When I turned 27, I married my best friend. We had met just a year earlier in art school. He was the artist, and I was the model for his drawing class. After class, we often talked for hours about anything and everything, and from the day we met, not a single one passed by without each other’s company. We shared a special bond that deepened over the months, until his September proposal swept me up and away from small town college life and into a wedding dress in New York City. I was a happy, if somewhat overwhelmed bride. He was a doting groom. Together, we really did make a perfect pair. We lived a charmed life filled with traveling, and spent several of our married years in Paris. It was in that city that we lost each other. In Paris, I met Juliette.
Questioning Yourself For the First Time
I have never been the type of girl to question myself. I was brought up to do what was expected - marry, have a family, buy a house. It was already unusual to my family that by 30, I was childless, and we hadn’t settled down anywhere. At 32, he was focused intensely on his career, and in Paris, I found myself often alone. Wandering the city streets on lonely afternoons, I was startled by my own reflection in shop windows. I felt like a part of me was missing, but what part, exactly, I couldn’t name. The feeling grew, and tugged at me like a ghost pulling a string in some remote corner of my brain. I longed for something I could not identify. They say that idle hands are the devil’s tools, but I think it takes time, especially time spent alone, to ask yourself what it is you truly want. When I met Juliette on a cold Spring morning after we passed by each other in Parc Monceau, I knew that I wanted her right away. I was in my fourth year of marriage.
She wore a red coat, which offset her long, dark hair, and carried a pail of white roses, which I later found out were a prop for a play she was acting in. We had seen each other many times before in the same park, but on this day, something compelled me to speak to her. We had a coffee in a nearby cafe, which turned into a drink, which turned into a dinner, which turned into a kiss that marked the beginning of a three month long affair. A part of me that had been sleeping was awakened. A question had been asked, and answered.
Image Courtesy of DreamDesign.com
Having spent the better part of my married years mostly avoiding sex with my husband, I was surprised by my desire for her. I didn’t know that side of me existed, and furthermore, I didn’t even know that it was possible. I came from a family who would not be accepting of homosexuality, and therefore I hadn’t ever considered it as an option, until now. Even though I had briefly dated girls as a teenager, that was when I was a girl. I thought I had grown out of all that. Besides, I never understood why love had to equal sexual expression. For me, they were separate things that may or may not overlap. I still loved my husband, but I had changed, and couldn’t turn back. I also had to be fair to him, and I saw a long and complicated struggle ahead. I spent many nights literally locked inside my closet, crying over what to do. I didn’t want to lose the person who meant the world to me, and who was my world. And I definitely didn’t want to be gay. I felt as though if only I could get rid of the part of me that desired Juliette, or any woman, really, that everything could go back to normal. It was like having a diseased arm, and to save the rest of my body I would have to chop it off. The problem was, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I carried on this way for three more years, but inside I was completely lost. I soon discovered that there were a lot of other women in my exact same situation.
Women who discover their sexual orientation later than their college days are confronted with a lot of confusing questions, especially if they are already married, or married with children. Does this mean I have to call myself a lesbian? Am I really gay or could this be a phase? Why am I feeling this now and does this have to end my marriage? All of these are legitimate questions, and there aren’t ready answers. Everyone is unique, and everyone’s situation is unique. Humans are complex creatures. Even scientists and research psychologists don’t understand the inner workings of the human brain or how sexuality functions. There are dozens of schools of thought about sexual identity, but the truth is that your identity is your own, and it’s for you to decide. You don’t have to label yourself as anything, unless you want to. Yes, it is possible that it is a phase, and a perfectly natural one. Or, the feeling could be permanent and you may only be with women from now on. If so, you will be okay. You were strong enough to make it this far.
Image Courtesy of The Freedom Project.org
Overcoming Fear on the Road Less Traveled
I know it can be very scary to be confronted with not only going through a divorce, but also having to adopt a whole new life once it’s over. There are fears about living life as a lesbian that are unique to women who have previously only been with men. For me, my fear was fear itself. Women made me feel a lot of things, but safe wasn’t one of them. I felt safe with my husband. I also had to confront the fact that in this world, a household with two female breadwinners isn’t usually a financially prosperous one. Despite these challenges, I knew that this was not a part of me that I could ignore. It would be worse to live with the longing. And so, I have since separated from my husband. I am finally comfortable enough to have relationships with women, though I admit the journey to reach this place was long, and often painful. If you find yourself in this position, you have to ask yourself some questions you may not like the answers to, and there will be uncertain times ahead. But one thing will remain certain, and that is that you are still the same wonderful person. Your life will go on, and you will laugh again, and love again, and brave new challenges down the road. I know, because I have been down that road. It isn’t an easy one to travel, but it is worth it, because it’s your own.