Category Archives: Coming Out

Writer’s block

images[8]I’ve got a serious case of writer’s block.

I have four or five memoir chapters started.  They just need to be fleshed out, tightened up and polished to a high-gloss shine.

Last weekend, I gave myself a deadline.  I would pick one of the unfinished chapters and complete it by Monday night.  I would then send it out to my critique buddies for their input.

I write for a living, so the deadline thing — even a self-imposed one — carries weight in my world.

I picked a chapter and started toying around with it.  But every time that I sat down to write, I just couldn’t find the words to say what it was that I wanted to say.

Monday’s deadline came and went.  The chapter remains unfinished.

Here’s what I’m writing about:

I am in college and unaware of my attraction to women.  I’m about 21 years. 

A group of us are walking around in the town that borders our college campus.  It’s a rainy Sunday morning and we’re looking for someplace to grab a bite to eat.

As we’re wandering around town, I am drawn to a girl across the street.  Her back is to me.  She’s wearing blue jeans.  I can’t take my eyes off her backside.  Her rear end is tight and curvy and there’s just something about it that has me captivated.  (C’mon, ladies, you know what I’m talking about.)  I am oblivious to everything else around me.

My friend breaks my focused concentration.

“Do you think you can stare any harder at that girl’s ass?” she asks.

Of course, I deny looking at the posterior of the girl standing across the street.  I say that I was looking at something else.  You must be a weirdo for thinking that I was looking at a girl let alone a girl’s ass.  This is the story I tell my friend.  And myself.

So, those are the facts.  I’m struggling with describing what I saw, what attracted me, how I felt inside.

I mentioned this to a friend the other night.  She said it made sense that I was having a hard time “feeling” this incident.  It was a time in my life that I was repressing my feelings and there was certainly shame surrounding those feelings.

She gave me some tips on how to break through this block and look at the situation in a different way.

I’ve been thinking about what she said and how to approach this chapter in a different way.

I did a bit of free writing yesterday morning and came up with a few ideas, but it certainly wasn’t a rush of thoughts and emotions.

I was still thinking about the chapter as I showered.  Trying to put myself back in that place at that time.  Trying to remember what it was like to be young and different but not know why.  I could feel the tears welling up.

A few tears mixed in with the water from the shower.  But the floodgates never opened.

It’s been more than 30 years, and I’m still holding it all inside.

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The lesbian discount

W and I might be vacationing in Provincetown, Mass., in July.

We don’t get a lot of alone time, so this could be just what the Lesbian Doctor of Love ordered.  (Think Melissa Etheridge with a stethoscope.)

Initially, we had talked about going to Boston or Salem, Mass., but W texted me today and asked what I thought about P-Town.

I texted back that it is one of my life goals to buy something from the Provincetown Women’s Bookstore.

Cue flashback swirls and trippy music.

Flashback

The year was 2002.  A guy named Bush was president.  Later on, this will seem ironic or like heavy handed foreshadowing.

I am participating in a therapy group called “Married to a Man and in Love With a Woman.”  I am married to a man.  I can’t fathom the woman part even though I fantasize about it.

During one of these therapy sessions, a fellow participant talks about going on vacation in Provincetown with her family.  She is surrounded by hand-holding, rainbow flag-waving gay people but unable to tell her conservative family about her girlfriend.

She tells us that the Women’s Bookstore in town offers a 10 percent discount to women-loving women.  “You just have to ask for the lesbian discount,” she explains.

The bisexual in the group asks if she would get a 5 percent price reduction.

The moment that I hear about the lesbian discount, I want it.  It’s not about saving the 10 percent (even though I’m cheap like that) but about being able to identify as a lesbian.

At the time, it’s something that I can’t even imagine.  No one knows I’m a lesbian.  Not my husband or my parents or my friends.  How could I possibly tell a stranger that I’m one?

The Women’s Bookstore becomes a mythic mountain of sorts.  A challenge to train for and to conquer.

More than a decade later, I am ready.

I know that I can confidently ask for the lesbian discount.

Somehow, I suspect that they would give it to me anyway.

Why Bomb Girls bombed

Last night, I ended up watching Bomb Girls for the first time.  I was surfing the channels and found the Canadian TV drama on some offbeat channel called Reelz.  I knew the show had a lesbian storyline, so it had my attention from the get go.   I’m obvious like that.

If you don’t know anything about Bomb Girls, it’s about a group of women working in a munitions factory during World War II.

Meg in Bomb Girls

Meg in Bomb Girls

Sure, the show had me at “girls,” but there was one thing that made the show unwatchable for me — Meg Tilly, who looks a lot like her actress sister, Jennifer Tilly.

Every time I saw Meg on screen, I immediately thought about her sister Jennifer and her portrayal of Violet, the sexy Sapphic mobster mistress in Bound, my third favorite lesbian flick of all time.  I was like Pavlov’s dog.  If Pavlov’s dog was a lesbian.

Bound came out right around the time that I did, and I was instantly obsessed with the movie.  I can remember one of my co-workers asking me about my sudden fascination with Gina Gershon.

“What is it about Gina Gershon?” she asked, throwing up her hands to illustrate her inability to grasp my sudden fixation with the B-list actress.

Just saying Gina Gershon still gets me all hot and bothered.  Gina Gershon.

I’m not sure that I knew what was up with me and Gina Gershon.  But I knew that Bound, with its Gershon-on-Tilly action, had me thinking about a whole lot of things in a very different way.

I had gone to see Bound with my husband, who was repulsed by the movie.

“I thought the movie was supposed to be about lesbians,” he said.

He meant the kind of lesbians who wear tube tops and make out with each other and the cute pizza delivery boy in a hot tub.

But these were my kind of lesbians.  Real and gritty.  Hot and sexy.  With tattoos.  In the end, Gina Gershon’s character of Corky gets the girl.  There is no pizza boy.  They never even order a small pie.

My first tattoo is actually a labrys modeled after the one that Corky sports in Bound.  I told you — I was obsessed.

Gina and Jennifer in Bound

Gina and Jennifer in Bound

Ok, so back to Bomb Girls.  Meg Tilly looked old and sallow and haggard.  And, here’s the thing — every time she came on screen, I kept thinking about  Violet.  Why was she working in a factory?  And what was up with that do-rag?

Sometimes we want to stay in that magic bubble where we looked our best and had the whole world spread out before us.  Meg Tilly certainly had me feeling my own age — that whole coming out thing was over a decade ago — and missing that exciting time of self-discovery and all-consuming thoughts of naked women.  Corky and Violet had, in a way, made that possible.  They showed me that it was possible to get the girl in the end and live happily ever after.

Butch and more butch

300h[1]I was reading the paper today and stumbled upon this quote by Pink:

“I was always considered butch.  Feeling beautiful to me is when I feel good in my leather pants and my husband grabs my ass.”

The word “butch” took me by surprise.

Hey, that’s my word.  My thing.  Me.  I am Middle-age butch, after all.

Why is a straight woman like Pink using the word “butch” in reference to herself?

Sure, Pink is an edgy, bad-ass rock star who looks hot in leather pants.  If a straight girl is going to use that word, it might as well be Pink.

I guess the flannel on my shirt stood straight up for a moment there because the word “butch” means something to me.

After I came out, I considered myself a “soft butch.”  Something like a tomboy with harder edges and more rigid views about my sexuality.

I transitioned to what I consider a regular butch a few years later.  The more butch I became, the shorter my hair.  I’m sure there’s an algorithm for that somewhere.

I hit my butch stride when I first started dating W.  I was rocking jeans and flannel shirts from the young men’s department.  Thick black belts and Dr. Marten’s boots.  I felt good in my body.  Like things fit — like I fit — for the first time in my life.

I carried myself differently.  With more confidence and purpose.

At the time, I was participating in a weekly therapy group related to coming out.  I used to leave therapy and head over to W’s apartment for a quickie.  Feeling large and in charge.  Taking her in my arms and kissing her deftly and with purpose.  (We later determined that there is no such thing as a Sapphic quickie.)

Lately, I’ve felt restless in this body.  In this butch body.  Stagnant.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t changed things up in awhile.

imagesCAYXS717In the past, there have always been firsts.  Neckties, tattoos, men’s vests and suits.  Chunky boots and thick leather bracelets.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still love wearing ties, Dr. Marten’s and studded bracelets.  They make me feel sexy and alive.

But maybe it’s time to stir things up a bit.  Butch up.  Be more butch.  Butcher.  Live butch.  Love butch.

Butch.  It’s not just for breakfast anymore.  And if it was, it would beat the hell out of oatmeal and OJ every single day of the week.

Maybe I should wear my hair shorter.  Trade in my Hanes Her Way for the ones on the other side of the store.

There’s still a lot of unexplored territory.

In the end, “butch” is just a word.  Like “femme” and “dyke,” “queer” and “queen.”

It only means more if you want it to.

To me, butch is power and comfort, sex appeal and swagger.  It reminds me of a young girl long ago who didn’t know who she was or how she would ever be anything other than scared and unsure.

To me, butch is more than a label.  More than a way of life.  It’s who I am and how I came to be.

So, if Pink wants to say that people have always viewed her as a butch, who can blame her?

Not this butch.

Why the Millionaire Matchmaker would have outed me decades ago

I have a thing for the reality show Millionaire Matchmaker, which airs on Bravo.

Matchmaker Patti Stanger

Matchmaker Patti Stanger

The show features Patti Stanger, a third-generation matchmaker who sets up millionaires with potential matches.

I’m not sure why I like the show, but I do.

Part of the reason might be that I only watch shows that are on channels 58 (A&E) through 78 (OWN), with the exception of sporting events and channel 50 (FOOD).  Which really limits my viewing options.  No real reason.  I’m just weird, and cable television presents way too many choices for me.

Anyway, there was a  Millionaire Matchmaker marathon on today.  I had it on in the background while I did a kazillion loads of laundry and continued to pack up Christmas.

I’ve always wished that the show was around back in the day when I was dating guys and sporting long red fingernails.

I’ll never forget one episode of Millionaire Matchmaker in which Patti attempted to out a suspected lesbian who was auditioning for a potential date with a millionaire.

She asked if the woman typically liked “pretty boys.”

Whoa.  That rang a bell.  I always had a thing for “pretty boys.”  Well, at least until I admitted my attraction to pretty girls.

Today, Patti talked about how a masculine energy female attracts a feminine energy male.  My dating history makes so much sense now.

Without further ado, here are Middle-age butch’s biggest male crushes of all time:

PRINCE (number 1 of all time)

I always liked guys with really cheesy mustaches and good bone structure.

I always liked guys with really cheesy mustaches and good bone structure.

JON BON JOVI

I had this poster in my dorm room.  Such nice long hair and pretty clothes.

I had this poster in my dorm room. Such nice long hair, pretty clothes and sexy eyeliner.

STEVEN TYLER

Dude looks like a lady.

Dude looks like a lady.

JOHNNY DEPP

Perhaps the prettiest of them all.

Perhaps the prettiest of them all.

Anyone else care to share?

It does get better — and easier to buy lesbian erotica

With National Coming Out Day hitting last week, I read a lot of blogs that talked about coming out and found it interesting that a lot of bloggers chose to end their blog postings with comments about how it gets better.

Even Middle Age Butch commented In Celebration of National Coming Out Day “that it does get better and easier.”

With that said, I thought I’d explore some of the ways that things have gotten better for this butch lesbian since coming out a decade or so ago.

ONE.  I can carry around a copy of the Philadelphia Gay News in public without shame.  I knew that I was becoming more comfortable with being out when a gentleman approached me in Borders, pointed to the newspaper that I was carrying and asked where he could get a copy.  I didn’t blush or stammer and eloquently directed him to the upstairs news rack.

TWO.  I can buy lesbian erotica from a bookstore without turning 50 shades of red.  I remember buying a lesbian erotica book in the early days of my coming out.  Another “research project” for this fresh-out-of-the-closet butch.  I’m not sure who was more embarrassed, me or the female bookstore clerk.  I had wedged the erotica in between a stack of unassuming books in an attempt to camouflage it.  The Canterbury Tales, Best Butch Femme Erotica, Little Women, The Essential Wok Cookbook.  The clerk wasn’t falling for my well-planned ruse.  She took one look at the canoodling women on the front cover of the erotica book and turned as red as the freshly spanked ass on page 73.  Which, in turn, made me blush.  I think I threw a couple of twenties at her and ran for the door.  Or at least that’s what I wanted to do.

I like that I have enough swagger and confidence these days to buy an erotica book without turning  colors like a lesbian chameleon, losing consciousness or  pretending that the book is for my pretend lesbian friend, Ronnie.  “Oh, she’s such a raging lesbian.  Big, strapping bull dyke of a girl.  She is really going to love this.”

THREE.  I’m not fazed when someone mistakenly refers to me as “sir.”  I usually just deepen my voice and go with it, unless the person realizes his or her mistake and begins to apologize profusely.  “Not a problem,” I’ll say and mean it.  I used to look over my shoulder and wonder who the rude guy was who was ignoring someone’s question.

I could have been just like Sandy West of The Runaways

FOUR.  I can do what I want these days without stereotypical gender restrictions.  For example, my mother never let me take drum lessons when I was a kid because, apparently, drums are for boys.  These days, I can pay for my own lessons and become a rock star in a kick-ass all-girl rock band.  Except that I’m 45 and way too old for late-night gigs and really loud music and being on the road for prolonged periods of time.  But I totally could if I wanted to.

FIVE.  I pay for my own clothes these days, so I can shop in the men’s department for all of my apparel needs.  I can buy and wear ties and pinstripes and sleeveless T-shirts and suspenders.  Whatever floats this butch’s boat.

So, it does get better.  A lot better.  It’s all about liking the skin that you’re in.  With that comes confidence and on the really good days a little bit of swagger, especially when I’m wearing a necktie or maybe a really thick leather wrist cuff.  On those days, I’m a rock star, even though I never learned how to play the drums.

Coming out to an old friend

We went to a wedding yesterday.   Me and W and all three kids.

One of W’s second cousins once removed or something like that got married.

When we walked into the church, I saw a woman who looked like someone I had played softball with ten plus years ago.  So, during the church service and the reception festivities, I stared at her, trying to figure out if wedding attendee was former softball teammate.

She probably thought that I was going to hit on her or that I was a creepy stalker.  I get that a  lot.

W did some detective work at the reception, but no one seemed to know the name or identity of this mystery woman.

“Maybe she’ll recognize you,” W said.  I knew that wasn’t remotely possible as I look nothing like the superstar softball stud that I was in the 1990s.  I certainly played ball like a butch back then, but I was still sporting longer hair and shopped in the ladies department for about 50 percent of my apparel.

I told W to get a good look at her face so that when we got home she would be able to identify her using a softball championship photo that I have.  I wanted W to be able to spot this woman in a police line-up or pick her out from the pages of her own Where’s Waldo? book, if she had one, of course.

Did you ever play softball?

As you can probably tell, I was way too embarrassed to just approach her and ask if she played softball back in the day.  That’s fine for people with average social skills.  Middle age butch does not boast average people skills.

However, when we were getting ready to leave, I got up the nerve to ask her if she used to play softball in a league.

Turns out that she did.

We had a nice chat about the old days — good times, good times — and she filled me in on our other teammates.  Most are now married with kids.

At one point, she said that she never would have recognized me with the short hair.

“Yeah, short hair.  And I wear ties now,” I said, touching the black striped one peeking out from under my vest.

The tie comment, of course, meant more than, hey, I started wearing men’s clothes and accessories since the last time that I saw you.

“It’s all good,” my friend said, “as long as you’re happy.”

I never get tired of having people from my past give me their stamp of approval.

It sounds pathetic.  But it’s comforting to know that people still like me, regardless of who I’m sharing my bed and life with these days.

In celebration of National Coming Out Day

In honor of National Coming Out Day, I thought I’d share a few highlights from my own coming out.

I’ve touched on the subject in this post.

But I thought I’d offer these random tidbits:

Oh, Blockbuster, I’ll never forget you

* Our local Blockbuster clerk was the first person that I came out to.  I didn’t exactly say, “Hey, buddy, raging lesbian here.  I’ll need a copy of Show Me Love, Ellen’s latest stand-up special and The L Word Season 2.”

I was much more subtle.  Renting every lesbian movie that Blockbuster had using some list that I procured from the Internet.  Go Fish, check.  When Night Is Falling, check.  But I’m a Cheerleader, check.  Strictly for research purposes, of course.  See all of my favorite lesbian movies here.

* I saw Kissing Jessica Stein days before I came out, which is probably why that movie holds a special place in my heart.  That and Jennifer Westfeldt is super cute.  I can remember watching the movie and feeling like Jessica, Helen and I were learning the ropes of lesbianism together.

Me, Jessica and Helen — beginner lesbians

* My best friend was the first person who I told that I was a lesbian.  I informed her at the tail end of a phone conversation.  Five minutes later, she called back.

Me: Hello.

Friend: I have a question.

Me: Yes?

Friend: Were you ever attracted to me?

Because this is what straight girls want to know when you reveal that you’re a lesbian.  Did you ever want to fuck me?

* I came out to the bulk of my friends and family in a Christmas letter.  Son turned 5 this year and built the Millennium Falcon out of Legos, and oh, by the way, I’m gay.  This is why you should always read every word of those holiday form letters.

I once heard Kurt Vonnegut speak. He was brilliant.

* “I’m gay.”  It’s two words.  They are the hardest words that I ever had to say to my parents.

I love this quote from Kurt Vonnegut.  “If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts.”  I did both.

* My mother had suggested that I stay in the closet until my son turned 16.  He was almost 4 years old when I came out.  Because that would have been so great for his development.

“Son, you know that I like softball.  Well, your mom really, really, really likes softball,” I imagine myself saying.

* * *

If you’re already out, fist bump.  If not, know that it does get better and easier.  It’s certainly a step that you should take when you’re completely ready and not a minute sooner.

Until then, maybe rent some gay or lesbian movies on Netflix.  Tell them middle age butch sent you.

Any coming out tales you’d like to share?

My life in buckets

As I mentioned in my post Of College and closets, me and W and the kids had an overnighter last Saturday at a resort in the Pocono Mountains.  A college chum was throwing a big birthday bash for her hubby’s 50th.  Five-oh.  How did we ever get to be as old as our parents?

Anyway, college pal paid for the whole thing — rooms, food and activities — for 100 of her closest friends and family members.

My friend has done rather well for herself.  Turns out that she was just promoted to Chief Technology Officer for a Fortune 500 company.  Cool fact: She now has access to the company jet, which means she’s practically Wonder Woman.  Sweet.

This is all hard to process because among our peers my friend is most famous for drinking beer out of shoes.  Who knew this would lead to promotions, enormous wealth and jets?

The weekend was a blast.  We told old stories and drank.  And drank and told old stories.  I had a hang-over that lasted into today, so you know it was a good time.

I’ve known my college friends for nearly three decades now.  That’s most of my life.  We met at that crucial time when we were all trying to figure out who we were and where we were going.  Our bonds are forged in steel.  Steel made moist and slick with beer, grain alcohol and something sticky like Ouzo or maybe peppermint schnapps.

With that said, W is relatively new to my life.  We’ve been together for about six years now and are still weaving our history.  Each day is a new stitch.

Last weekend seemed to raise some issues for her.  Before you start thinking that I’m super-intuitive, I should probably tell you that she tipped me off.

“This weekend raised some issues for me,” she said.

W only knows the me that I’ve been presenting to the world in recent years.  Short hair.  Clothes purchased in the young men’s section of department stores.  Dr. Martens.  Tattoos.  Chivalry.

She doesn’t know college butch, who wasn’t a butch at all.  I think the stories about picking up guys threw her.  Again, she told me as much.

“Those stories about picking up guys threw me,” she said.

W never met the me with long hair and painted nails who had one-night stands.  With men.

If I had a do-over button, I’d push it without hesitation.  Multiple times just like I was waiting for a slow-to-arrive elevator.  One of my regrets in life is that I’m not a gold-star lesbian.  Potential.  Totally wasted.

I never liked having sex with guys.  Never.  Not once.

I was trying to fit in.  To be boy crazy like my friends.  Isn’t that what I was supposed to be doing?  Who I was supposed to be?

But it was more than that.

I was looking for comfort and closeness and love.  That was my heart’s desire.  I thought that if I could just find the right guy …

Maybe even the wrong guy would do.  I tested that theory on numerous occasions.

I didn’t know it back then, but the closeness that I so craved would never be found in the arms of a man.  I’m not built that way.  Good one, God.

When W cuddles close to me, I have everything that I want — that I have ever wanted — within my arms’ reach.  It’s the woman-to-woman physical closeness intertwined with intimacy that makes me feel complete.

Those other snippets from decades past are just that — random parts and pieces that never added up to me.  The long blood-red nails.  The long hair.  The men.  I’ve shed these appendages like a too-tight snakeskin.

When I think of all of these former selves, I visualize a row of buckets.  Actually, a closet full, but that’s way too easy.  The buckets allow me to keep track of all of my transformations.  Plus, the ergonomic handles are convenient for toting them around year after year.

It’s like some demented version of Fantasia but with the role of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice being played by this butch lesbian instead of Mickey Mouse. Seriously, folks, this is how my brain works.  Good one, God.

For example, there’s school-age me, and crazy college me and married-to-a-man me.  That’s my bucket list.

Personally, I’d like to bury the buckets, but their contents scream too much at night and what would the neighbors think?

I have stuffed those past versions of me into plastic pails because I’m mostly embarrassed by them.  The little girl who randomly picked out boy classmates to like.  The college co-ed who snuck guys into her dorm room.  The young woman who committed to a man “til death do us part.”

They were weak and scared and vulnerable.  I still feel weak and scared and vulnerable now and again, but if you ask me what’s going on I’ll tell you “nothing” and then threaten to put you in a submission hold like a Boston Crab or Crossface Chicken Wing.

There were glimpses of what was to come, and I talk about those things more freely.  Like the tomboy me who could launch a kickball farther than any guy in the fourth grade or the newlywed me who used to “borrow” her husband’s hidden porn stash.

I guess the trick now is to work on loving all of those parts of me.  Because you really can’t just lop them off with a straightedge and put them in a bucket.  That’s really gross.  And very unsanitary.

And straight out of Hoarders or Silence of the Lambs.

So cliché.

Just like long red fingernails.

Of college and closets

This weekend, I’m heading to the Pocono Mountains for a birthday party being thrown by one of my friends from college.

She’s footing the bill for food and lodging at a fancy resort for 100 of her closest friends and family members.  Note: College chum majored in industrial engineering.  And here I am typing up this blog entry in my PJs.  Can you say liberal arts degree?

The upcoming weekend got me thinking about the good ol’ days.  You know, cheap beer, cheap dates and more cheap beer.

For some reason, I can never think about those days without recalling three incidents in which I was smacked in the face with my budding lesbianism.

ONE. The first incident took place in the dorms, so I was a freshman or sophomore.  My roommate, who became my best friend, played the Kate to my Allie.  Or, vice versa.  I’m not sure if the better softball player was Kate or Allie.

Anyway, I’m guessing this happened on a Sunday morning.  We had probably just come back from a Sunday morning dining hall brunch of reconstituted scrambled eggs, doughnuts and chocolate milk.  Chocolate milk is hangover antivenom, if you didn’t know.  I most likely played REM’s Superman a million times in a row.

You don’t really love that guy you make it with now do you?
I know you don’t love that guy ’cause I can see right through you.

At some point we laid on her bed and talked.  Boys.  Parents.  The party last night.  Classes.  The annoying girls next door.  Grades.  Religion.  God, we could talk for days.

I fell asleep.

And woke with a start.

It was one of those dreams that was so real.  Did we or didn’t we?  I looked down.  I had my clothes on.  But, we were just naked and going at it like, well, a couple of lustful co-eds.  Bare skin and curves and entwined limbs.  The taste of her mouth.  It was all so real.

I wasn’t sure what to say.  Where would we go from here?

“What happened?” I managed.

She was at her desk with a book in hand.

“Oh, you fell asleep,” she said.  “I’ve been studying.”

I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that it was all a dream.  It was just like that season-ending cliffhanger in Dallas.  But it really wasn’t because this was my life.

I felt a huge sense of relief.  I wasn’t ready for girl-on-girl anything.  Not even in my dreams.  I told myself that such a thing — a longing, a desire, one simple thought — could never happen again.

That was the last Sapphic dream that I had until I hit my 30s.  Talk about self-discipline.

TWO. The next incident took place in a back alley in town.  Calder Way.  This would have been my junior or senior year.  Technically, senior year number one or senior year the first as I was on the five-year plan.

It was a cool day.  Late fall or early winter.  A group of us were huddled outside a store.  I was laser-focused on a tight ass in a pair of Calvin Kleins across the street.

“Do you think you can stare at that girl’s ass any harder?” my friend asked.

Shit.

“I was looking at that,” I said, pointing to lord knows what.  A store window, a stop sign, a rock, a piece of lint, any-fucking-thing besides that perfect ass.

“Uh huh.”

Shit.  Shit.  Shit.

That was all that was said.  The subject was dropped.  When I bring it up now, my friend says she doesn’t remember.

The memory is seared in my brain, though.  “It’s not safe to go there,” I told myself.  “Not safe, not safe, not safe.”  I didn’t even know where “there” was.  Or, how you got “there.”  Or, what you did when you were “there.”  The only thing I knew for sure was that I couldn’t let my guard down, not even for one second on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

THREE. I’ve graduated but have come back to visit a friend at college.  A bunch of us are getting together for a night of partying.

I had just lost a lot of weight.  I show up wearing a pair of brand new black button-fly Levi’s, black Nikes and a satin jacket emblazoned with our university’s name and logo.

“Are  you sure you’re not a lesbian?” my friend asks.

I protest way too much.

*  *  *

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to be out at college.  To go to the gay bar and make out with girls.  Lots of girls.  A different one every night of the week.  To try them on like the Benetton sweaters that we loved so much back in the day.    

I know now that I wasn’t ready for any of that.  It’s not that my friends weren’t.  It’s that I wasn’t.

My 18-year-old head would have probably exploded.  And, that would have gotten me a big bag of nothing.

So, this weekend, we’ll all sit around and tell stories from the day.  “Good times,” we’ll say.

And, I’ll recall the ones that resonate so deeply with me and be thankful for the simple fact that I can finally be out amongst friends.