As a writer, I am always impressed by a truly unforeseen plot twist. So when I suddenly realized I was a lesbian at the age of 33, I thought: damn… that’s genius. I did not see that coming at all. All those hours spent innocently googling “Kate McKinnon” while Brian pummelled the couch over the Cornhuskers don’t really seem like time well spent anymore. I am stunned.
I mean, if my life were a novel, this would be terrible writing. The reader would be flipping back, looking for pages they must have skipped, thinking: “So you’re telling me that she hates when her boyfriends have the audacity to kiss her, yet she keeps asking them out? That three different boyfriends have told her that she felt more like a friend to them, which genuinely surprised her all three times? And she gave up her parents’ free Netflix in favor of paying for her own so she could binge The L Word undetected because… she likes it for the articles? What freshman fiction workshop did this stinker fail out of?”
This is the definition of dramatic irony. The reader is aware of a critical fact of which our protagonist is not. Because somehow, in spite of all this, I wrote in diary after diary all my 30-something years, with the ungainly innocence of a newborn giraffe: “Lesbians are so lucky. It’d be so cool to be one. Yet here I am stuck dating men. Oh well. What a pickle.”
This particular plotline reached a fabulous crescendo when I had a full-blown panic attack because the book I was reading about the “friendship” between classical hero Achilles and his boy companion Patroclus made me feel funny inside.
“U Gay, Dawg” I wrote in the margin as Patroclus wrestled with some unnameable attraction to Achilles, and also wrestled with actual Achilles because this was ancient Greece. And then tentatively, fearfully, in these exact agrammatic words: “…I Gay, Dawg?”
No. What? But seriously though… I gay? I? The problem all along was the pickle?
At that precipitous moment, my story veered sharply off into the uncharted and howled, “Surprise bitch, you're a lesbian!”
And just like that, this baby giraffe stood herself up and barreled headlong into a metaphorical lifelong Taco Tuesday. Maybe the real lesson was in the flannels we gained along the way.
Now, queerness itself was not totally foreign to me, as I had identified as bisexual since I was 21 (and before that I just really, really liked Wednesday Addams for no particular reason, I’m sure). But that identity just never felt quite right for reasons I couldn’t articulate. Me realizing I was gay wasn’t that I transferred from bi to lesbian like hopping on a different train at the sexuality station. It was more like there was a blinding fog and I thought I was riding a train, and then suddenly the fog lifts and, holy crap, I’ve been on a sailboat this whole time?! That’s awesome—I love sailing! I should have gone to sea years ago. And what a view!
Thus, me being a lesbian is not exactly “Bruce Willis was a ghost the whole time.” It’s more like “Oh nice, these decorative teapots are on sale!” Of course they are. As they should be.
So, I appreciate the unending patience that I have received from all of my loved ones who have had to listen to me rant over the years about how this boyfriend leaves his beard clippings in the sink like testosterone-confetti, and this boyfriend is annoyingly rough when he cuddles (though seriously, Jeff, I’m a girlfriend, not a rhinoceros). And the sheer fortitude you all showed when I had that haircut that can only be described as a city mullet… the clues were stacking up like boxes in a U-Haul, but sometimes it really does take homoerotic mythological fiction to put gay proper on the brain. So I thank you for letting me just be me. You are the wind beneath my cuffed jeans.
And if you are reading this thinking that you too have been aroused by a sudden interest in sailing or that you are also sick of having your furniture tenderized at the hands of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, then I would advise you to simply: know thyself. And then abruptly dump your boyfriend and buy three flannels at Costco. So that finally, in a moment of nascent clarity, like taking the first big real breath of your entire life, you can place them oh so gently in your hatchback and bellow confidently to the world: