Arriving Straight; Leaving Gay
We are fortunate to have a very large percent of our customers to be repeat guests. We absolutely love our guests and often they become close friends.
Scott and Aby came to visit us once in 2014 and they enjoyed it so much, they eagerly arrived at our property the following year for their second stay. They had been teachers for many years; had three children; were practicing Christians. After a long school year, both were very much looking forward to five kid-free nights with us. We really enjoyed them and were delighted to have them back again.
At the guest house, we have many deep discussions. So many people, with different stories and backgrounds, grouped at one table having breakfast, make for some incredible conversations. Very often straight people who stay with us have questions for the gay people. We find our straight customers are usually pretty awesome people who are very supportive of the gay community, and they see this stay as an opportunity to learn and connect.
Every once in a while, we have something really special occur. That is exactly what happened in this case. It was a surprise to everyone. The end results were amazing.
The first night of Scott and Aby’s arrival, I was sitting in the backyard with them, catching up since I’d last seen them. We had started to become friends and were looking forward to some time to chat.
I knew they were a straight couple, but I found Scott very attractive. He was a gym, health, and math teacher, and besides being very fit, he was also really handsome. Sometimes we gay guys have a bad habit of flirting with cute straight guys, and this was likely my intention as our conversations progressed into very adult topics.
As an innkeeper, I have learned you wear many hats on the job. I was wearing my entertainer hat and had no idea our conversation was about to take a sharp turn—one that would require I swiftly don the hat of (untrained) marriage and family counselor.
Scott and Aby had been married happily for over 20 years. The conversation was about never having enough intimate time with children always around. But I could see pain on Aby’s face. Something was clearly bothering her, and it was obvious she wanted to say something. After some encouragement and reassurance that she was in a safe place, she came out with one of the most surprising statements I’ve heard in my whole time here: “I just can’t keep it inside anymore, I just need to say it.... I am a lesbian.”
Seeing the look on Scott’s face, I could tell it was the first time he’d heard this news. So here I was, telling jokes, and now—suddenly—Aby had come out to her husband. The three of us just sat staring at each other in disbelief. The long, awkward silence was uncomfortable, and my mouth took control with little to no conscious input from my brain.
“Yay! I love lesbians! Congratulations on accepting yourself! Scott, what do you think about this?”
Seemingly unable to speak immediately, Scott turned a deep shade of red and his eyes became teary. It was hard to tell if he was feeling anger or shock, but he clearly was running through all kinds of uncomfortable emotions.
I really wasn’t sure what to do. Did I just witness a beautiful and loving relationship go up in flames?
Something brave—or perhaps stupid—came over me and I stayed with both of them in this very private moment. I grabbed both by the hand, and told them, “Guys, everything is going to be okay. You have been together most of your adult lives and clearly you love each other. This is just a new aspect of loving each other you are both going to have to face and deal with. It doesn’t mean anything else; what happens from here on out is only up to you and what you guys think is best for your family. Right and wrong gets very fuzzy in these types of situations and don’t concern yourselves with what others will think.”
Both started crying. Scott started asking the expected questions: How long have you known? Have you been with a woman? Are you in love with someone else? What did I do wrong? Do you love me? What about our family? What will everyone think? Is our relationship over?
Of course, Aby didn’t know the answer to most of these questions and I could see frustration and resentment building inside both of them. I said to Scott, “She is the softball coach, drives a teal Subaru with a towing hitch, and I am not sure which of the two of you would win arm-wrestling. You’re really this surprised!?”
To my relief, they both looked at each other and started laughing. In uncomfortable situations, I am known to babble my way through to try to lighten the mood.
I told them some things I have always believed to be true. First, be careful about religious views that restrict who you love. Second, every rule we follow as humans was made up by people no smarter than ourselves. Third, nothing is more important in life than love—feeling it, giving it, receiving it. Nothing else matters. Finally, I told them that I think people sometimes throw away everything they love because they react in ways they think they are supposed to, instead of in ways that reflect what they actually feel. My comments seemed to help them.
We continued throughout the remainder of their stay to meet, chat, ask each other questions, and listen. When they checked out, I felt sad and anxious about what would happen after they left. I worried for their and their family’s future, because often this sort of revelation will end in a bitter divorce.
A few months later I got an email I probably will remember the rest of my life. Scott and Aby wanted to update me. They shared that they decided they didn’t care what anyone else thought about them; they were going to do things their way. Aby had a girlfriend now, and well, so did Scott. They decided to be open and honest about what had happened with their kids.
They had not filed for divorce. The kids were very happy with this situation; everyone was staying together in the same house as a big family. They all had even taken a family vacation together, enjoying one of the best times they could remember.
It’s now seven years later and I can report that the family is still all together, living their life in a way that works for them. No kids needed to pick a parent, no one had to move, no house had to be sold, no finances had to be split, and no one had to stop being a lesbian. Funny how following your heart can just create more love.▼
Notes from Tom: I would like to clarify one thing from the previous articles that seemed to come across wrong when I re-read it. Steve Elkins and Murray Archibald did not own The Strand; I didn’t intend it to seem that way. The story is about what Steve and Murray did when the Berthas had The Strand in their crosshairs, and how this contributed to the creation of CAMP Rehoboth.
At one point in the 80s, Rehoboth was estimated to have around 35 guest houses, and now the city has only one. Why did that happen? Well, that is how all these stories will interconnect and why I am telling you multiple stories together. As the innkeeper of the last gay guest house in Rehoboth, I have had the privilege of meeting thousands of incredible and interesting people.
My previous stories have been about the fascinating and mostly unknown history of this property that I manage. The next chapter of those stories, the Bill and Bob Years, is not yet ready.
Meanwhile, I’d like to share some fun and current stories. My next few columns are about experiences I have had and dealt with firsthand during my nine years running the business. Of course, names have been changed to protect my guests’ and friends’ privacy.
Tom Kelch is the innkeeper and property manager of the Rehoboth Guest House. He is thrilled to share these stories with Letters’ readers.