My mother told me all about sex when I was 10. She pulled no punches, told me the mechanics, what happened, etc. Of course, she told me in a loving, age-appropriate way, and this was 1967, so age 10 was pretty young to have “that talk”. Now we have to start from birth. I was pretty horrified about the whole prospect, actually. It wasn’t till I was about 13 that I got really curious. Of course, I had no one to get curious WITH, so I kept it to myself. Being fat, nearsighted and bucktoothed didn’t help the situation either. I read a lot of books. Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex* (*but were afraid to ask), helped me a lot. I was able to be exposed (if you will) to the idea of things like French kissing and oral sex, etc. and get grossed out, then think about it for a while and then decide that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad with the right person. Being ugly gave me time which was good in a way.
Looking back, I think my biggest problem in figuring out relationships later in life was that I simply had no practice as a kid. My nomadic upbringing guaranteed that I’d have no girlfriends to giggle with about little boys, and always being the “new kid” in a different school kept me apart as well. I had no “crushes” or if I did, they were locked in a silence that I knew better to break. Every time I made a budding friendship, oops, off I went to a new school, a new state, and there I was starting over again. Starting over feels very familiar to me. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why my coming out was fairly anticlimactic.
Somehow, I managed to get raised up without having any guilt about sex. I don’t know how this happened; sometimes I think I may be slightly to the side of sociopathic. I’ve slept with men, I’ve slept with women, I’ve certainly slept with myself, and I’ve never felt any guilt over any of it. Uncomfortable sometimes, but never guilty. When I was married the first time and my husband was in prison, I had an affair with a married man. He was a good man and a good friend and he saved my sanity if not my life with his love. He did love me, I knew that the whole time. The physical sex of that relationship was quite possibly the best I’ve ever had. Maybe it was because of the “forbidden” nature of it. Maybe it was because sexually, our appetites at that time were a complete match for each other. Maybe it was because he totally accepted me for who and what I was at that moment and never asked me to change anything about myself. Whatever, I never felt guilty about it. He stayed married and I went back to my life as it was after my husband came home, and our respective spouses didn’t know and we each (I hope) have fond memories of our time together.
I feel this way about guilt–if you’re going to do something, then just do it and live with the fallout. If you think you’re going to feel guilty about it, just don’t do it. Guilt is a total waste of time and energy.
Nobody ever explained to me what “gay” was, but I don’t remember not knowing. I had a boy-friend (as opposed to a boyfriend) in high school who I am 99% sure was gay. Why? Because I was comfortable with him. The only men I’ve ever really been comfortable around outside of having sex have been gay men. Kenny and I laughed together. We hung out between and after classes and just talked silly shit and laughed. He was fun and funny. I might have kissed him if he ever made a move towards me, but he didn’t and I had such a good time with him when we were together that it didn’t matter. When I went to work at Six Fl@gs over Georgia at age 16 and started working in the show department, I learned the word that went with all those fabulous pretty boys who were more concerned about their eyeliner than the girl performers. Oh, so that’s gay. Okay, cool. No worries.
When I began to think that I might be gay, as usual, I kept it to myself. I’m like that. I get an idea or start thinking about something, and I keep it quiet. I have to work on it inside. It’s just the way I operate.
Before I moved to CO, before I met my 2nd husband online, I went out to a few lesbian bars in Atlanta. I went alone, rarely, as I was a single mom at the time, working in the hotel business and who had time to go out anyway? But I managed it a couple of times. I was never very comfortable, but once I did talk to a woman who was in the same “boat” as me–curious, wondering, trying to figure out this new sense of self that was emerging. We chatted for a while, had a beer, but there was no “spark”. There has to be a “spark”.
That was when I became an “intellectual lesbian”. I read all the “right” works, Dworkin, Faderman, Sonia Johnson (who I would later meet), Raine Eisler (Chalice and the Blade), radical separatism, you name it. I dove in to the world of lesbian feminists and knew I’d found a place of comfort in my head even if I couldn’t yet live it in my life.
Years later, when I stood in the little apartment I rented after I left H2, I considered how my relationship status might proceed. I knew I was going to get a divorce (this was before he passed away), so I knew eventually I would probably go out in public and might want some kind of a companion. I realized at that moment that I had lived in Pueblo for over 10 years, and aside from my husband, I did not know ONE SINGLE MAN. Not even “single” as in unmarried, but man as in individual person. Oh, I worked with men, all that, but I had no male person in my life that lived in town who I could call up and say, “Hey, want to see a movie?”
Then I realized that it didn’t matter. I understood that what I was feeling was that the sheer thought of trying to even MEET a man just sounded like torture. Agony. It was like going on a job interview. Having to put on “the face”, cater to male ego, pretend to be not as smart, to like what he liked, blah, blah, blah. Nope. Wasn’t going to do it. Just not. It was then I completely embraced the fact I was a lesbian, that’s all there was to it. I had toyed with it before, but now I was certain to the core of my being. Even the word felt comfortable to me. I wrapped it around me like a chenille robe and sat down on my frumpy inherited couch and reveled in it. I didn’t care if I never actually had a relationship with a woman. I didn’t care if I never had sex with anyone other than myself again. I was lesbian, I was happy, and that was all that mattered.
And I never felt guilty about any of it.