So, my invitation to the whole gay party arrived several times growing up, but assuming it was a wrong address, I kept sending it back. When it arrived again sometime in early June last year, it had a brick attached to it, and that brick hit me on the head so hard I’m still not thinking straight. Thankfully, at this point, I don’t want to! 🙂
In future posts, I will retrace my childhood through queer eyes, contemplating the ways in which I missed the gay memo – but today I am going to talk about the first time I looked at a woman in a whole new light.
I should tell you that until this moment, I had firmly established myself as “straight” in my mind and in my social world. When I asked if she had ever had feelings for me, a bisexual friend once told me, “Jenny, please. You’re the straightest person I know!” The simple truth is that it never really occurred to me to think about women that way. Since I didn’t have any problems feeling romantically attracted to men, there wasn’t a pressing need to evaluate my sexuality, the way there might be for a teenage girl who’s freaking out because all of her friends are boy-crazy and she’s more attracted to them than to the boys.
Being gay also carries a stigma in the world most of us live in. There were a few instances growing up where I took special precaution to make it clear that I liked men, so that someone didn’t “misinterpret” me and think I had a crush on a girl. On occasion, I was almost paranoid about this. Sometimes I would develop an idea in my head that people thought I had a crush on a girl, and I would overcompensate trying to prove (to myself?) that I didn’t like her that way, even though no one had said anything to indicate suspicion! All this had faded into the background of life by the time the dream came. Setting: Chicago, June 2014. I was happily dating Mark, the love of my life. I didn’t see it coming.
So. I had this incredibly weird dream that felt so real I awoke feeling intensely emotional about it. You know those kind. The kind you keep thinking about for days and days afterward. The kind that start affecting the way you actually live.
In the dream, I was taking a college class, and one of my classmates was a girl from Pakistan named Sana. She was soft-spoken, introverted, and played by the rules. We became close friends. Her whole family liked me. When her Muslim father arranged her marriage with a nice young man, he pulled me aside and said, “Jenny, could I ask you to prepare my daughter for marriage? She’s never been very social, never dated before, so I need you to teach her about things like makeup and how to do her hair for the wedding. And, you know, the wedding night.” The man was blushing as he spoke, but I took his point. The poor girl would be in for a shock if I didn’t explain the facts of life to her. (Shouldn’t her mother have taken care of this?)
So Sana and I began our instruction. She took off her hijab and I brushed her hair. And what beautiful hair it was! Long, dark waves, like night falling on the ocean. I was surprised to see how beautiful she was under all that fabric. I showed her how to put makeup on. She smiled, and her smile lit up the whole room. Damn, I thought. I never thought of her as beautiful, but she’s really quite a knockout. She was watching me the whole time with her big dark eyes – so trusting, so adoring.
“We have to talk now about what happens after the wedding,” I said, putting away the makeup. “It’s going to be different than anything you’ve ever experienced before.”
Sana gazed up at me. “Maybe it would be better if you showed me,” she said. Her voice was almost a whisper. We were sitting next to each other on her bed. And then, all of a sudden, she kissed me with trembling lips. And for the first time in my life, conscious or subconscious, I was kissing a girl and liking it.
I took her face in my hands and kissed her back. I caressed her body through her clothes. We fell back on the bed, and I hugged her from behind while my hand slipped inside her. I held her close and kissed her while I showed her what good sex was supposed to feel like. And I gave her the best (and maybe first?) orgasm of her entire life. “Don’t marry him,” I told her. “You need to be with women.”
I remember the deep sadness I felt when she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “No, I have to marry him. My father will hate me if I don’t.” And I remember the loneliness that filled my heart when she got up and left me.
I was so confused when I woke up. It was my dirty little secret for 12 hours. I kept coming back to it that day, wondering why it turned me on so much and what it could possibly mean. I had never, up to this point, ever thought about women in a sexual or romantic way before. What the fuck! Did this mean I was a lesbian? The truth came out later that night when I confessed to my boyfriend after we had sex that I’d been thinking about a woman the whole time, and then told him my dream. He was more than OK with it. “That’s hot,” he said. Of course it was, at first.
Over the next few days, I started noticing women everywhere. It was like the city of Chicago suddenly gained half a population. I noticed shiny hair. Pretty eyes. Beautiful hips, soft curves, long legs. I noticed the way certain clothes hugged their bodies. I noticed how their voices made me feel warm inside, and how, if they happened to catch me looking, and they smiled, my heart would skip a beat or five. Women were always just there before, part of the woodwork. Now they were alive, goddesses before me. It felt like I had died and been reincarnated as a teenage boy.
And then one day, riding the train home from work, I saw a girl who had to be the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I still remember what she was wearing: long skinny jeans and a gray t-shirt that said “NEW YORK.” She looked a lot like Sana. The big dark eyes, the perfect curly black hair, the gorgeous smooth skin. Her laughter was like honey. She got off the train at the same stop as me – but of course I didn’t talk to her. How could I? What if she was straight? What would I say to her anyway? “Hi, I have a boyfriend but I think you’re hot”?! I thought about her a lot in the weeks that followed. I made sure I took that same train every day with the hope I might see her again. She was never there, but she’ll always be my dream girl.
It was a weird feeling, having a crush on a girl – but I think what was most weird about it was how natural it felt, and how similar it felt to all the times I had pined over men in the past. When I saw her face that day, in that moment I knew: everything was different. I was not the same person. Or maybe I was just discovering who I had been all along.