This is probably the last post about my experience being gay where I live that I’ll write for a while, but something came up last night that made me want to say more. Lee and I had gone out for a drink at our local gayish bar after dinner to catch up with a friend who’s just been approved to study abroad in Morocco. I had all kinds of questions to ask him about that and we talked for a while. As we were talking, a lesbian couple walked in. We’d seen them there before and I always nod to them but this time we ended up actually talking.
I’ve always nodded because I don’t know if one of the women would want to talk to me. We went to the same tiny Catholic elementary school years ago but then different Catholic high schools. Like most of her large family, she lives in the same town where we grew up. One of her brothers lives on my parents’ street and so I’ve seen her when driving by over the years and from her looks assumed she was probably a lesbian, which is why I wasn’t at all surprised when I saw her in the bar with a girlfriend a year or so ago. But I also wasn’t surprised when I saw her at a wedding reception recently surrounded by her family but with her girlfriend conspicuously absent, and I didn’t say anything at all there because I didn’t want to have to introduce my partner and make potentially awkward for the family.
Last night, though, we talked. She didn’t recognize me at all, in part because she hasn’t seen me much since I was 13 and in part because I have short hair and look happy now. She and her girlfriend live together and are out to all her siblings but not her parents, although her girlfriend is invited to family dinners and so on and her littlest nieces and nephews call them Aunt Susie and Aunt Sarah. She was delighted to talk to me and meet Lee, but kept reminding me that we can’t say anything about meeting her lest it get back to her parents. I kept reassuring her that even if I’d met her there with a boyfriend I wouldn’t have talked about it with people, but it made me sad to see how much she’s compartmentalized her life. I understand that this don’t-ask-don’t-tell lets her keep her great relationship with her mom, but on the other hand it’s not really fair to anyone involved.
Lee’s been in relationships like that, and in fact one of the things we’re negotiating and I probably press more than she’d like is how she’s going to tell her long-ago-but-longterm-ex’s parents that she has a female partner and we’re adopting together. They know she‘s adopting and they’ve met me as her friend, but there’s no way to stay closeted when you have a child and she’s not sure if there’s any way to out herself without outing her ex. So it looks like her choice is going to be to sever her ties to a family she loves and was a part of for years, which is what her ex would prefer anyway.
When we both get home in the evenings, we give each other a hug. Then if we’re in the living room, Lee looks out the door or window to make sure no one’s looking before she kisses me. She says she can’t get over this nervousness that someone will notice and then come back to throw a brick through our window or attack us. She’s never been the victim of a hate crime, but it’s always in the back of her mind. And I hate that! We made a commitment early on in the relationship to live our shared life openly. I’m the first girlfriend she’s ever brought to office functions, but everyone in her department likes me. My coworkers and my needlework group even seem to prefer her to me! Yet it’s only recently that she’s started putting her hand on my shoulder, letting our arms brush while we’re out in public places like restaurant, feeling comfortable acting like any other couple.
Tonight we’ll put on our costumes and head back to the bar because we’re really hoping to win the $100 first-place prize. But the woman I talked to last night won’t be there, because there are too many people and it’s too hard to have to worry about who would recognize her and what would happen next. I feel sorry for her, but I know she’s made her choice and is doing the best she can with it. We’re doing the same, choosing to show as much as we can but still feeling limitations. I don’t feel constrained or traumatized by this, but I have to admit that when I hear about people leading more open, more supported lives than mine I get a twinge of envy. I’ve had so many good responses to our relationship from people I didn’t expect to be supportive, but although I’m not as open about it as Lee I’m still always looking over my shoulder and checking that nothing’s lurking. Otherwise I could write here with our real names and our real details, but I really don’t feel I can.
I’m still going to be a worrier no matter what happens. When I started writing here, I was afraid I wouldn’t find a place among the adoption blogs. I mean, I wasn’t reading anyone else who was currently starting out. I’m not even from central Ohio or Georgia or Minnesota (and seriously, is it part of the adoption finalization papers that every MN parent must have a blog??) and I never, ever committed myself to Judaism as an adult. And I fully confess my Susan Lucci tendencies: I get all bouncy when I get a comment and I’m feeling like I’m fitting in and finding my place and my voice. But I’m still on the lookout for danger. I know there will be hard times in blogging and in parenting, in lesbian blogging and lesbian parenting in particular. I’m also aiming to be the truest, best person I can be within my restrictions. I guess that’s what I’m here for, all this muddling along and thinking things out. And actually Susie last night may have been onto something — if you run into my mother, don’t tell her you saw me here. Everything just goes more smoothly that way.