Coming Out of Hiding

As a writer, growing up with a CIA dad means I’m forever trying to come out of hiding. Forever trying to unlearn the lessons of blending into the background, keeping quiet, letting others go first. On the surface, Dad was sociable and gregarious. He liked listening to jazz records, was an amateur magician and loved football. But if he was in a crowded restaurant or at some social function he’d blend into the background, smile, laugh, nod. He’d seem innocuous, and to my teenage mind, boring. I didn’t put it together that he was being this way on purpose then. That’s because as a teen I didn’t even know he was in the CIA. I knew something about his job was a big secret, and that he often changed who he said he worked for- sometimes it was the Pentagon, other times the State Department – but I didn’t know he was officially in the CIA. But even if I didn’t know that, I knew whatever he did was important and that I should never, ever talk about it. Not with him or anyone. There was no family meeting with dad saying, “Okay kids. Here are the rules. My job is secret and so we can’t talk about it to anyone okay? It’s important and keeps our country safe and that’s why it stays between us.” He never had to say these things explicitly. All he had to do was example them and I learned. If someone at an event asked him about what he did, he’d say something dry, general and unmemorable. Something no one would remember or ask a follow up question about. I watched him do this for years until I became good at it too. I’m still good at it, still peeling back the onion, learning to voice, take up space. As a woman. As a lesbian. And finally as a writer. Writing about what it was like growing up with a CIA dad is the last frontier in my quest to shed my internal self censorship. Every time I put a pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, I remove my own inner silencer, day by day, word by word.