The Interview Game, Part 2.3: Word Girl
Links to previous posts:
Interview Game Introduction and Question 1
Question 2, part 1
Question 2, part 2
Question 2. When did you realize you were a lesbian? Part 3
I wrote that there were three possible answers to this question, three times you could say I realized I was a lesbian.
I'm getting to the second time, but here's the issue: I don't have what Shannon once called sole copyright to the story. So if this part of the Saga of the Second Meme Question seems a bit light on concrete incident, heavy on introspection and analysis, and maybe not so much with the funny, it's partly because I'm leaving out all identifying details of the Other Party.
Aside from that, I'm just going to plow ahead, because I have a meme to complete here. And isn't that what life's all about?
I survived 8th grade, more or less. I turned fourteen. And shortly afterwards, I fell in love. Hard. With one of my best friends. It wasn't a crush this time, or infatuation; I was In Love. I wasn't sure whether to call it that at the time, though. My Notebooks are full of rumination on the subject: Am I In Love? What's the difference between just loving someone and being In Love? Or just sexual desire and being In Love? Maybe I'm just imagining all this? But what difference does it make if I am? And what difference does it make, what you call things, anyway?
But it made a lot of difference to me. I'm a word girl and I like to know if the word I'm using is the right one.
By that time, second-guessing myself was such a habit, I didn't take any strong emotions, especially romantic ones, at face value. I can't completely blame those dopey teenage advice books or the heterosexual assumption, though neither of those made things any easier; I think partly it's just my nature to step back from what I'm feeling, question it, analyze it like I'm a character I'm writing. The sense of unreality, of "this is probably just a phase," of things not counting because I was the age I was-- I think lots of adolescents have all that, but I had it more, for all those reasons.
So I was in love. Truly, madly, deeply. And more or less secretly (I told one other friend; I can't completely keep any of my own secrets). And unrequitedly. It took me almost a year to break the news to Z, and then she took it so casually I wasn't sure she'd heard, but was afraid to say anything again. I think she was afraid too, and honestly didn't reciporicate, and wanted to go on being my friend, and didn't want it to be an issue, and hoped if she didn't treat it as one that we could both ignore it.
Which is pretty much what happened. We stayed friends (and are friends to this day); we had many great times hanging around together; I stayed in love; I didn't talk about it. I kind of enjoyed the tortured preciousness of it (I was fourteen). I read a lot: May Sarton [Lioness, take note]. And Sappho. And Lillian Hellman-- that Julia story, it was so romantic! (Even though it turned out to be completely made up!) I read Rubyfruit Jungle, and The Persian Boy, and this book called Happy Endings are All Alike. I read anything I could get my hands on that seemed like it might have a message for me.
I read and read, and wrote and wrote. At one point that year, I distinctly remember writing something along these lines (though I've scoured my notebooks and can't find the entry):
"Am I gay? I know I'm in love with Z. But does that mean I'm a lesbian? I'm really too young to decide something like that. I'm only 14! When I'm maybe 20, if I still feel like this about girls, then I'll decide I really am. But I can't know now."
I meant "can't know" in a survival sense, as well as an ageist sense. If I knew, I'd have to tell people, to somehow live as a lesbian (I can't keep my own secrets, remember). Even if I didn't tell anyone, I was sure that somehow everyone would know anyway. (Nicole Robertson's question in the gym still haunted me-- how had she known to ask it? And what if I'd known the answer was "yes?") What would that mean, in my suburban junior high school, in my life? There was a lot I wasn't sure of, but I was absolutely sure I didn't want to find out the answer to that one.
If it were now, with GSAs and PFLAG chapters and queer youth centers and websites, I might have done it. Or if I'd been a different kind of person, more fearless, or foolhardy, or rebellious, or just living less in my head, I might have done it (I do know people my age who came out in high school; it wasn't impossible, just hard). If I'd been in requited love, I might very well have done it. But then, there, being who I was, I couldn't see anything to "come out" into-- it would have been like opening the door of a plane and jumping out into fog.
So, I didn't know. I closed that particular door, for the time being.
By then, the spring of 9th grade, the whole picking-on-dorks thing had gotten old, and I had something of a social life. I had some friends. (I'd even had a sort-of-boyfriend, back in 7th grade, one of the nerd boys, but it didn't go very far.) I got invited to some parties. There was this boy at one of them I thought could be considered kind of cute, and just sexy and dangerous enough without being too scary. He was a few years older and had a moped. And a computer! (Very cutting-edge; this was 1981.)
He was a friend of the friend I'd gone to the party with (not Z). I told her I might like him, and she told him, and he called me, and we went on a date. A few dates. And some dates with friends. He asked me to go out with him (remember Going Out?), and I was thrilled. And we did some basic teenage making out, and I liked it just fine. More than fine.