Probably the question I’m asked most frequently: what took you so long??
Good question. The answer? I’m not entirely sure.
Well, that’s not absolutely true. I mean, if you toss fear, doubt, flagging self-esteem, anxiety, uncertainty and a deep-seated desire to be just like all my friends into a bucket and swirl it around, and that probably is a good mix of what was going on in my head.
Way back in high school, I started thinking about girls in a way that I didn’t think was quite right, but this was the 1980’s. AIDS was just coming to the surface and homosexuality was an expletive, not an accepted way of life. I certainly wasn’t sure of what I was feeling, and so it was easy to dismiss… while I had friends, I dated very little and just figured that the feelings I would have for the guys that I would eventually date would be inherently different – and better – than what I felt for my female friends.
My first boyfriend when I was in high school – a college boy! – was… well… less than remarkable. He wasn’t my first kiss, but my first almost-adult kiss. And I have to admit: I was completely underwhelmed. Actually – not true. My reaction was a little more ‘blech’ than that. Less than magical. I started thinking of ways to avoid having to kiss him, in fact. Looking back, I now realize that this was mostly because he was an absolutely AWFUL kisser (and really – probably the fact that a college guy wanted to date a high school girl spoke to this). But really, my thoughts after that whole dating debacle was that I would be much happier just hangin’ with my girl friends.
So, I was completely content just being close to some of my girl friends. And because that satisfied my need to have a close relationship, I just didn’t have much of an interest in guys during high school. Then – college. I spent more time ogling guys, mostly because that’s what I was supposed to do. In the meantime, I became really close with one of my floormates in the dorm. We were inseparable. There were a lot of hugs and “I love you’s” — all in friendship, though. When she started dating, I was incredibly jealous. Jealous of the time she spent with him, with the secrets she shared with him. I was heart-broken, though I never would have told her that. So instead, I did the next best thing — I started dating her boyfriend’s best friend.
And really, the pattern was set there. I’d become friends – close friends – with a chick. She’d be dating someone. So, I’d date someone to not feel out of place. But, I’d be unhappy and unsatisfied and always thinking that there was either something wrong with me or something wrong with the guys I was choosing. And my friend would be all giddy and happy, the way you were supposed to be in those first stages of dating someone new.
My twenties passed mostly like this. Some semi-serious boyfriends (meaning, they were serious and I was looking for a way out), and fighting my natural inclination with everything I had. Of course, I didn’t see it like that at the time — I just figured that I hadn’t met the right guy yet. Kept hoping beyond hope that I hadn’t met the right guy yet because the alternative was too scary to consider. Because if this was all there was, I was doomed to be single forever; I knew that some of the guys I had dated were real class acts — funny, smart, athletic, respectful — and if I couldn’t muster up true feelings for them, then what kind of options did I have?
Frankly, at that age, I wasn’t strong or courageous enough to face that I might be gay. Just because I always enjoyed the company of my friends better than any guy I had dated — in my mind — didn’t necessarily mean anything other than (again!) I hadn’t found the right guy. I would occasionally daydream about being able to somehow finagle a situation where I could live with my best friend… but knew that while I had roommates from time to time, that it was a temporary situation for them, that they didn’t feel the same depth of emotion that I did.
It’s kind of funny – at one point, I started to think that, maybe, possibly, perhaps I might like girls. I was giving a home to a friend of mine after her separation, and I loved everything about her and I loved having her live with me. And then – she broke my heart: she started dating the guy I was dating behind my back (while I was dating him – ironic, no?). I didn’t care one bit about the guy, but her betrayal was unforgivable to me. And lord help me, I tried to forgive, but I was devastated, which made me mean and catty. Probably the worst part was that she couldn’t understand how or why I was so upset. “You don’t even really like him, right?” she would ask, as if that made it better. She didn’t get that what she had done had irrevocably declared that she didn’t love me the way that I loved her – and that’s what hurt so badly. And I couldn’t ever explain it because to declare the truth would be to admit that what I felt for her wasn’t what one friend feels for another. And I couldn’t do that.
Then, about this same time, I met a guy. A guy I actually LIKED. He reminded me a lot of the friend that I had just lost, with his humor and sense of adventure. He was almost a male version of her. And all my thoughts of “girls are SO much cooler than boys” went out the window and set me back probably 10 years in this journey.
(…to be continued…)