I have a wonderful friend whom I've mentioned before. I'll call her Sheila. We're both musicians (her master's degree is in vocal performance, mine is in piano performance) and meet weekly to instruct each other--she's my vocal coach, I'm her piano teacher. I've known her for nearly ten years, but only in the past two years have I allowed her to be close to me.
Sheila is physically exuberant. She loves to dance and teaches fitness classes at a local gym. She's always trying to get me to come teach with her, and doesn't understand why I'm so solitary. When we first became friends, Sheila would often hug me--something I didn't reciprocate. It has only been in the past eighteen months that I've felt comfortable accepting physical touch from anyone but Darrin. I'm finally able, now, to allow contact from people when I meet them, and prolonged or more frequent contact with friends I trust and love. Sheila has become one whom I love and trust.
Sheila hugs everyone. She enjoys physical contact. When we teach each other, she touches me often and if we're just talking, she'll cuddle or put her arm around me. This feels unnatural to me, as there are very few with whom I share that type of physicality. In order for it to feel comfortable with those few, I've had to establish a very strong trust threshold and emotional intimacy. Sheila ignores my reluctance, confident that I'll get used to her affection, certain that I adore her. Truly, I do love her, but I still have difficulty with her enthusiasm.
Sheila and I talk often. She knows of the abuse in my life, and of my struggle with anorexia and cutting. She's been supportive and helpful many times. About a year ago, Sheila and I were talking of homosexuality. I mentioned the topic of mixed-orientation marriage. She was adamantly opposed to the idea, and said she felt it would be cruel to put a spouse in the position of living each day, knowing the person he/she was in love with did not feel physically attracted to him/her. I allowed her to speak her mind, then ended the conversation. Since that time, I've gently brought up the topic on a few other occasions, and we've talked a lot about what constitutes a good marriage. She's always been very positive about my relationship with Darrin, and we talk about things Darrin and I do to maintain love and intimacy in our marriage--all this, of course, without her knowing the true nature of our marriage.
Yesterday, I decided it was time to tell Sheila I was gay. She's aware of my friendships with other gay men and women. She also knows of my personal commitments to and convictions about God and his gospel. I think it was a little shocking and unexpected for her, but she recovered quickly, laughed, and started asking questions. She asked very pointed questions about my marriage relationship, and often shook her head in disbelief. When an hour had past, she put her arms around me and said, "When I think of all you've been through in your life, when I realize the things you live with daily, and I see that it hasn't spoiled you or made you bitter, I just want to hold you forever." Honestly, I thought she was going to--again, she often disregards my boundaries when it comes to touch. However, she hugged me several times, held me briefly, kissed me good-bye, and went home.