Here is my dilemma and it is something that I have faced ever since I have tested positive: Should I tell my work friends about my HIV status. Everyone needs people to talk to. Look what happened to Kathy Bates’s character in Misery. That will never happen to me. I mean, I could probably have a man shackled to bed, but pig figurines, NEVER!
Typically, my rule is, excuse the vulgarity, that if we are not fucking, my status is none of your business. This rule has some exceptions. The most important being close friends. Even when I first tested positive I was very tentative telling some of my friends about my status. But a work friend is a horse of another color. At my last firm in Philadelphia, which I was there for quite some time, only three people there new and it took me ages to muster the courage to tell them. I wasn’t afraid that they would spread the news around as water cooler gossip. I was afraid of how they would see me afterward. My own insecurities, I know.
Now that I have been working at a firm in New York City for over a year, I am feeling very comfortable here. I have already told one person and that went over really well. But I am feeling the need to tell some other people. This need has got me a little anxious. There are three other paralegals that sit on my floor, who I have gotten really close with. We are all completely different but we make an odd little family. Over the past weekend I had two incidences that compelled this dilemma.
Friday: drinks with the boys. There straight guys who are a part of my little paralegal family. Mind you they are both practically ten years younger than me. Which is frustrating when they don’t know essential 80s personnel like Debbie Gibson or fantastic actresses like Olympia Dukakis. Regardless of my disappointment in them, we gossip, make each other laugh, they are truly interested in my dating life, and most importantly we have daily “That’s what she said” contests.
Me and the boys decided to hit happy hour last Friday at a local bar. My first straight bar in years, I might add. I was completely surprised how much of an amazing time I had with them. I couldn’t stop laughing. The conversation quickly moved on to dating. I was bombarded with “Why aren’t you seeing anyone?” and “You must be so picking! I mean you are good-looking, fit, what’s wrong with you?” That came after a shot of Jameson and I almost blurted out “Cause I am HIV positive” But alas, my better judgment took over and instead I just slammed down my shot glass. I’m so butch. Then for some reason the younger of the two started talking about all of his conquests, so I mentioned a couple of mine. Then he said “I never had any STDs, I deserve a medal for that!” My heart sunk. I know that he didn’t mean anything negative by it, but I totally changed my mood. Much like the science fair in school, I left with no such medal.
Sunday: I had bought two tickets to see “The Normal Heart” on Broadway. I was hoping my friend Charles would come with me, but alas he could not. I asked the other member of our paralegal family, to accompany me. As soon as Julie said yes, I was worried that this pinnacle play about the onset of HIV and AIDS might not have been the best choice to go with a coworker.
On the day of the show we both met at the office. Yes we both had some work to do on a Sunday. I wasn’t able to finish my project before we left for the theatre, so I knew I would have to come back afterward. I was not a happy camper. The show was incredibly amazing and moving but for some reason I really wasn’t moved to tears. As we exited the theatre I saw people crying and hugging and It made me wonder why I wasn’t at the same place they were emotionally. Was my mind still back at work? Did I try to stifle any real emotions that I was feeling because I didn’t Julie to see me cry?
When you work with someone day in and day out there is a closeness you obtain. A family of sorts. And oddly enough I really like this family and I do anticipate spending more time with them socially. So do I tell them? I feel somewhat torn about it. There is always the fear of being gossiped about. There is always the fear of judgment or is it is me that is doing the judging? I hat having to manipulate all my stories about my dates for them. It feels like the things that I did before I came out of the closet. That is the feeling of not telling, this feeling that I am desperately hiding myself from them.
I think in the end, that kind of desperation finds its way to pig figurines.