[Bella’s intro: To long-time readers of this blog, Psyngle needs no introduction. Maybe you remember one of her previous posts about that horrible crash from which she recovered remarkably. Or maybe you know her from her frequent participation in the great conversations in the comments sections of the Living Single posts. In any case, I love what she has to say in this essay – and I think I really would, even if she had not been so kind in her references to me – so I was delighted that she was willing to share it. Thanks, Psyngle!]
Coming Out as Single-At-Heart: Guest Post by Psyngle
Hi out there to my friends old and new. A while ago I got to meet Dr. DePaulo, and during our conversation, I told her that it was actually harder to come out as Single-at-Heart than it had been to come out as a lesbian a few years before. One thing led to another, and now here I am guest posting about it.
About 15 years ago, I was married. I didn’t like marriage very much. Oh, there were things to like about it, like the sudden legitimacy with family members. I was a “real grownup” now. The outpouring of approval from everyone was like a drug. I hadn’t made a lot of choices that pleased people before then. But then there was the whole thing with sharing your space, your money, your decisions on everything from cars to pets... It was way too much sharing. We moved a lot and I started staking out a room of my own in every place. I kept my friends from before the marriage, made new ones, and continued to do things with them. By most people’s standards, I wasn’t a very good wife. I demanded much more autonomy than most wives do.
One thing that helped my marriage last as long as it did was the fact that we lived apart for a lot of it. My husband was transferred a lot for work, and I had roots in this region and wasn’t willing to pick up and move whenever corporate said so. (How was I supposed to build my own career with that kind of instability?) The agreement was that I would stay put while he travelled between offices.
I had always felt attracted to women, but didn’t understand what it really meant. With my husband gone so much, I had time to explore that. I went to the gay bookstore and hung out, I read tons of lesbian books, I even went to gay bars. I marched in a Pride parade and finally got a girlfriend. My best friend decided she’d had enough and we went our separate ways. I realized I was living a lie and things had to change. I started going to therapy.
By the time I gathered the courage to come out all the way, my girlfriend was long gone. She went back in the closet and barred the door. But it wasn’t about her, it was about me and who I am, so I went ahead and said things I couldn’t un-say. People were surprisingly okay with it. Even my husband—he took it hard at first, but you can’t live with someone like that and not know something isn’t right. I moved out on my own and thrived.
The new girlfriend didn’t come along, though, and my rental housing situation became untenable, so I moved to a smaller town where I could afford to buy a condo. This town happened to be known for its large and active lesbian community. Right away I met lots of women. I was immediately accepted into the community and felt a part of things. Then I started dating. It didn’t take long to realize that I hated the whole concept of dating, and even more, I didn’t really want a partner.
One day, while browsing in a local bookstore, I stumbled across a copy of Singled Out. I read it in one night. Then I read it again two more times and bought copies for my friends. I Googled Dr. DePaulo and found the Living Single blog. Here I found my people! A few months after joining the Living Single blogosphere, I made another announcement: I was Single At Heart.
I hadn’t thought I needed any preparation for that announcement, I didn’t imagine for a minute that I would be ostracized! The lesbian community moved away from me like I had a communicable disease. If I wasn’t “on the market,” what was the point? I found myself spending less time with those friends and more time with the friends I’d made through volunteering at the animal shelter. They don’t care who I sleep with as long as there’s someone furry on the bed somewhere.
My family was oddly reticent about the announcement. It didn’t make sense to them. People are supposed to pair up, and they didn’t care who I paired up with, but to make a conscious choice not to pair up was just weird. I gave my mom a copy of Singled Out and she hasn’t said a word about it to this day. Friends asked incredibly rude and personal questions, like did that mean I’m asexual? They felt entitled to ask questions about my sexuality when for me to ask them similar questions would be unthinkable. (“How often do you and Fred have sex? Do you ever wish you were with someone else?”) And of course they wanted to figure out what was “wrong” and “fix me.”
It is easier for most people to accept the notion of a same-sex couple than the notion of not being in a couple at all. It gives them some satisfaction to accept you as a gay person, they get some liberal validation from it. Single at Heart gives them nothing but a good long scary look at their own situation.
[About the Author: Psyngle is an independent environmental consultant, compulsive animal volunteer, avid bicycle tourist, and crazy cat lady. Psyngle has gleefully and unapologetically opted out of coupledom for ten years.]