I was afraid of falling in love with a gay guy. My sister diagnosed me with “homophilaphobia,” derived from the Greek roots homo, phila (which means love), and phobia. Even though it is not a real word, I had been dealing with it for a while and with good reason. I dated a guy who I thought was the love of my life for two years. On my birthday he confessed to me that he was in love with his (male) best friend from childhood. At first I was angry, then disturbed, and eventually paranoid. Every man I tried to date after him started to show clear signs that he was either on the down low or ready to bust out of the closet singing Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
I was still struggling with my HPphobia when I met Marco, an engineer from Italy who was working for a major company based in America. He was eloquent, had flawless skin, loved tailored blazers and most importantly; he owned over 10 pairs of Italian leather shoes. My ex, who by this time was posting pictures on Facebook with his arms around his new lover, also loved Italian shoes. Although I started dating Marco seriously, I was always on the lookout for red (or in this case) rainbow flags.
One day I caught him having dinner with another man at our usual date spot. He was supposed to be on a business trip. I peered at him from a distance while he chatted up the gentleman, concluding that Marco was clearly not being honest about his sexuality. I got on Facebook and started browsing through his profile to find further evidence that my hunch was correct. He had practically no family pictures and most of his “friends” were recently added. Two caught my eye. One was a guy named Pepsi who had a profile picture posing in a wig. The other was a young lady who recently wrote “hey bro” on his page. I grilled him about her. Supposedly, he and the girl were “like brother and sister.” I messaged her hoping she could tell me a little about him. She never responded.
It did not end there. I monitored every new friend that he accrued over our year-and-a-half relationship. I started to check his phone for messages from other men. I found one text with the word lube in it and did not hesitate to demand what the hell he needed it for. Turned out that Jiffy Lube was actually a place where you get an oil change. I responded “duh” and rolled my eyes at his response, as if I knew that already.
Eventually I decided that I was being too hard on Marco. My homophiliaphobia had gone too far and was threatening to ruin what was an otherwise good relationship. I showed up to his house to surprise him and apologize for my obsessive behavior. Just as I was about to ring the bell, a familiar face opened the door and stormed past me. It was the woman from Facebook clinging to two little children.
“Daniel Taylor, you are a filthy liar!” she screamed as she scurried down the steps. One of her kids became startled by her outburst, tripped on the last stair and started to cry.
When I entered the apartment I saw the man I had known for a year and a half as “Marco” slamming his fists on the kitchen countertop. He rushed over to plead his case. I stood dumbfounded as he revealed numerous secrets. I came to understand that my “Italian lover” was really an illegal Canadian immigrant. He had never stepped foot on the continent of Europe. He was also engaged to his “sister” from Facebook. And yes, the little angel who fell on the stairs was his son. Even his engineering career was a hoax. Our relationship ended that day.
Never in my wildest nightmares did any of these revelations cross my mind. Although my suspicions were not unfounded, my HPphobia had led me astray. I was so caught up in my fear of falling for another gay man that I allowed “Marco”‘s real secrets to elude me. I’m no longer afraid of dating a guy who could possibly be “in the closet.” Now on first dates, I ask for different forms of identification.