I came out at the age of 28. One Saturday evening I sat across from my mother at the Olive Garden grappling with how to tell her that the first date I was going on in four years was with another woman. Actually, let me back up quite a bit. Thirteen years to be exact.
I entered high school as a sophomore in 1998. Possibly the first person I noticed was a football player who had beautiful black hair and matching eyes. He was pretty, so long as he didn't smile, or yawn, or speak, or do anything that would expose his teeth. Anyway, I thought he was adorable and decided I had a crush on him. And the crush was like all crushes I had had on boys, physical at the most.
"This must be what girls really think about boys; the romance stuff is just made up," I thought. But of course, this turned out to be one of many flawed beliefs.
Later that same school year, though I can't remember precisely when, I saw her swaggering through the halls. The experience of seeing her was like all the clichés: the slowing of time, the sparks, and even the fading of everything and everyone except her. All of a sudden I began to hear meanings in songs where before there had just been catchy tunes. I found myself wondering what her palms would feel like wrapped in mine; what her mouth, her amazingly gorgeous mouth that looked like the best tasting strawberry Starburst I could ever eat, would actually taste like.
Meanwhile, "bisexual" was a new term I had heard while attending an after school program I was involved in called Teen Women in Action, and the word was slowly becoming a part of my vocabulary. Since I couldn't deny my attraction to the football player, I spun the word around in my head to try to make sense of it. I tried to see it in the mirror when I got ready for school. I tried to hear it in my name when someone called me. But I couldn't tell. What did it mean really?
What I did begin to realize, however, was that I had a crush. Not just a physical, "I think you're really cute, let's make out," type of crush. A real crush. It was the kind of crush that helped me to finally see beyond why girls thought boys were good looking, to why they wanted to date them. Because I wanted to date her. I was probably bisexual, I decided. And I hated myself for it.
I spent 13 years in an emotional space that left my world devoid of any color. Devoid of sparks. Devoid of any real connections. I dated some men. Lost my virginity, after which I told my boyfriend at the time that I didn't feel like anything had happened. He was not happy about that, and I genuinely couldn't understand why. For 13 years I was resolved to be "straight" or to be alone. It took me 13 unhappy years to realize that I loved women, and that it had nothing to do with whom I made out with. It was all in how I felt. It was in how being near a woman I was attracted to made me nervous and how seeing other women together made me jealous, experiences I never had being near men or watching straight couples.
It was 13 years before I finally sat in the Olive Garden across from my mom, separated by endless breadsticks and my uncertainty. "So, I'm going on a date next weekend with _______." I chose my words specifically so that she would need to ask for more information.
"Oh," she nodded. "And that's a girl." I nodded. She nodded again. I took a sip of my minestrone and began to recount my story from my hesitant mouth to my mother's receptive ear.
Do I be Me?
I be stuffed in boxes
Marked, "Save for immense sadness,"
And, "Hide all this loneliness."
These "be" boxes be taped shut,
Pushed to the back of an attic,
And covered by tarps of darkness.
What be in those boxes?
Do that be Me,
Severed into convenient portions?
Life be safer this way.
Do life be better this way?
Better hidden and normal,
The damage be irreparable.
This casual comfort be casual.
Creaky boards hint the attic be full,
Time for spring-cleaning.
Soul cleansing I be needing.
But who I be with an attic un-needing?
Who I be boxes retrieved,
Spirit stitched in,
Bones pieced together,
And skin glued on?
Boxes dusted off
Saying things like,
"Fragile only if tampered with," and
"Spine may be found in this one."
Who I be then?
Who I be with spirit stitched in?
Who I be with bones together again?
Me, I do be?
I do indeed be.