Dear Ms. Behavior:
I am a 54-year-old nurse and the mother of a lesbian. I suspect lesbianism runs in my family. I have a sister who is gay, and two “spinster” aunts on my mother’s side who are almost certainly gay. When I was in my 20s I had an intense love affair for two years with a woman, and when we parted it broke my heart. That was the only time the “gay question” came up for me.
For the past few months at work, Genevieve, a lesbian nurse in her late 40’s, has been flirting with me. She is sexy and beautiful and awakening memories I thought I’d left far behind. I feel like I may be falling in love again. In a less passionate way, I also love my husband, and our sex life is decent. But now I’m wondering about my own “true” sexuality given my possible biological predisposition and new feelings for Genevieve.
I understand that a gene for homosexuality has not been discovered. But was I, like my daughter, born gay? Have I been living a lie? And if so, at my age and after almost 30 years of marriage, is it worth breaking my marital vows, risking losing my husband and turning my life upside down in order to explore this issue and uncover the truth?
-Genes don’t lie
Dear Genes don’t lie:
Don’t make life-changing decisions based only on counting the queer fruit on your family tree.
Maybe your early heartbreak caused you to try to suppress your lesbian inclinations, but if the “gay question” hasn’t come up for 30 years, you probably haven’t been living a lie. If your marriage is relatively happy, perhaps you’re one of those fluid creatures, capable of falling in love with a person of either gender.
Ms. Behavior would not encourage you to ignore your feelings just to avoid making a mess, but she also wouldn’t urge you to haphazardly excavate your unexamined feelings. Now that you’ve raised the question, you won’t forget or ignore it. If there’s a “truth” you’re not facing, you’ll know it over time.
Beside the issue of sexual orientation is the question of attraction to someone else. People in committed relationships are sometimes powerfully drawn to other people. Anyone, queer or hetero, could face similar issues after decades of marriage, upon meeting someone attractive. You’ll need to sort out what, if anything, you want to do about these feelings, in relation to your longstanding commitment. Sort it out with friends, a therapist, or your humongous gay family.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
I’m in bed with my luscious girlfriend Betty, rolling around. We’re kissing and touching, and things are heating up. The phone rings. I think it’s a work call –I’m a consultant and work from home– so I leap out of bed to answer it. It’s only my friend Susan, who’s having yet another crisis about a girl. I say, “Can I call you back in five minutes?”
I slither back to bed, and explain that Susan is having a crisis and I have to talk to her. But Betty is miffed, so she rolls over and plays dead. I leave the room to call Susan back and of course it’s a dumb non-urgent problem. I come back to bed with my best sultry look and apologize for having taken the call, but now Betty says she doesn’t want to have sex with me today or tomorrow or maybe ever. Am I the biggest jerk in the world or is Betty overreacting?
Can’t you pretend you’re busy consulting (you sort of are, right?) and turn the ringer off for an hour ?
God invented Caller ID for a reason. If it’s one of your whiney friends, call them back later. If it’s work call, dry your face, muster up a professional tone, and pick up the phone. (Worst case scenario: One of your mothers calls and says something hideous, costing you and your girlfriend an extra therapy session or two.)
Once you tell Betty the new plan, hopefully she’ll forgive you. A little breech of sexual/telephone etiquette is unlikely to permanently disintegrate anyone’s delicate libido. But if Betty’s anger continues to disrupt her desire, maybe you can help her design an appropriate faux punishment for you, to even the score.