Monday, November 24, 2014

New Thanksgiving Experience

I saw the two of them seated together, next to each other. One of them was an old acquaintance of mine, a woman I’d nearly dated years before, though we retained our friendship. In medical school, she had practiced self-denial for years, before succumbing to the understandable need for a relationship. They sat across the room from me, next to each other at a close enough distance that seemed to signify they were in a relationship. I didn’t want to make assumptions, but of course one always does.

At nineteen, I’d decided to seduce an older man. I knew by his mannerisms he was unmistakably gay. I’d guessed wrongly once before with a guy in writing workshop, which was incredibly awkward for him and me. Fortunately he brushed me off with proficiency and didn't threaten physical violence.

As our time together progressed, my new boyfriend guided me through the unfamiliar, instantly offering to hold my hand through the process. Fellow LGBTs have offered their wisdom and validation to me numerous times since then, and it is for their hard work that I am not a bundle of unresolved neuroses by now. This same unguarded sweetness I have found everywhere is most appealing. But as for my own relationship, I begged my partner not to leave, but the age difference was always an issue for him, though it was never an issue for me.

She was clearly drawn to the masculine, as her girlfriend was decided more so than her. But regardless of how they presented, what they displayed to the outside were the nerves common to those starting out. This was my friend’s first same-sex relationship and I could tell she was still finding her footing. Her partner had only recently gotten a butch haircut, signifying to those in the know that she was interested in women. Her girlfriend kept her hair the same style and length as I remembered. In the beginning, finding balance can be challenging, and knowing the proper amount of makeup or not make up, dressing or not dressing, and haircuts and not haircuts must be discerned only by the self.

The two were too young to be jaded about relationships, which was a disarming thing to observe. One might think that the femme, my friend, who had only dated men before was simply exploring her sexuality. I suppose this is true inasmuch as everyone queer focuses on self-observation due to the way that it sticks out from the norm. But this was not a mere dabbling in homosexual relationships. Teenage acne had barely subsided, true, and what was left were a couple with much to learn about themselves and each other. In time, one gets more of the hang of it.

This is the way relationships, regardless of sex or gender, really ought to be. In times past, finding a queer relationship partner came after a lengthy period of soul-searching, usually with a healthy dollop of angst on the side. Every relationship, gay or straight, feels like a personal invention, a living organism that exists between two people. The patterns by which heterosexual relationships progress have been refined for thousands of years, and homosexual pairings take on some of those same elements while creating something new, unique only to them.

But in any case, I wished my friend well. I didn’t feel particularly jealous, only a little surprised. I asked her if she identified as a lesbian and she gave a flummoxed look. She could only describe herself as queer and seemed extremely conflicted about even that adjective. I relate, but I suppose I mostly wished she’d felt comfortable with me earlier to tell me. More than many men, I would have understood and tried to help her.

For those making familiar Thanksgiving drives in the next few days with unfamiliar company, I wish you peace, joy, and comfort. Regardless of outcome, you are loved by God and loved by the most important person in your life. Parents will be adjusting themselves as you are adjusting yourself, but they've had fewer years to process it than you have. No one ever forgets the first Thanksgiving with a significant other's family.

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