Now it’s just possible I may be last person to know this but I didn’t realise until the other day that President Barack Obama is a smoker. Well he was until last week when it was announced that he’d finally given up the cigs. Did you all know that – if so how come nobody told me? It’s not a piece of news that’s going to shock western civilisation to its core but how is it I missed it?
I wrote recently about how intuitive I can be about people but I can occasionally be obtuse to some pretty big character traits. In my early days at BT I used to play footie with a bunch of colleagues; once a week after work in Regent’s Park or at the astro pitches behind Kings Cross. For years we did it. And one of the guys, Malcolm, became a very good friend. He was a top bloke and a decent footballer. Over time my wife came to know him too through social events and she liked him enormously too, so much so that she was always trying to get him hitched up with single female friends of ours. Nothing ever came of it. He remained resolutely unattached.
Now you might be light years ahead of me here. But it came as a huge shock when one evening after a few beers and more suggestions from me about who C had in mind for him next when, with a deep sigh and a resigned look on his face, he said to me, ‘Look Paul the reason I’m not really interested in meeting xxx (I can’t remember the girl’s name) is because I’m gay’. You could have knocked me over with a feather boa. ‘You’re shocked’ he observed, as if he knew that I was thinking about all those times we had showered together after footie, chatting away as blokes do. ‘Don’t worry’ he offered sensitively ‘I don’t fancy you’.
I burbled something though I was still pretty stunned by the news and remained so for the next hour or so. I wasn’t shocked at Malcolm’s coming out announcement about his homosexuality; it was my own blindness and naivety that had me taken aback. Once I thought about it there were several clues in Malcolm’s life that pointed to his gayness and I hadn’t spotted any of the signs. I’m honest enough to say that it didn’t change my view of Malcolm one jot – he remained a true mate even though we shared a lot fewer showers thereafter.
If you’ve ever been stunned by a piece of personal news then feel free to share it – it would make me feel a lot less like a dufus.