“I appreciate your willingness to see me, even virtually,” Stan begins. He’s a nice looking man who seems anxious, unsure, fidgeting with his fingers, moving in his seat.
“How can I help you?” I ask.
“I just hope you can help me. I want to leave my wife. No, no, that’s not exactly true. I don’t want to leave my wife. I love Paulette. But I have to leave her. I love her and I love my two boys, but I just can’t go on like this. I’m sorry, I know I’m not making any sense.”
“You can say whatever you need to say, however you need to say it.”
“I’m in love with someone else. A man! I can’t believe it. I don’t even know how this happened. I’ve never been attracted to a man before. Or, or maybe I have. I don’t know. But all I know is that I love Frank. I never expected to love Frank, I mean I don’t know if I even liked Frank at first, but then, there it was, he kissed me and I don’t know if I ever felt anything so powerful in my life. So that’s it. I love Frank and I love Paulette. But I can’t keep lying to Paulette. I don’t even know how she hasn’t figured it out. I do everything I can to avoid having sex with her. Not that I mind having sex with her, but it feels like I’m being unfaithful to Frank! Which I know is completely crazy”’ Stan takes a breath. “So that’s the story. Do you think I’m awful?”
“No, of course not. I think you’re in a lot of pain. Can you to tell me a little more about yourself?”
“I’m 38. I’ve been married for 12 years. I have two boys, six and ten. I was supposed to be a physical therapist, but I ended up selling solar panels. I like it. Makes me feel I’m helping people. And the environment. That’s how I ended up in Florida. It’s a good place to sell solar panels. My wife and I are actually from a small town in Ohio west of Cleveland, conservative, Christian area. South Florida was an adjustment, but we’ve learned to love it.” Pause. “‘We’ve learned to love it.’ That’s the problem, ‘we’ has always meant me and my wife. I don’t know. I don’t know if I can leave that ‘we,’ break up my family, have to explain all this to my wife. And to my parents. I don’t even want to think about them.”
“And if you do think about your parents…?”“They’ll never accept it. I don’t think they’d say they didn’t want to see me again, but I know my mother would cry hysterically and my father would preach endlessly about my going to hell.” Pause. “This whole thing is such a mess. What would I tell my kids? Would my wife keep me from seeing them? No, I don’t think she’d do that. You know, the more I talk about this the more I wonder if I should just leave things as they are, keep lying, keep seeing Frank on the side. Maybe this thing with Frank will just burn itself out. Maybe it’s not love, maybe it’s just lust.”
“Can we talk a little about your sexuality? You said Frank was the first man you’d been attracted to and then you didn’t seem sure of that.”
“I played football in high school. And you know, we’d all be in the locker room, showering, trying to see whose was bigger while pretending we weren’t looking. Sometimes there would be a guy and, I don’t know, I guess you could say I might have been attracted to him, but I didn’t think much about it. I dated girls. I had sex with girls. I met my wife in college, we had sex, we dated a while, we got married and here we are.”
“And how was the sex with girls? With your wife?”
“Good. Good. It was good.”
“But not as good as with Frank?”
“Nowhere near. I never had sex like with Frank. I can see with across the room and all I want to do is jump into bed with him. He was my customer, buying solar panels for his house. At first I thought he was stuck-up, arrogant. Seemed like an awfully big house for one person. When I came by he started asking me to have a glass a wine. And that led to lunch. And that led to sex and where I am today.” Pause. “What do you think I should do?”
“I can’t possibly answer that…”
“What would you say if I was your son?” Stan asks, interrupting.
“What makes you ask that?”
“I don’t know. I guess you’re probably about my parent’s age.”
“It sounds as though your concern about what others think makes it hard for you to sort out what you want for you.”
“That’s definitely true.”
“I know you feel a lot of pressure to try and make a decision right now, but I’d suggest that you give yourself some time and that you give us some time to figure out what you really want.”