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coming out
coming out anthology 2006


An Unsent Letter to Paul Newman

Dear Mr. Newman,

Hi.  You don’t know me, but I certainly know you.  Or, at least, in college I annually consumed excessive amounts of alcohol in your name for reasons I never fully understood.  Did you know a whole Friday at Bates College is dedicated to you each year?  Actually, it was because of you that I came out of the closet.  Honestly.  I thought you might like to hear about it.

I was a second semester freshman, enduring my first Maine winter.  I know you spend a lot of time in California, but Maine is very very cold in February.  Cold enough to actually make you want to drink 24 beers in 24 hours – as the tradition in your name goes – which I was attempting when I kissed my friend Adrienne at an off-campus party.  I shouldn’t have even been there – let alone kissing girls – as I was on crutches and pretty out of sorts.  So it was a good thing Adrienne walked me home.

But the next part is where the story gets good, Mr. Newman.  Adrienne walked me to my dungeon in Parker Basement – that’s a dormitory here – and put me to bed.  I kissed her again, but then stopped myself.  She said: “Give me one good reason why this wouldn’t work.”  I said: “I have a pretty good one.  I’m gay.”  Awkward, yes, but only for a while.  That very night, Adrienne deemed herself my GP – “Gay Planner” – and together we compiled a list of people I wanted to discuss my newly disclosed sexual preference with before I was officially out.

I cruised through that list Mr. Newman, you would have been proud!  I even hit 4 people in one day.  But despite my 100% success rate, I was terrified of telling my best friend, Evan.  He is a great guy, but he grew up in the boondocks of Maine and had never really known gay people before.  To heighten the drama-factor, we had agreed to live together next year.  Yikes.  After hitting everyone else on my list, I got Evan alone on the Parker porch, and dropped the bomb.  The rest is lost in an adrenaline blur, but I followed it up with something like: "I understand if you second guess living with me next year, but I just want you to know that you're my best friend and I’m not attracted to you or anything.”  Silence.  Crap, I thought.  Then, from Evan: "What do you mean you're not attracted to me?  I'm a good looking guy!"  It’s still the best reaction I ever got.

10 days and 21 people later, I was relieved, exhausted, and officially out – whatever that means.  It all ended up being pretty easy; all I needed was a catalyst.  Had I not  been challenged to drink 24 beers that fateful Friday in February, I may never have come of the closet!  So thank you, Mr. Newman, for being my catalyst.  You set the bar high, and for that I salute you.

Larry Handerhan
Bates Class of 2005



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