I never thought this would happen to me again. Never ever. I did not think, in the wildest of my many wild dreams, that I would end up back in another closet at my parents’ house.
I’m starting this blog as a way of documenting my exploration of the lesbian world and my struggle to reinvent myself – but mostly to reach out to readers, form connections with real people who are undergoing a similar struggle, and put a voice to the issues we all face.
Just 2 months ago, I was happily (or not so happily, that’s debatable) living in Chicago, in the beautiful 2-bedroom apartment I shared with my boyfriend Mark and my best friend from high school, Rose. We’d had a rough February. My depression had gotten worse and Rose had done something unthinkable to me. Work was equally horrific. I told Mark I didn’t even want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, or my birthday, after everything that had gone down. But he made sure to celebrate the hell out of those days, because he knew they would be our last. I didn’t. My attention was on important matters, like whether to buy that giant beige rug with the black crisscross pattern from Target: would it look right in the living room?
Mark had always been the sweetest guy I had ever known. He was thoughtful and considerate, patient, romantic, the whole package. But it was literally right after my late February birthday that Mark started pulling away. Taking a different train to work in the morning to avoid me. Going out to sit in his car for long periods of time. Not returning my “I love you”s or initiating any kind of intimacy. Saying things like, “I don’t know if I want to renew our lease that’s up in April.” Well then.
I knew, the following week, when we were scheduled to spend the weekend with my parents and instead he dropped me off at the train station and said he needed to spend the weekend with HIS parents, that it was going to be over. He had become someone I didn’t know. For the almost 2 years we had been together, I had never seen so much coldness.
He mumbled excuses about not being able to support my depression any longer, about wanting to go back to school for teaching and not being able to pay rent and go to school at the same time (because defaulting to your parents’ house when you’re 31 is a great answer), about how he had been talking to my family for months behind my back about my mental health and how everything would be OK because they would be there to support me. He said he just couldn’t take it anymore. That nothing I could say or do would save us. I watched his decision precipitate like a horror movie in slow motion. The person I loved most in the world now couldn’t stand the idea of being with me, and there wasn’t a goddamn thing I could do about it.
He decided to be all chivalrous and make the hour drive to my parents’ house to make it official. He sat me down on the couch in my parents’ living room and told me he was making this decision in my best interest. In retrospect, it’s almost funny. Funny in a horrific way. Oh, well honey, if you’re making that decision in my best interest, then I guess I won’t react to your cowardly cop-out!
Just like that, at the whim of one man, the life I had built in Chicago crumbled. At this point none of us could afford to keep the apartment – not even split between 2. So I moved out. If he had bothered to tell me how he felt a month or 2 earlier, I might have been able to pull myself together and get a new roommate. But he didn’t. (The official handing over the keys, and the first time I will see Mark since the breakup, is this Saturday, the 25th). I quit my job downtown because it constituted about 85% of my stress and Mark also worked there, and because it would have been a ridiculously long commute from my parents’ house. I gave those bastards what they deserved, over email.
I have an intense fear of being abandoned, so I was a near-suicidal wreck for the first month. My mother, as it turns out, does NOT understand my condition, nor was she prepared to take care of me in the weeks that followed. Nope. That I did all my myself.
But it turns out Mark was right. It was completely in my best interest to end the relationship. Yes, I am stuck in my parents’ house still until I can buy a car, get a new job, and find a new roommate/place to live in Chicago. All that shit is not going to be handed to me again. But this time around, when I build a life for myself, by myself, it will be mine and no one else’s. And now, almost a year after discovering I had the capacity to fall in love with women, and after a year of attempting in a variety of ways to both fulfill and repress that desire, I am now single, bitches! (Though not quite free to express myself or do a whole lot of actual dating while living here – more on that later.) The way I see it, Mark simply pulled the plug on my straight life and tossed me into the deep end of the gay pool, and for that, I might be eternally grateful to him. We’ll find out.
So, I haven’t defined myself. I’m not convinced that definition is necessary, but for now I’ll go with “queer” because I know that a) I have been both sexually attracted to and in love with men in the past, though actual relationships with men shattered some of my expectations, and b) the way I feel right now about women reminds me of the way I felt about men in high school: intensely attracted. Also, people have been rushing to define me: my therapist said I would be a lesbian if it weren’t for Mark, and Rose said, perhaps to cover her own ass after the mistakes we made together, “You’re straighter than you think…everyone has a streak of bi in them.” To these people I’d like to say that I would prefer they keep all definitions to themselves, because other people’s definitions only make the journey that much more difficult.
So here I am in the town I grew up in, a northern suburb of Chicago that is so north it’s almost in Wisconsin – and I feel like I just rewinded about 10 years and I’m back in high school, except this time around, I’m actually dressing the part of a 15-year-old (as opposed to high school, when I dressed like a nun.)
Speaking of nuns, it all started when I was a closet Catholic in high school. My family was Protestant, and like a good Christian I was expected to burn with indignation against the heresy that claimed to be the one true faith. Or, you know, at least bash one or two of them over the head with a Bible every once in a while. I didn’t. Instead, I fell in love with the Catholic Church and practiced my new faith secretly until one day a friend’s mom did the honor of outing me to my parents.
My parents’ reaction to me being Catholic was very comparable to what their reaction might have been had I told them, “I’m gay.” They cried. They said they’d suspected it for 2 years and that I wasn’t very good at hiding it. They said I was not at all free to practice my faith as I wished – for that I’d have to wait until I moved out of the house and then I could do whatever the hell I wanted. So in college, I officially joined the Church and went to daily mass and would have landed the part of a saint in a fucking movie if the whole thing hadn’t ended when I realized religion wasn’t for me. The whole Catholic thing lasted 8 years. I don’t regret the time I spent as a Catholic. But I do regret the judgmental attitude I espoused and the way I treated people who disagreed with me or made choices I didn’t approve of. If I could go back in time and have a conversation with myself, I would tell her, “You’re being a judgy fucking bitch. Knock it off.” Then I would sit her down, give her a glass of wine, and add, “You’re going to have an affair with a priest, and you like women. Save yourself the trouble.”
The second time I was in a closet at home was when I lived there for a year after college, lost my faith and my virginity to the first hot thing that walked in the door, and stopped going to church. I kept condoms in a box labeled “Travel Souvenirs” on the top shelf of my closet. I drank wine whenever my parents were out of the house and hid the bottles in a desk drawer. I was tired of being perfect. I wanted to sit down and let my humanity out. (It gets hard walking around with a stick shoved up your ass – what more can I say?) I found it ridiculous that I was living this way at the age of 22, which was, the last time I checked, a legal adult. But I’ve learned with my family that the easiest way to live with them is not to piss them off. So I hid my adultness.
When I moved back, Mark graciously packed my vibrator, my lesbian sex book, my DVD of girl-on-girl porn, my issues of Curve magazine and 2 bottles of wine in a box with a bunch of towels to cover them. I’m upset. I shouldn’t have to apologize for or hide the life I created in a space that was my own. And it’s not like my parents don’t know I’m not their holy daughter anymore – they gave me plenty of grief when Mark officially moved in with me and we lived in delightful holy sin. But since I have nowhere else to go, I don’t feel comfortable telling them just yet that the next person I date is going to be a woman.
It’s going to be a hard road ahead. But for now, there’s always Tegan and Sara to keep me strong.