I really can't abide a lot of internet forum buzz words, one of which is 'triggering'. My excessive irritation with the word is probably just because when I'm left alone with my own thoughts for too long, a ridiculously small thing can cause a sudden shift to something incredibly painful. A knight moves on a chess board and suddenly I'm somewhere else. In a different time and place.
Having a body that defies time is meant to be a good thing. Have I developed a higher bosom or a line free pair of eyes? Well, not quite. My body seems to have taken on a weirdly immortal power to suddenly get the ailments of an adolescent. Spots, irregular periods, dramatic mood swings and now intermittent nose bleeds. Sometimes all at once.
When I signed up to do this I said I wanted to help teenagers to be the best version of themselves that they can be, Mostly I just feel like the worst version of myself, hiding in drag.
Just as I'm picking my nose?
Will it knock on my door in the morning,
Or tread in the bus on my toes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
Suddenly my small hair-flowered head has been turned by a rather bona palone-omi.
Following an extended courtship sparked by a chance meeting in Richmond Tea Rooms in April, I've fallen in love. J and I first met properly, a few years ago in San Francisco and as a result of us both taking very similar steps at the same time to start doing something a bit more grown up with our lives, fate has thrown us together once more. Over a pot of decaff tea and a non-monogamous dating conversation with our mutual Auntie Femme, a number of things caught my attention. Being a hot butch with a cheeky smile and a retro sense of style was very obvious. Discovering she was also a hot butch with an intriguing mind and a soft spot for femmes was just too good an opportunity to miss. I plucked up the courage to send her an email asking if she was interested in arranging a play date, explaining that with upcoming commitments, us living hundreds of miles apart and some surgery to recover from, it'd have to wait 6 weeks.
After squealing with excitement for a bit after getting a message back that she would also be interested in that, I started to think of her as a new and twinkly star in an expanding constellation of lovers and special types of friends. As an email, skype and text based courtship unfolded, this new potential play partner became someone who I developed a real crush on. The sort of person who I would excitedly stay up to skype with before bed on a school night, just because it was my birthday and I wanted to chat to her.*
Everybody who I spoke to about this new exciting person in my life commented that I was clearly very smitten, and getting uncharacteristically girlish about the whole thing. I firmly maintained that it was all very trivial, choosing my well-worn comfort zone of optimistic denial.
Finally, the spring blossoms fell away and the long awaited date weekend came around. June and the first warm weeks of summer, after a very long winter. I was simultaneously excited and scared in case I'd allowed myself to get all besotted with someone who was just a reflection of what a person could be. The next morning while mincing down the road to the train station together, sharing a celebratory breakfast of strawberries and beaming grins, something told me that my instincts were right. By the end of the weekend walking together around the David Bowie exhibition, I had an overwhelming urge to not be physically parted from her. Amid the fragments and relics of past glamour and camp I'd found a diamond in the rhinestones.
All attempts at maintaining a facade of cool detachment were futile. For the first time in quite a while I let loose all the Cole Porter lyriced confessions of complete adoration. It's still very clear that I've gotten her under my skin. Perhaps with patience and luck she could be the one who'd be so nice to come home to. I know she's someone who'd be so easy to love.
*Well she had sent a combination of a birthday card of a 1960s black and white shot of a Dalek in front of a London routemaster, a bar of chocolate, and a copy of a well-loved novel with a dedication written in the cover. She clearly meant business.
The single woman considers herself
A therapist once said that those people who appear most independent are in fact the neediest, since they see their needs and desires as too enormous to be inflicted on others...
What a hippopotamus love
What a cavern of teeth
What a gobble
What a goat
What a snow-crusted lorry from the far north
What a mire in the handbag
What suitcases of dreams
What packing and unpacking
What a fat orange moon at the end of the night
What a lilac bush bursting in the green air
like God, like a rocket.
The Well of Lost Plots.
Now that Matt Smith is leaving Dr Who at Christmas, this seems like a timely point to talk about my own recent changes. While I don't think I want to chance cutting my own arm off* to see if it will regrow itself, it does feel like my body and mind is standing up to a lot of late. Health, enormous changes in my life in work and home, and opportunities to reflect on the past have had an impact. The following waffle is an attempt to make sense of it, somewhat unsuccessfully.
About a month ago, I had some long awaited laparoscopic surgery that left me reeling for a while. Happily, in the long run it should make life a lot easier, but the point at which you're deemed fully recovered and back to normal seems very indefinite. While in the middle of an especially painful afternoon when I was signed off, I went for a walk in the sunshine. Since January I've consciously avoided walking by the public park where A and I held the de-collaring. Why I kept shying away, I don't know. Something in my scar-tissue filled belly told me that on that especially lovely afternoon I should stop trying to run away from potential pain, and that I should just walk in the same damn park like everyone else. I walked under the tree which 4 months before had been a mass of bare twigs, and was then covered in beautiful white blossoms. My over-active yet inefficient imagination led me to remember how much I clung to the ideas about love in Wuthering Heights when I was a teenager. Destructive, unpredictable and often quite unsettling, but always permanent and unchanging, at least between Cathy and Healthcliff. In my teenage brain a love like the rocks that stayed constant and unchanging seemed to be the only type of love worth pursuing. The idea of a love that like the trees would change over time, and possibly even appear to be dead or dormant just didn't factor.
Similar thoughts come to me when I've seen old photos of teenage me seem to ask where did that strangely wholesome girl go?
So many things change, not least of all the type of Heathcliff that I would lust after now would be a Fforde rather than a Bronte hero, working through his issues in family-centred therapy. There would be talk of "owning his feelings", and I would only contemplate the sort of recreational violence littered through the novel with some assurance of a safe word.
Who or what grows next is anybody's guess. I like to think I'm not a sickening 'Love is...' type romantic, and this is probably true.
*or indeed rubbing it across a broken window pane.
*****Warning:May contain moments of disappearing up own arse. If it's going to get all intestinal there'll be a row of asterisks to alert you to skip ahead if you so wish*****
Sitting down to write a blog about ones relationship with food and body, especially if you're female and somewhere on the rainbow-glitter-shitting sexuality spectrum is such a cliche. It can also be pretty tiresome reading someone’s self-obsessed lamentations. Nobody wants to be that does-my-bum-look-big-in-this gal. Sometimes all you want to do is slap them in the face with some perspective. Nevertheless a bit of self-examination and a bit of sharing might be helpful, and go some way towards booting the self-obsessed lamentations up their emo arses.
I’ve had a chequered history with my feelings about my body and my attitude and behaviour towards food. After an extended good spell of eating sensibly (albeit with some appetite loss during stressful times) and feeling pretty bloody pleased with my figure, things are now resembling a poorly bound roly-poly. The odd thing is I find rounded or even rather portly women attractive. Politically and socially I think there’s more than one way to be beautiful or healthy, and if you decide to make a change self-hatred is a terrible start. Fat people and those they get involved with shouldn’t apologise for being sexy whole human beings*..Nor should there be the rather strange self congratulating talk of ‘real women have curves/substantial figures’. Are straight up and down or thin ones somehow make-believe women? Nevertheless, I’ve felt some rumbling issues amid the positivity.
There was even an amusing episode in this vein recently where a bedfellow of mine was once again waxing poetical about how beautiful my arse is. Said bedfellow was coming out with some absolutely corking dirty talk about how gorgeous, round and diverting this suspender-belted rear out-thrust above the bed was. ‘Your skin’s just so soft and smooth..that arse is so hot and gorgeous and f-…’ breaking off abruptly without saying the dreaded f word. This was really quite unjustified as I’m not only comfortable but happy in having a fat arse. I missed its protruding shelf like curve when I lost weight. It’s my overall size and body fat in other areas, and above all else the way that I know I’m misusing food at the moment that bothers me.
INTESTINE ALERT! RHECTAL DISSAPEARING ACT!
*****When I was thinner recently I often felt quite vulnerable and had a sense of anti-climax. Being the ideal weight and size I’d made myself ill to try and become as a teenager, which I’d imagined would make me into the perfect person with a wonderful life didn’t actually happen. The world didn’t explode in glitter cannons, I just wore slightly narrower skirts. A lot of people told me how great I looked (‘What as opposed to like crap before?’) and insistently asked me what the secret was. In hindsight a lot of the slow-burning stress of the latter phase of my relationship probably accelerated the weight loss too. As we all know the people who feel a need to be on guard and fight the whole world are the most insecure and at times last year I had a constant refrain of ‘Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’ in my head. When feeling scared at a guy looking at me strangely when I was on my own on the street and thinking through how I could run fast in heels, when feeling like someone was talking down to me or labelling me as a slutty airhead or all kinds of times when feeling cornered.
Ok, scoffing down cake produces a chemical high and is a distracting way of keeping difficult feelings contained. Plus at the best of times I’m quite a greedy person who enjoys food. Nevertheless I suspect there has been an element of using food as a way of bulking out. Of building a sofa fort around you to feel less fearful of being got at, which feels kind of fucked up.******
I dutifully read and greatly enjoy the Queer Fat Femme blog and tumblr, and the message of self expression, sexy visibility and a flat refusal to just blend in. I really need to engage with the following pages and the thoughts of the gorgeous folk therein
Enjoying life and all it gives including sex and sexual expression (which incidentally has been rather good recently, perhaps this is finally coming with age) shouldn’t wait ‘as soon as’ a certain weight appears on the scales. For me, I’m confident that being healthier and losing a few pounds from my smallish frame would improve some things and is a worthwhile endeavour for me through changing long term habits and without deprivation or ‘being good’. Upcoming surgery and recovery is going to be a less than bona experience for my body but in the long term for the best, so doubly important to feel that bit more shiny to start off with.
* I felt utterly furious when my landlord came out with yet another comedy statement of ‘I really wish I was into fat girls. They’d be so grateful’
To take a little look around (one ear up one ear down)
I was looking for a home,
a family to call my own
I was lost but now am found
One ear up, one ear down"
A Dickensian Miss Havisham has given way to a Fforde-Havisham, who has pulled herself up by her (shined) boot straps. Schmooze and flooze settings are on 'stun' level as an old friend used to say. To move forward you have to engage with what you have to have, and to form connections with others you need a fairly solid connection with yourself. Hence why since November's split I've been happily reconnecting with my inner weird; the rather solitary soundtrack to my attitudes to love, sex, and overly enthusiastic views on how life should be, Neil Hannon.
The Dogs in Distress charity album that came out just before Christmas perfectly captured my self image of a battered, rather forlorn soul, staying determined to keep on a quest for love and home. These life-affirming mental images stayed firmly contained between my headphoned ears. Like the soaring unrepentent camp joy of A Short Album about Love, the knowingly suggestive Casanova or the unrestrained enthusiastic geekishness of Promenade, The Divine Comedy has never been something I've felt comfortable telling people I enjoy.* His music like no-one else's has given that sense of 'Yes! Somewhere out there, there's a guy who's just as much of an eccentricly earnest quiet extrovert as me.' Someone who cares about what's important and is so unafraid of appearing uncool, they are insanely cool. Someone who exultantly asks 'And when we die oh will we that dissapointed or sad if heaven doesn't exist? What will we have missed? This life is the best we've ever had' and can package up all the thoughts and feelings of being in love in a single clause-laden line of 'When you're with me, I can't help but be so totally quite uncontrollably happy' turning the stumbling thoughts of a neurotic into something profound.
And it would appear that I've gushed my geekery all over you. Time to calm down.
There was a phase in my life when 'It's all becoming more like Alfie' was a polite euphemism for 'On a serious slutting campaign' which needs reviving at the moment. Current dalliances do seem to show that I rarely seem to get the balance right between flinging open the door and holding it slammed shut.
*A and I were together nearly a year before I allowed her anywhere near the CD folder.
On a gloriously sunny but completely frozen day we met in a quiet corner of a public park and found a spot to say a few words expressing how we felt and what we were each walking away from. I put the collar on one last time, unfastened it and passed it to her friend and we each went our separate ways with the kink-friend allies we'd brought with us that day. One final quiet surge of connection and a final goodbye.
As a dominant no-one seems to focus on how simultaneously vulnerable and powerful you can feel in unfastening a collar, and it was startling to feel in the movement of a length of leather how the feeling of responsibility can suddenly leave you.
It was sad, there was a strong feeling of loss and powerful grip-you-by-the-chest emotion thinking about what we'd had, but the main feeling I had walking away was a sense of release. It felt like this was a chapter closed, and I feel able to look forward and know that both of us are capable of building these dynamics with other people. It felt important to make a declaration of what we were leaving behind, and I'm glad the we did it the way we did.
Gentle reader I shall spare you the hysterical histrionics. I write this in my pyjamas (it is a Sunday)but there are no Bridget Jonesish tunes in the background and you can relax in the knowledge that there will be minimal wallowing, Brownie promise.
A and I split about a month ago, for a number of reasons but a major one being one of the members of our poly family no longer behaving in a supportive manner. Well and truly time to call it a day. Mercifully no-one's come out with the feared well-meaning phrase of 'Well no wonder it didn't work out, these types of relationships don't'. Everyone close to me has been fantastically supportive, and I apologise if I've bored anyone with the details. I've had points of nearly screaming with boredom at the whole thing myself.
The first waves of pain have passed, I'm now in the moderately crap stage of slowly moving forward. This year's shire Christmas should actually be alright. I'm hoping Mother Dearest comes out with some more corking statements like the one in the run up to the US election referring to the fact that Mitt Romney apparently worked as a missionary in Scotland in the eighties saying 'I wouldn't be surprised if he was one of those bloody Mormons that kept coming to the house and WOULD NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER!'. The mind boggles at what this level of anger at them not taking no for an answer springs from.
Perhaps my difference from the rest of my family could be explained here. Maybe naughty Mitt really wouldn't take no for an answer from my mother and I should present myself at his house little orphan Annie-like to discuss whether there really is a gay gene. Poor Daddy Romney.
Something blocks the line again.
I'd like to begin with something of a gay cliche. Just for a complete change, obviously. I present to you a textual vision of my mother,
I write this post not quite in the kitchen sink, but most definitely back in the shire. It's my mother's birthday, and I completely eschewed all Halloween silliness to come down to spend time with her. Admittedly for her birthday present I got her a nice plant (no agenda, just pretty) and two Sarah Waters novels (definite agenda). So far she's only commented on the plant, but this is to be expected.
Generally the last twenty four hours have been pretty good. I've managed to be a respectable version of me, without feeling like I'm plastering Laura Ashley wallpaper all over myself. Going upstairs to do my face then reappearing on time, dressed and ready to walk the fifteen minutes* down the hill to the restaurant led to a brand new Mammy Lashism:
'Oh. *stares floorwards* You're in your proper feet and everything'
I was wearing high heeled shoes, and she didn't sound dissaproving. I briefly wondered if she saw me through new eyes. For a while A's crutches seemed like auxiliary limbs when she couldn't put weight on her legs, perhaps my heels have taken up a similar position in my mother's mind.
For those not in the know, my mother and I have come to blows about anything that is very feminine or dressy and thus in her eyes something to be commented upon. At best for being unpractical or at worst, and more usually for being sluttish or ridiculous. This led me to think about some other classic words of motherly wisdom she has come out with over the years:
-'Now, remember before we go to ASDA you've got to make sure you've covered up your bosoms. There are muslims up there'.
-'My collection of books about Richard III is nearly filling that shelf. At the second coming, they'll know which one of the roses I'm with'.
-'Oh you're back wearing reading glasses. Very ageing'.
-'You may as well have that lightbox, it's up in the loft. It's that one of your dad's. He said he was depressed, but it was just Glasgow'.
-'I've thought about that course of yours and it's a bad idea. My friend Sue was telling me about her Sheila who tried to do that counselling and it was all an awful bother. Then she got back onto heroine.'
Needless to say, I learnt the art of understatement from somewhere. Things are by no means ideal with the parents, perhaps they never will be. I still go through a small mental checklist of making sure my tattoos are always covered, keeping conversation topics neutral and maintaining an invisible cyber-femme facade. Like a cyberman being slowly converted from the inside out, I carefully hide my emotions and personality. Perhaps they do too.
Like a dance, I seem to come one step backwards to make several forwards. Appearing to follow, yet resisting. Leading but responding.
*I know, the age of miracles hasn't passed.
As some of you know I am rather old-fashioned. I dress in a self-consciously retro manner. Sometimes this is because I like mid twentieth century aesthetics. I enjoy as a friend put it on one unusually scruffy occassion 'looking like a war-time lesbian'. I wouldn't enjoy assuming a modern bar-going lesbian uniform of very casual and slightly tomboyish attire. There, I've said it.
I've thusly been accused of somehow clinging to my past closet-case existence of hiding behind a respectable shop front. Of blending in or choosing to be invisible. One person, once told me this could be a sign of shame at being gay. Perhaps there was some truth in what they said. I am certain that I spent far too long as a 'straight' teenager attempting to blend in and hide from view. Becoming the femme before you now took a fair amount of ternacity and growth. It's taken a level of balls to be this feminine.
The Victorian-style diagnosis of a title wasn't chosen to give anyone a history lesson. It isn't even a coming of age story of self-realisation*. In a nutshell I feel like the person the normal straight world of work, family and society sees is very different and often the complete opposite of what and who I am inside. On the outside to a lot of people at work I appear to be a slightly eccentric version of normal. Happy that her girlfriend and her had a great pride weekend at various events. She enjoys dancing, eats slightly too much spicy food and clocks in and out like everyone else.
Her closet sometimes stretches all the way to Narnia too.
The reality is not only do I dress a bit Lois Laine-like to work, I have a secret double-identity. When my girlfriend's husband temped in my office in a separate department I referred to him as 'my friend', 'my girlfriend's housemate', 'that guy I know' and 'ye know, the beard, the hair'. We agreed between ourselves that if anything came out about me having two partners I really didn't mind, but I didn't want to have to deal with the tide of pointless questions that would inevitably come along with being out at work. This is just a simple fact for lots of people, poly or otherwise I imagine. What makes me feel sad and really rather strongly ashamed sometimes is I have a vintage closet-case's skill for hiding what's important, joyous and what should make me feel proud.
If one reads pink news, gay star news or follow any of the news sites aimed at an lgbt readership it is full of the march forward of civil rights for gay people. Words can't express my unusual levels of Scottish patriotism that there could be legal same-sex marriage in Scotland before the rest of Britain. Given my mother country was just over a decade behind in making homosexual activity legal this is more than reasonable catch-up in my mind. Queer people can get married, settle down and raise children and as Dan Savage says 'have tense conversations about the joint bank account' just like straight couples can.
If I choose to stay with my girlfriend I cannot have this. At least, not in this neatly-government supported and approved form. If the Doris Day future I fantasized about as a child of growing up to be a mummy and a wife in a pretty suburban home is something I truly want it will take a great deal of effort to get started. All relationships require effort, and a degree of learning to put up with small annoyances, inconveniences and learning how to love each other fiercely enough to weather enormous world-shattering problems. I've already coped with more than one coming out session with reasonably low stakes. The stakes may be higher in future, but if I decided to run away and not take another series of gambles I'm definitely losing everything that's important, and the woman I love.
I'll close this very self-indulgent and sentimental post by pointing out that Doris Day never starred in a film with two households, each with a couple o couples**. Maybe I could femme the fuck up a bit, and create my own kind of camp-classic family, even if only a very elite set of people get to see it in all its sometimes technicolour glory/Stockport-sepia.
* Well maybe a smidge.
**Except Calamity Jane, in particular Kate and Calam's cabin.
Revisiting and reliving past experiences can be fun, especially when there’s a sense of evolution or regeneration. I type now firmly back up north after a fun weekend swaning about down south, including walking along by the Oscar Wilde memorial next to Reading Gaol.
So much of Wilde’s image focuses on his glamour, pose and sparkling achievements as an artist and wit. It therefore seems blinkered to the point of stupidity if the tragic and elegiac parts of his life are not at least acknowledged. There is a place for the grief and sorrow expressed in De Profundis, The Ballad of Reading Gaol or even the Selfish Giant.
Tragedy needn’t be devoid of taste or style though. The designers of this memorial clearly made a ham-fisted attempt at flamboyance by choosing green painted iron depicting lines from the ballad, a proscenium style theatre curtain, and a silhouette of Oscar Wilde in his youth. The shade of green was neither a true emerald, nor a good bottle green, so somehow didn't seem suggestive of either being Irish or being an artist. It looked more like the green velvet of foisty drawing rooms. Perhaps a suburban drawing room aesthetic was what they were angling at, and my image of what was important about Oscar Wilde is utterly misguided.
If we were to put this memorial in the modern vlogers parlance it would say to me ‘It doesn’t get better’. It expresses pity, regret and lamentation while ignoring the strong sense of hope and power of redemption expressed in the ballad. I don’t often get impulses to graffiti public monuments but I felt like scrawling in big red lipsticked letters:
Some love too little, some too long,
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.
Clearly Oscar Wilde did die. He left prison a ‘broken man’ physically and mentally, but surely when even the déclassé rebel continued to express words of purest beauty and truth while in Reading Gaol and abroad, and still continued relationships based on foundations of love, it is clear his spirit never died.
My normally bona blog is all getting rather too earnest for my liking....Let's shift the focus back onto the here and now.
As an expression of disapproval I led a one woman gay shame parade. With the support of an old friend who took a snapshot, I posed very poorly in an outfit suggestive of the ‘rational dress’ movement. Flagging a vermillion red and white spotted chiffon scarf (international symbol of runaways, and Speranza’s favourite colour) on my right hip*, I rocked a set of pearls and large sunglasses.
I’m sorely tempted to write a Daily Mail reader style letter to Reading Council to protest at the tone of the memorial that relentlessly repeats in large yet obscured letters over and over ‘oh beautiful world’ in such a manner that it entirely misses the point.
To sign off in far better words, this time taken from a book used in Oscar Wilde’s trial:
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all*
*I have no idea if Oscar was top or bottom, I doubt it was important.
*Foreword to The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Life is largely mirroring the apple blossom that’s appeared from the tree growing wild next to my apartment block between two lines of fences. Quietly glorious at times and surrounded by a fair bit which is prosaic, ordinary and limiting. Apple blossom is a bit more resilient to the elements than the cascading confetti that’s just been cleared from public parks...but it’ll never make an exciting back drop for movies. Essentially, things are on an even keel and normal.
God I hate it when people throw that vile n word around.
Speaking of normal I was reminded recently of some episodes that made me the gal I am today. Both little anecdotes were dinner time chit chat that left slow ripples in my brain. One came up in a conversation discussing varieties of cane, which of course led to me showing off my little collection. This included the thin whippy cheap-assed yet indestructible one from the nun act (always startles pedestrians seeing a nice girl post gig with her makeup scraped off, apparently looking like a travelling dominatrix in mufti) but most importantly and fondly the thick replica monkey beating stick.
I’m a vegetarian. I drink green tea, give to charity, dislike treading on insects and I open doors for people. I would never advocate animal cruelty or ever be a fan of blood sports. My attachment to the stick that somewhat resembles the thick rattan my mum had (and I think still has, possibly slightly stained) is from the time when sat on the roof of a guesthouse in India doing my maths homework an alpha male Rhesus Makak decided that eleven year old me was a threat. As I remember he leapt over, stupidly not planning for a maternally outraged Makkim woman with a stick and an aggressive disposition. So I was told, quite a lot of the local monkeys in this suburb were from a local laboratory, thus not only did they have no fear of humans they also had a vendetta.
The other anecdote was a well-worn little story, amongst a number of tales or rhetorical cat’s cradles my dad enjoys to set up. When my parents were in Pakistan they were asked by a barman (in the one legal bar in the country) where their two daughters were. They explained that they were back in Glasgow being looked after by a neighbour.* The barman pursued this asking no, do they live with you or their husbands?. I was 12 and my sister was 17, so you can imagine how amusing and bizarre this seemed to us at the time. When dad decided to recount this again a few weeks ago over dinner with his elder daughter, her wife and myself (my closet door recently quietly closed behind me) the amusement value had developed in a very different direction.
So why the weird little flashbacks? More to the point why the witterings about them?
I seem to spend too much time either living in the past or not building a real future to pass into. I feel like I rely on unsophisticated self-expression or putting on a beguiling appearance to get by too much.
In other words I don’t do the full reveal for fear of exposing nothing rather than something.
*Andrea was by this time playing rugby professionally for Scotland. How her being a lesbian had passed by our mother until this year I do not know. Mammy Lash broke the news of Andrea’s happy engagement to a woman while on the brink of gin-induced sobs to yours truly. I’m a good listener on the phone but I have limits.
After foolishly deluding myself yesterday that the reason I hadn’t heard from mum about my letter was because of a problem with royal mail I spoke to both my folks on the phone last night. Mum had in fact got the letter earlier that day, and sounded exceptionally upset and tearful, in fact she seemed a little more upset than she was when her father died. After I’d recovered from hearing her voicemail and called her back she also sounded a little drunk, which perhaps didn’t help.
Thinking about the pain and sadness in her voice is horrible. I now feel quite stupid that I really didn’t expect her to react quite so badly to this. I’d naively hoped that having already gone through this with one daughter she might be prepared to be understanding when it happened again. If anything she seems to be worse this time around.
I had very little idea of what dad’s reaction would be…I’m not sure which of the two was worse. To him though this was the perfect opportunity to point out to me that my life (ie job) is lacking direction and I need to get my act together, talking about my sexuality was ‘an irrelevant distraction from what I really need to do’. As well as listing these parts of my life that apparently make me a woeful disappointment as a person and the evidence of how self-indulgent I was, he felt a need to come out with some utterly breathtakingly hurtful comments about my ex. In particular ‘When I met him I knew he or should I say she, had something weird about him. That much was obvious’. Attacking someone who I always saw as, and always was a man, and a he, who I loved was just low and really unnecessary.
Today I’m still reeling from the whole thing, intermittently feeling like I want to burst into tears or be violently ill. There’s the blow to my self-esteem which in regards to my career was really not high before, the shame and sadness at the pain I’ve caused, and the anger and disgust I feel towards my dad, who I’m frankly ashamed to be related to.
I’m currently trying to remind myself that this will pass. As the youtube videos all say, it does indeed get better. I just never imagined, once the stress of anticipation had passed that I’d feel in this much pain.
My logical (as opposed to biological) family of friends have been nothing but brilliant. As a friend of mine put it when I remarked that I couldn’t understand why my dad felt a need to be such an arsehole ‘But he is an arsehole, you knew that already. That’s kind of what he does’.
I’m looking forward to spending some time with A, who is a constant reminder of how worthwhile this whole difficult process has been. With the interrupted, light, nightmare-filled sleep I’ve been having lately I’m quite tempted to go back to my doctors and ask about maybe getting a short prescription for sleeping tablets (not a cheering thought given that I’d hoped to be able to start the process of weaning off my anti-depressants in the spring, but might be necessary if I don’t get this sorted).
Comfort reading and other assorted blankee-like coping mechanisms beckon. Wearing a constant layer of war paint is helping (how on earth do men cope in a personal crisis without being able to apply a layer of slap to distract from their problems and put on a brave face to the world?).
My own letter wasn’t nearly so eloquent, and could never capture the experience of a generation like this letter does:
I urge anyone regardless of their orientation to read this, as somehow it still rings bells for me, and I imagine for so many people taking the first scary steps to come out to your parents.
So after taking some advice from various people I opted to keep it simple and just put down simply what I felt my mum needed to know. It won't win any awards for style or wit but here it is. I'll be putting it in the post on Monday,so any suggestions welcome.
Writing this letter hasn’t been easy and I wish I knew an easier way of saying this, but I think all I can do is come straight out and say it.
I’m gay. I’ve known I’ve been attracted to women for years now, since I was 15 in fact. I’d hoped that this was a phase that I would grow out of, but in fact as I’ve gotten older it’s become more and more clear that this wasn’t something that was going to go away. I didn’t feel a need to worry about telling you about this, because in the past I still felt attracted to men, and as you know most of my major relationships were with men.
Over time though I’d noticed that my feelings were changing and being with Elliott confirmed that I couldn’t be with a man anymore. Elliott was in the processing of transitioning from female to male, and while he had been taking testosterone for years and passed as a man (I very much doubt Catherine or Dad noticed anything unusual about him when they met him) he was pre-operative when we were together. As the dates of his chest surgery got nearer I realised that I had been attracted to and fallen in love with all the ‘wrong’ parts of him. The masculine features he was developing were leaving me feeling disgusted, and I knew I couldn’t support him through this as his girlfriend anymore. Despite us being together for nearly a year, and still loving him I had to end it and I knew that I was no longer attracted to men at all physically.
I’ve been seeing a woman for a few months now and things are going well. I was sure before we met of who I was, but being with her has made me glad to have been brave and making this step.
I appreciate this may all comes as a bit of a shock, and I don’t expect you to welcome this news. I can assure that I am certain about this, and this really isn’t something which is going to change. If it helps at all I now feel so much happier to be able to acknowledge this to myself and to stop pretending. Feeling like I’m lying and constantly having to cover this up from you and dad has been really stressful, and I knew I didn’t want to have to continue all of this deception.
While I’m not sorry about who I am I’m sad that I haven’t been able to be the kind of daughter that you had in mind. I know it wasn’t easy for you when Catherine came out to you. I’m also sorry that I’ve not said this to you face to face, but I knew it was important that I put all my thoughts down in a way where I can make myself clear. I’m off work this Friday and Saturday and I’d be happy to get the train down to see you on Thursday evening to talk things through more. I’d understand if you’d prefer it if I didn’t but if you could please just let me know.
I don’t expect you to be happy about this news but please remember that really not a lot (except for me a bit more honest) has changed.
Hopefully see you soon; please ring when you get this.
Lots of love,
So Christmas and returning to my parent’s house down in the shire looms large. It’s fair to say that while I generally get along pretty well with my parents, and lord knows it’s been far worse in the past, it’s not really an experience I relish. So with eleven days to go till I go back to the house I grew up in, back ‘home’ feels very far away indeed. Mental and practical preparations need to be made for me to put on my three-day long one woman show entitled ‘I’m not a kinky, poly queer cock-dodger’. As if dealing with the big gay white elephant in the room (which as far as I know only I can see) wasn’t tiring and stressful enough I’m sure I have yet more of dad’s bad tempered snipes about my career or lack thereof to contend with.
The last proper family gathering for my mum’s 60th in October was incredibly stressful. In the middle of the countryside cut off from civilisation, and my Manchester family and going cold turkey from my mobile internet connection I knew it was going to be hard. Going out the night before with A to see Rent was simultaneously a fabulous secret life-line giving a place to drift off and daydream to, but also by relief with the conservative surroundings something of a taunting distraction, bringing a flush to my cheeks that had nothing to do with wholesome country walks.
My resolve was strong though, the previous night’s show tunes still ringing in my head I was determined to be a quiet version of myself. I didn’t wear seamed, thin or patterned hosiery (ok, they had to be stockings with a good suspender belt, but they’re quite opaque with concealed support). I wore a made to measure 40s style satin dress that I ordered because it looks smoke-grey demure, and covers my cleavage, shoulders and upper arms. The material is of a weight and cut that no matter how fast I spin it would never fly up and flash my knickers. I put on demure ivory toned (simulated) pearls and small white artificial flowers in my hair. I left my false eyelashes at home, and only put on foundation, liquid eyeliner and simple cold-toned red lipstick.
I still got from my mother ‘Hmm, dressed to kill again I see’.
From my sister in law ‘Why do you curl your fringe? You’re cutting down on drinking time’
From my other sister in law ‘Where’s that from? Very Dita!’
I had a gorgeous four-poster, high mattressed bed in a beautiful room at the top of a high hill in the Peaks. Alone I felt cosy and protected. Being gawped at by a large room of slightly too drunk people is nothing new. Sadly neither is feeling utterly alone when I’m the weird spectacle….I still missed my husbear quite painfully. I was feeling an altogether different kind of longing for A.
Being the black-sheep in my family I guess wouldn’t be hard, next to my painfully high-achieving, squeaky-clean uber-respectable sister. Ok, she’s gay but she’s very much settled with a respectable wife, pension, mortgage and career. My brother’s right-wing outlook on the world might have given Goebbels the heebie-jeebies, but he was also there with his (outwardly) blonde and ditzy wife. Choice conversation from him included scientific ‘proof’ of the gay gene, and proposing that travellers, the disabled and all long term benefits claimants undergo enforced sterilisation by the DWP.
All in all they’re people that wrapped up in their own concerns it’s really quite unlikely that they’d show enough of an interest to be ‘caught out’. I can safely let go of that insecurity. Arming myself with my laptop, some choice music and DVDs will get me through. Failing that there’s always a bountiful supply of gin at the Bona Clan residence. Once Christmas is officially over I can finally begin the process of finally doing the final reveal to my folks. Part of me feels quite scared about the disapproval and hurt that this might provoke, part of me wonders if it’s really going to be all that significant. I have no idea what few adjectives they’d put next to me. All this will do is add ‘gay’ to that limited list that describes the tiny view of my life that they have.
Bring on the New Year and a return to sanity…
Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; nor more nor less.
The jewels of our father, with wash'd eyes
Cordelia leaves you: I know you what you are;
When I began the process of coming out I hadn’t realised this was something I would have to do over and over again. Coming out to myself and leaving the stage-lit, elaborately decorated Barbie dream-closet I’d made wasn’t easy. Leaving the husbear was worse. Maintaining a relationship as lovers had become impossible, and I’d so often dreamed of an escape from the constant black cloud of worry that had been hanging over my head for months. My love for him as my friend and companion never waned. Part of me still wishes that I could be the dutiful femme he needed to see him through the process of transitioning. I think it came to a point where him growing into the person he always was had to take priority over a relationship that had sprung up between two people who no longer existed.
Another surprise has been the sheer length of time it’s taken me to get to this point. It always seemed to me that being either gay or straight was something you simply knew from day one in black and white terms. I’m still unsure as to whether I’ve ‘jumped the fence’ from a predominantly straight bisexual to lesbian, or that I was gay all along and simply wandered off the path for a spell. Either way I can’t help but feel like in the school of sexual orientation, I’m sat at the special desk in remedial class with a circle of paper and a chubby crayon.
It’s fair to say De Brett’s doesn’t provide you with the received etiquette for public social occasions with your girlfriend and her husband. I’ve already eschewed asking if I can bring a plus one to a solstice dinner party (as my plus one has a plus one of her own). Christmas is a time for giving and sharing, but depriving your pals of their second helping of paxo for the sake of poly harmony seems a little much to ask.
By and large I’ve managed to avoid being on the sharp end of ignorance and judgement. Yes I have an understanding and (I shudder to type) ‘alternative’ social circle, but by and large I’ve avoided unpleasantness through a kind of don’t ask don’t tell policy. It’s sometimes frustrating being unable to enthuse about how good it feels to be plodding through a ho-hum working day a little more easily knowing that evening you’ll be Lindy hopping with your new squeeze’s husband. Inevitably should we ever encounter problems then monogamous friends and family will blame this entirely on our dynamic. The idea that relationships can be fluid and change shape over time to suit people’s changing needs is evidently too much for some people to comprehend if those changes include sleeping with people other than your spouse.
I’m more saddened for the straight rule-following world than I am for myself. Most people know how good it feels to be going through the honeymoon period of a new relationship. After all the neurotic gnashing of teeth and pain that went with splitting from my husbear and coming over to the dyke side I’ve stumbled upon A. I’m undeservedly lucky to be with such a gorgeous creature, in so many senses. I can’t imagine tiring of waking up next to those blue eyes and tell-tale tousled hair, her legs that go on for days, and the soft blissful curve of her hips. She has the whole package of beauty, intelligence, thoughtfulness and more than a little geekishness. I’ve found the marmite to my hot buttered toast. The husband-shaped part of the package could add to and strengthen what we have, not take away.
The most obvious benefits have included so far:
-Further excuse to break out of my cooking-for-one slobbish routine.
-A willing volunteer to polish off my attempts at custard.
-Automatically having common ground
-Freedom to be myself and not feel I ought to be A’s everything.
-Having a kink conspirator.
-Gaining family (of the amiable drinking buddy variety).
Letting go of my white picket fenced dreams of how my life was going to pan out has been hard. Like any relationships I’m certain there’ll be uncertain, painful and boring times ahead. Not shouting about it from the highest hills or being seen as the ‘other woman’ is tiresome, but right now I wouldn’t want to swap.
Should the day ever arrive where I can truly reveal all to my folks about my life I want it to be written on the back of one of these: