I have a very good friend at the church I attended out West. She loves to talk about her genius sister, who has an advanced quantitative degree from an Ivy League university. The sister founded a successful firm that uses quantitative tools to model clients’ business alternatives.
The sister comes out from New York every summer to relax for a few weeks on their parents’ ranch. My friend brought the sister to Sunday services.
The sister had just come out to her family. My friend, who has a puckish sense of humor, introduced her sister to the minister as her “New York lesbian sister”. I think she expected that to fluster the minister and her sister.
Quite the contrary. The minister was delighted. He asked the sister whether she was comfortable in her faith. If so, would she talk with a woman who was struggling with coming out? (That would be me.)
She agreed. She reserved a table for a dinner at a romantic little restaurant.
The only person I had come out to was the minister. He was a professional, bound to confidentiality. This woman would be the first ordinary person to whom I would come out.
I was nervous, but all the reticence of more than 30 years in the closet evaporated in minutes. I talked freely with a woman for the first time in my life.
She was beautifully dressed, a subtly tailored, simple, classic grey jersey designer shift, pearls, sapphire studs, impeccable light makeup, blonde hair to her shoulders – and cowgirl boots.
At first I thought she had a speech impediment, but I came to realize that she was taking the time to craft each perfect sentence out of a perfect vocabulary.
To any observer, we were two women having a business dinner. We didn’t touch. We didn’t flirt. We talked seriously about our lives, about our families, about growing up in the rural Rockies, about our faith, about our home state, about having kids someday and about coming out. She talked about things of which I knew nothing: literature, the opera, places I’ve never been – New York, London, Paris, Singapore, Rio.
I am self-confident to a fault, but her self-confidence was unnerving.
She would have been intimidating – brilliant, beautiful, beautifully dressed and coiffed, a distinctive personal style, cultured, cosmopolitan, a successful entrepreneur, a New York sophisticate to beat all New York sophisticates. But she carried it all with down-to-earth ease – just a girl from a ranch 10 miles outside of West Jerkwater, amazed at her good luck. She was the friendliest, happiest, least conceited, least self-absorbed person I have ever met. Her self-deprecation was charmingly amusing instead of falsely modest.
She would have seemed unattainable, but she was genuinely interested in me. In me. It was incredible to me then, and it is incredible to me now. She plainly saw me as an equal, as if it were incredible that I might be interested in her.
As we were standing on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, taking our leave, she touched my cheek. I nearly fainted. I understood what it means to see fireworks: Pricks of light flashed in my eyes. All the years of suppressed emotion exploded at the tip of her finger.
It was a few minutes before either of us could talk.
And she became my Love.