I’ve not got any condoms though.” She laughed and rolled her eyes. “Wow. Okay, no coffee then. Boys.” She said. “I’ve got loads from the union it’s cool. All sizes.” A meaningful look. Judging by what was going on in my pants at that moment she might need some lollipop sticks and tape too.
We arrived at hers, she offered coffee and I accepted. Nobody accepts the coffee. A brief pause and then, clearly a little befuddled, she started boiling the kettle. I took the mug in my trembling hands as we walked to her room. “So,” she said, as I hung back by the door. “What shall we do?” My heart was going crazy, with one hand gripping the mug and the other in my pocket confirming my worst fears.
We ended up watching the whole of Roald Dahl’s The Witches on VHS. The entire film, including the credits. And then I pretended to fall asleep. I remember now, her face just before I closed my eyes. Lit up by the TV screen, she was sad and confused and deeply uncomfortable. A strange young man was in her small single bed, she was tired. Any expectations she’d had were disappointed. She knew I was pretending to snore.
I felt her climb from the bed, turn off the TV and then get back in, still fully-clothed. It seemed to take hours but eventually she fell asleep.
At about 4am, I climbed from the bed, desperate not to wake her, and began pulling on my socks. But she’d been pretending too. “Andy…” She whispered. “Are you okay?”
I’m not sure what led me to my excuse. I could have said I was ill…I could have said I was a devout Christian or that I had been brought up to be a gentleman. Instead I said – in the cold, wet, dark early hours of wintry Preston – that I was late (late mind you) for football practice. Nobody plays football at 4am in Preston and it was very obvious I didn’t play football at any time of night. So I left…
I cried all the way home and then came out to my mum and my friends and so began the rest of my life. But forget me, what about her?
That’s what I thought listening back to the latest episode of Dear Podcast.
I heard from a mate that she’d cried too and her friends hated me for it. I heard that she thought she was ugly and a bad date. I heard that she never took anyone home usually because she didn’t think she would be any good at ‘it’ and that my behaviour had confirmed her every nightmare.
We all think so much about how our closeted days caused harm to our own feelings but do we spend enough time thinking about how we hurt others by lying?
I expect – I hope – that she doesn’t even remember our strange night but maybe she gets the same stomach-tightening feeling every time she sees Angelica Houston as I do. I’m sorry, whoever you were. You deserved much better than me.
18 years have passed since our date. If her condoms had been as bad as the student’s union condoms often were, we might have a son or daughter starting university this month. I would tell them to be careful about who they have sex with but also to be respectful and considerate of the other person’s feelings because, even though kids can seem very cocky about these things, they’re actually still very scared and insecure. And if the other person actually wants a coffee and you end up watching a Netflix movie start to finish, maybe just ask them to sleep on the sofa. It’ll make it easier at 4am when they’re late for football practice.
Dear Podcast is a new weekly podcast, every Tuesday, offering bad agony aunt advice to hilarious problems