Monday, October 28, 2013

A Rose by Any Other Name

A friend recently asked a group of us when it was that we first realized our sexual orientation. I honestly could not answer. Maybe I could not answer because I am still confronting the question. I told her I wasn’t sure, that I could easily be bi. I mean I like guys. I’ve always liked guys. I have been with my husband for thirty years. We met when I was nineteen, but the year before I had had a serious attraction to a girl in my dorm. I felt uncomfortable and confused, certain that it was just a side effect of being away from home for the first time. I didn’t share my feelings with anyone, didn’t see it necessary. Still. The attraction was there.

I’ve always liked to look at women. I mean, LOOK at women. I enjoy a nice set of beautiful breasts, an engaging walk. Just being honest. I have always dismissed this as envy, sizing up the competition, appreciation of beauty. Maybe it’s all of that. Maybe it’s all of that and something a little more.

If I am confessing, I am not gender specific in whose head I turn. As long as heads are turning and looks are being had, life is good. Flirting, to me, is just a part of conversation, something that is done as a matter of course. I place no rules or restrictions on the recipient of a seductive glance or batting of the lashes.

Is this me, then, coming out of the closet? I don’t think so. I think it’s just me, figuring out if I’m even in the closet.

As I answered my friend’s question, another question came into my head. Would my current friends still like me if they found out I, indeed, were bisexual? And, to follow up on that, how different would I have to be for you to consider me no longer your friend? What if my skin color were not what it is, my religious beliefs, my political bent? Underneath all of it, I am still me. At what point would you draw that line? Granted, any superficial change would result in a concurrent deep-rooted social change. We all know that we are only who we are because of all that has happened to us in our lives.

To complicate my question further, then, am I me because of the life that I have led, or am I me because of egg and sperm? Regardless the answer, what would it take for you to deem me no longer worthy of your love? Where do you draw that line?

When I was a little girl, I loved to play with paper dolls. Tiny tabs held shoes, pants, and skirts on various paper figures. With nothing more than a whim, one could completely change an outfit or lifestyle. This is what I’m getting at. Do this for a second. Picture the homeless woman crouched inside the bridge, wearing last week’s dirt and reeking of piss, valued possessions in a shopping cart beside her, and sign that reads, “I was you once upon a time. Have a beautiful day.” Now. Put my face on that woman. Put my face on her and tell me, do you love me now? Do you love me enough to let others know that you love me, to spend time talking to me, to share a meal? Put my face on any number of women who represent everything you find repulsive and tell me, how do you love me now? Am I not still me inside the skin, aside from the sexual preference, in spite of the ideological leanings and idiosyncratic lifestyles?

Am I not still a child of God?

Hate the sin; love the sinner. I hear many say this. This is not love. Love is pure and simple and without condition. It is heart to heart embrace, seeing one’s self in another. Understanding that we are all interconnected and that what I do to you, I do to myself. It is, “I love you.” Period.

This is love. How different would I have to be for you to deem me unworthy of that? How different would I have to be?

Where do YOU draw that line?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Love Letter. To Myself.

I have spent most of my life embarrassed of who I am. I have spent most of my life hiding from the parts of me I cannot face, hating the childhood I cannot change, creating a reality that did not exist. I took the cold, sad, lonely little girl that was me, and I shoved her into the darkness of my head. I buried that little girl. I buried her in my mind. I allowed only her bubbly, singing, pom pom flinging alter to shine through, to follow me through my days and out into the world. I embraced the pretty, loved the good, shared the sweet. I painted a beautiful picture, smiled a pleasing smile, put on the goddamned proverbial happy face. Well. The aching stomach, welts on the legs, tear streaked wretch of a girl begged her turn for love. She begged, and still I pushed her back.

Have you ever been hungry, ever asked for food, but could not have it? Could not have it because it was not there.

Have you ever cried alone in the dark, tear stained pillow, cuts fresh on the legs from the switch, thin and stinging?

Have you ever chewed your nails to nubs, made yourself throw up because the stress of all the yelling and fighting and swearing and hitting is just too much?

Have you ever sat your skinny little six-year-old ass on the cold metal rim of a coffee can day after day just to pee because among the other things this house doesn’t have, like heat on a winter’s night or a washer for all the diapers your mother has to clean by hand, it doesn’t have a bathroom, a toilet or a tub?

I got brave one day. I wrote my story. I let that little girl out onto page. A friend suggested that perhaps the story was too heavy, too depressing, that maybe it needed a happier end. She suggested that readers want an upbeat tale, a hopeful read. I wanted to say that if the story was too much for a fifty-year-old, too much for a grown up, what, then, of the little girl who lived it? My story was real. It was not me sitting over a table agonizing about character development and plot. It was me wearing the same clothes day in and day out, me being ridiculed and teased, me wishing for a different life, wishing for a better way. My story wasn’t pretty, no. But it was real.

So I wrote the story. I let the little girl out. I allowed her space. I thought I was good. I thought I was free of her. I thought I was. Until now.

Have you ever faked self-love?

Have you ever, in your head, believed something that you never felt in your heart?

I have spent most of my life embarrassed of who I am. I am done with that now. I am glad for that childhood. I am glad for it. It is not one I would ever have chosen, no. But it is because of that childhood that I feel the compassion, the love, the sense of oneness that I do. It is because of that childhood that I embrace those who are different. Because I know. I know not because I have read, but because I have felt. I have felt the pain and humiliation of being one of the so-called dregs of society. I have felt the stares, the jabs, the denigrating thoughts. And yet to this point I have merely acknowledged this little girl in my head. I have only looked at her, allowed her room, given her space. And still, I am disgraced by her presence, disgusted by her words.

Enough. Enough already.

I am ready now to embrace her for the beautiful little girl she is. I am ready to hold her and to love her and to tell her what a big and wonderful heart she has and how strong, how very strong she can be. I am ready to hold her and to cry with her and to tell her how sorry I am that she had to go through all of this and how sorry I am that I never loved her before. I am ready to hold her and to tell her how sorry I am that I never stayed with her and protected her, but that I am here for her now and will never, never leave. I am ready now not to worry what others might think, not to worry about words or thoughts or stares. I am ready now, ready to love her just for who she is.