The long goodbye
"People still ask me how I couldn’t have known I was gay and I always struggle to find the words to explain."
Two years ago, I ended a serious relationship with a man and came out. We owned property together, bought during a time in which I was certain that here was the happy ending I’d been promised. I didn’t think twice about signing on the dotted line. I penned my name with a flourish and a giddy little yelp in my heart.
Only now, after two years of carefully untangling our assets, of wading through paperwork and emails and stemming the odd quibble, are we finally nearing the finish line. Compared to how it could have gone, it’s all been blessedly good-natured. But the fact remains: If you throw your lot in with someone and you change your mind, be prepared for a lot of long nights trying to get it the hell back out again.
People still ask me how I couldn’t have known I was gay and I always struggle to find the words to explain. I’ve tried out different, shorter versions over the years but never released the full, feature length picture. I feel like now’s a good time to do that.
When I was younger, I knew I was attracted to women. I never thought there was anything weird about that. My feelings felt completely natural and healthy – a young heart stretching its legs. Surely everyone feels this way? I knew other girls who experimented too, lots in fact. There was safety in numbers.
In time, I grew up and heard whispers, nasty sniggery things, about girls who were suspected ‘lezbians’. My experimenting came to a dramatic halt. It wasn’t safe anymore. But I never thought that I was a lesbian. Every girl I knew who’d fooled around with other girls ended up dating – and later marrying – men. I thought I was the same.
Over the next few years I met men, wonderful men, who made me smile, laugh, think and learn. Men who challenged me, who I respected enormously and who enriched my life in myriad ways. I always struggled to orgasm, but I read that was normal too. “Use vibrators” the experts said, and I did.
There were times at night when I would think about women and feel a quickening in my knickers. I’d watch porn and bring myself to relief. These nights under the sheets were a release, like going for a run, something that had to be tightly managed. Afterwards, I would slam the door shut. This was not a place where real women were permitted. It was a fantasy.
Eventually I met a very special man, a man who loved me and I, in turn, grew to love. He was kind and funny and generous, a gentleman. We bought a house. We made a home. We loved each other more than I thought was possible. I still had my dirty little secret, of course, snatching moments of quiet ecstasy in the hullabaloo of our lives, but I thought I could keep it under wraps forever. I couldn’t.
What changed? Not me – society.
Women started coming out and I realised with a start that I wanted it all. Not the ‘having it all’ that society shoves down our throats – the babies and the boardrooms - but my version of having it all. Love. Sex. One minute panting with lust, can’t-take-my-knickers-off-quick-enough, the next panting with love, swapping hopes and dreams and stories.
Love is such a funny word. We cram it every which way into 1000 different meanings – I love my girlfriend, my family, my dog, my job, the beach, The Simpsons. We stretch that one word so thinly that it almost feels inadequate, stingy, when we use it to describe how we feel about our partners. Maybe there aren’t 50 shades of love but there are certainly more than our narrow lexicon affords.
But the fact remains, I am a gay woman who loved a man. Maybe it’s not the same as the love I could have for a woman, but I will never diminish the feelings I had for him because they were honest and real.
So, if you’re asking, the truth is I’ve always known I fancied girls, I just didn’t know I was gay. Now, five years on, I’m signing another document with a flourish – one that gives me the freedom to find a new kind of love with a woman.
This time I know, I’m never going back.
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