“When did all this come about?”
That’s how my best friend asks about this recent development in my life. She says it as if she is asking about a new hair color or an outfit in a style that I would not normally wear… like if I’m usually all peasant tops and flowy skirts and suddenly I step out in something preppy and tailored. Funny way to ask about the thing that’s currently threatening to upend my entire life–my marriage, my family, and everything that I thought I knew about myself.
So, are you a lesbian?
The question sits in my ears for a while, timid and reserved. Then it makes it’s way to my brain, where it spins around a bit and tries to find a place to get settled. Not able to find a place there, it slides toward my throat. “Am I a lesbian?” comes out of my mouth as the elusive question passes my voice box. I can only repeat the thing I can’t find the words to respond to. I don’t understand this shit myself. There’s no reasoning it out. No logical explanation. No sound and succinct way to make this all understood.
“So, are you a lesbian?” The question spins itself into a warm knot in my chest. There it finds companions. The crushes that I brushed aside because I thought every girl sometimes felt that way about another girl…even though no one I knew ever talked about it. The way I used sex with men to fill an abysmal emptiness that was always, always present. Even when I should have been at my happiest—on the arm of a great man who seemed to love me—there was loneliness, and from that guilt, and from that anger, sadness, inadequacy. I thought I was simply destined to be unhappy.
“You have a tendency to be depressed,” my husband said to me once. I agreed. I wept at night for no reason… always privately. Because how could I share something so foolish. I had a beautiful child, an intelligent and faithful man….what right did I have to be unhappy, unsatisfied? Women would kill to be in my shoes.
So, are you a lesbian?
The question moves to the left and greets the face I saw in my dreams four years ago. As a rule, I don’t remember my dreams. I wake up in a mood, crying, laughing, terrified, but as soon as my eyes are open, the reasons fade. Usually it’s a relief. But that night, as I drifted somewhere ahead of sleep, her face appeared before my closed eyes…exquisite cocoa skin, smiling eyes, dark hair caught in a breeze, framing her face. “Who is that?” I asked.
“That? Oh that’s your future partner,” a voice answered as if I had simply asked for the time.
“Mine?” I asked. Not surprised that she was a she, but breathless that something so perfect could be just for me.
The day I kissed a woman for the first time, wrapped my arms and legs around her, allowed my body to press against the softness of hers…my world shifted. And later, when I realized that I could and did love a woman in a way that was beyond anything I had ever thought possible…when I understood that the hallowed love people celebrate in songs and poetry was absolutely real…that was the day I realized the emptiness was gone. It took 40 years; but better late than never.
So am I a lesbian? Am I claiming that label for myself, after 20 year of marriage and motherhood and living up to the expectations of everyone around me? Yes. Hell yes.