Imagination

My greeting to the guests at our rehearsal dinner.
I delayed publication until after the ceremony.


I never imagined being married.

Of course, lesbians couldn’t marry. But it was more than that.

It was more than that I didn’t expect to be married. It was more than that I didn’t expect to have a wedding, to be a bride.

I never even imagined it. Never even imagined being married. Never even imagined being a bride.


My fiancée says that, when she was a girl, she wanted what every little ranch girl wants: To get married, have children, raise children, get children married, spoil grandchildren.


I never had that aspiration.

It wasn’t because I am a lesbian. It wasn’t because lesbians couldn’t marry.

Even as a very young girl, before I knew that I was a lesbian, I didn’t dream, or daydream, or even imagine being married. Didn’t dream, or daydream or imagine being a bride.

When I played with Barbie dolls – Yes, I played with Barbie dolls – my Barbie wasn’t a bride. Barbie wasn’t married to Ken.

It wasn’t latent lesbianism. It wasn’t a latent feminist fantasy of an independent woman. It was simply want of imagination.

I realized I was a lesbian when I was in high school. I did things that I’m not proud of. Things that disgust me. Things that you may have heard rumored. Things that made marriage even more unimaginable.


I was baptized, raised and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. I broke Mother’s heart when I left the Church. I didn’t leave because I was a lesbian. Even after I left the Church, I believed that being a lesbian was a sin.

The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church says,

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

I had inhuman self-mastery. It made me the best engineer you’ve ever seen.

But I was wasting my life. I was wasting my capacity to love and be loved.


I could have married a man. Had children. Gradually and resolutely approached Christian perfection.

But it would have been morally appalling.

I could have tolerated knowing I would never be emotionally or romantically or physically fulfilled. I have fortitude enough to sublimate myself for the sake of my soul and for the sake of children to love.

But for him, for a husband? It would have been an unpardonable sin against him. It would have been morally abominable to do that to someone, someone who loved me.

Can you imagine loving someone – dedicating your life to someone – who cannot love you as you love? Who cannot love you as you deserve to be loved?

Can you imagine loving someone incapable of love and desire and passion for you? Someone you want to fulfill?

One of the things that I have learned so well from my fiancée is that it is more blessed to give – emotionally, romantically, physically – than to receive. The most amazing thing about love is not one’s own rapture, but the rapture of another.

Even if I had been the greatest actress, even if I could deceive a man for his entire life, even if he never had an inkling of it, the deception would have been morally repulsive. What would it have made me? A moral monster.

How could I withhold that from someone – deceive someone – who loved me enough to dedicate his life to me? How long before my own moral depravity would overcome me, either in guilt or shame or in a perverted moral center?


I never imagined being married. I never imagined being a bride. But my poverty of imagination was greater than that. I never imagined loving someone. I never imagined being loved.

I don’t mean that I thought that I was unlovable. I don’t mean that I thought I was incapable of love. I wasn’t depressed or even unhappy. I didn’t pity myself. I didn’t consider myself pitiable. My life was fulfilling. But love was just something outside of my imagination. My impoverished imagination.


I was extraordinarily fortunate to have found a compassionate and inquisitive minister. I came into his office and declared, without preface, “I am a lesbian.”

He laughed at my forwardness, the baldness of my declaration. He asked me what I wanted to do about it. What I wanted him to do about it. Being a Protestant, he couldn’t offer me absolution. But, as a Protestant, he would help me look into scripture – and solely to scripture, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Although he is not a Calvinist, he seemed guided by the Westminster Confession:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word.


I won’t detail our investigation, our hermeneutic and theological wrestling. I will only say this: In the end, I must always come to the words of our Savior:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

This is how Christ himself would have us interpret God’s law. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

My love of this woman, and of my God, is wholly in the letter and spirit of those two commandments.


Two years ago, after showing me to a calm in my soul, the minister asked me to meet with a woman. He said she was a lesbian comfortable in her conservative Christian faith.

We met for dinner. I immediately knew that she was the most extraordinary person I had ever met. Brilliant beyond imagining, cultured, cosmopolitan, beautiful, charming, successful – yet the friendliest, happiest, least conceited person I had ever met. She immediately put me at ease, treated me as an equal, was interested in me.

It was the most wonderful dinner of my life. It was the most wonderful two hours of conversation of my life.

As we left, standing on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, she touched my cheek. I nearly fainted. My heart stopped. Literally stopped.

I thought, “I am going to die, right here.”

Then, “Thank you, God, for letting me die happy.”


I didn’t die, of course. But, for the first time, I imagined love.

I wasn’t in love, not yet. I didn’t know enough about love to know if I was in love, and I knew it. I knew that I didn’t know enough about her – or, frankly, about myself – to be in love.

But in that instant, I could imagine it. It – the imagining – was the most extraordinary thing in the world. Not only that I could love, but that I could be loved. Be loved not as a friend or a sister or a daughter, but as God’s gift for another. To love someone not as a friend or a sibling or a parent, but as God’s gift to me.


You know the rest. We fell in love. I moved to New York. She nearly died. We proposed and accepted marriage. We gave each other these rings. We bought dresses and planned this wedding.


But you don’t know all the rest.

I still could not imagine being a bride. The ceremony tomorrow seemed only that: a celebration of the life to come, a life together.


My fiancée decided in her childhood imaginings that she wanted to be married under the order for service from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. She told me this when we became engaged. I read the order for service and agreed. We’re neither of us Episcopal, but we are traditionalists. Beyond that, the order for service seemed to both of us to say whatever we might write in personal vows, and say it more eloquently – certainly more eloquently than I could.


Last Sunday, after church, we sat with the minister who introduced us and will officiate tomorrow. We read the order for service together. And then, with the same power as the moment of imagining when she touched my cheek, I imagined being her bride. Being her wife. Her being my bride. Her being my wife.


I’m not an imaginative woman. I’m not given much to self-reflection and certainly not to self-absorption. I’m not easily distracted, especially by abstract ideas or flights of fancy.

So I’ve seemed odd this week. The better you know me, the odder I have probably seemed.

Someone who didn’t know me well might write it off as pre-wedding jitters or pre-wedding excitement. Someone who didn’t know my mother, or my fiancée’s mother, or our sisters, and the thoroughness and excellence of their preparation might write it off as distraction by the thousand details of a wedding.


But it’s this: I am reveling in the a dream. A dream of a wedding. A dream of being married. Imagining what it will be like, tomorrow, to stand in God’s presence and declare, reverently and deliberately, that I will have this woman to be my wife; to live together in the covenant of marriage, to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as we both shall live.

And for her, tomorrow, to stand in God’s presence and declare, reverently and deliberately, that she will have this woman to be her wife; to live together in the covenant of marriage, to love me, comfort me, honor and keep me, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to me as long as we both shall live.

In transit

I’m in an airport, between planes. I’ll finish this up on the last leg home and post it tonight.


My fiancée went out West last week.

She started and runs her company. She’s turned over day-to-day management to her partners. So she can come and go as she pleases.

I had to go to Asia for work, but I’m free for the next month.


We will be married at my fiancée’s family’s ranch. It’s spectacularly beautiful, especially at this time of year. It’s in a valley bounded on both sides by untouched mountain wilderness. The sun will be going down over the mountains to the west during our ceremony.

Her family has spent the last year restoring the ranch house and sprucing up the yards and outbuildings.

Her great-great grandfather received the land as a grant for his service in the Civil War. He was an inveterate improver, innovator and experimenter.

My fiancée’s great-grandmother kept a scrapbook of newspaper articles about her father. Almost every edition of the county weekly newspaper had an article about one or another of his innovations – the electric generator and banks of batteries to light and power the ranch, the irrigation system that still waters the ranch, the various machines he bought. There are also articles about his lawsuits against mining companies for polluting the stream that waters the ranch.

He built the house in a grand style for his family of nine children.


We’ll be married in a field. The forecast is for beautiful weather. If it rains, we’ll be married in one of the old barns.


My fiancée will pick me up at the airport. We’ll have dinner at the restaurant where we met. Last year, we had dinner there on the first anniversary of our meeting. This year, it’s a little earlier. We have a more pressing engagement for the actual anniversary.

We’re going to have our rehearsal dinner at the restaurant Friday night. The ranch is 75 miles away, but the restaurant is in the nearest town large enough to have an adequate supply of hotel rooms.

Tonight, my fiancée and I will be staying at the B&B where we stayed after our anniversary dinner last year. Tomorrow, we’ll go to church at the church I used to attend, then each to her parents’ homes. I want to spend a few days with my family before starting a new life.

This week

Next Saturday, I will marry.


I’ve been a bad blogger.

The last year has been so crowded: getting engaged; buying, renovating and furnishing an apartment; moving in; buying a dress; planning and preparing the wedding and festivities; working a 60-to-100-hour-a-week job at the highest levels of international engineering; making a life with my fiancée.

All that is true, but it’s no excuse. The real problem is, ironically, I have so much I want to write.

Writing doesn’t come easily to me. Technical writing does, but that’s highly stylized. This is different. I didn’t do any non-technical writing between high school and starting this blog. I have to work to be clear and concise, to be satisfied with what I write.

I have 20 draft posts on topics that are important to me. I’m not happy with any of them.


I’m going to try to write something every day this week. I hope that it will be a journal of the most important week of my life.

If I slip, I hope that you understand.

Don’t expect anything on Saturday or for the three weeks after. I doubt I’ll have time to write anything on Saturday, and my fiancée has forbidden computers on our honeymoon.

Mother

Mother: You never were afraid of me. Your sister and your brother, I think they are still afraid of me. They are so conventional. I frightened them into conventionality. So afraid of making a mistake. I had to be careful not to push them.

Me: You weren’t frightening. You were never angry at any of us. I think [brother] and [sister] are just timid. And you do have an overpowering personality.

Mom: They did things right because they were afraid of what I would say or do if they did them wrong. They were perfectionists in a by-the-book way. Not you. You were never like that. Never afraid to make a mistake. Never afraid to challenge me. Never afraid to challenge anyone. I don’t think you ever cared what I thought.

Me: That’s not true. I cared very much what you thought.

Mom: Nonsense. You did things right because you got pleasure from doing things right. Pleasing me never entered your mind.

Me: No, I was never afraid of you. There was never anything to be afraid of.

Mother: But you were so afraid of me about the most important thing in your life.

Me: I wasn’t afraid of you. I was afraid of losing you. Of losing our family. It’s the most important thing in the world to me. Well, now it’s the second most important thing in the world.

I just knew what you believed. The Church doesn’t accept it and you wouldn’t accept it.

Mother: Was it just the Church? That I would follow the Church? I wasn’t happy when you left the Church, but I accepted it.

Me: No, it wasn’t just the Church. I knew how you felt about it yourself. We were in Seattle –

Mother: Oh, no! The women kissing! I said something, didn’t I? I regretted it the moment I said it. Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.


Me: I’m sorry. I underestimated you. I never thought you would accept that I am a lesbian. I should have come out years ago.

Mother: You didn’t underestimate me. I wouldn’t have accepted it.

Me: But you did.

Mother: I never would have accepted it in the abstract. If you had come home any time and told me, “Mother, I’m a lesbian,” I would not have accepted it, even last year. I can’t say what I would have done, but I know that I could not have accepted it, not as I have. I doubt that I would ever have agreed to meet one of your girlfriends. It would have been forever a wall between us.

But meeting CA changed that. She put a face to it. Sitting here, talking all afternoon, having dinner, seeing what a wonderful woman she is, seeing what she means to you, having it slowly dawn on me that you two are in love. Having her so forthrightly admit her love for you. How can a mother resist that for her daughter?

Me: So stop regretting anything! If I had come out earlier, I never would have met CA.

Pride: A paradox

Pride, to me, is pleasure in one’s achievements, or pleasure in the achievement of another. Pride in a genetic gift, or from anything else one has no control over? That, to me, would be conceit or vanity.

I’m very intelligent. I’m not proud of that, nor am I ashamed of it. My intelligence was a gift from my parents and from God. I am proud of what I have done with my intelligence. I would be ashamed if I did not use it to the fullest.

My fiancée’s intelligence is formidable. I’m not proud – or ashamed – of her for it. I am proud of her formidable accomplishments with her intelligence.

Similarly, I’m not proud (or ashamed) of my (or my fiancée’s) body, although I do take some pride in keeping myself in shape. And I certainly take pleasure in my fiancée’s body (and in her pleasure in my body).


When I was young, I fought being a lesbian. When I became an adult, I buried it. But I have never been ashamed of being a lesbian. I just am a lesbian.

Now, I’m glad I’m a lesbian. If I had the choice, I would choose to be a lesbian.

I’m not proud that I’m a lesbian. I didn’t do anything to make myself a lesbian. I just am a lesbian.


My lesbianism hasn’t been heroic.

I grew up in the most conservative part of one of the most conservative states. A state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage passed by a two-to-one majority – three-to-one in my county. When I lived there, I was deeply in the closet.

But I was never afraid, and I’m not afraid now that I am out of the closet. I’m not even afraid to walk down the main street of the tiny, rural town where I grew up, holding my fiancée’s hand.


Lesbianism has been heroic for many.

I am proud of the lesbians who have gone before me, whose lesbianism was heroic.


My ability to just be a lesbian – without shame or fear – owes everything to those who can justly take pride in being lesbians. To be slightly paradoxical about it, I am proud of them – and they should take pride in themselves – for my lack of pride.

 

Life happens

Life has been busy. Buying and starting to renovate an apartment, finding a donor, going home for Thanksgiving, wedding planning, …

We’ve bought an apartment.

It’s in a building built before the first World War. It has a lot of interesting details, – dental moldings on the ceiling, parquet floors, an insulated wine closet. It’s big, although not as big as our wildest dreams. A bedroom for us, two smaller bedrooms for kids or guests, an office/library for my Love and her books, a small office for me, a living room, a dining room and a kitchen.

Buying it was complicated. As I’ve mentioned, the board of a cooperative apartment building has to approve any transfer, and they can be very intrusive if they want. Boards normally require several years of tax returns and asset statements. I’ve earned at New York levels less than a year. My Love’s business requires a ridiculous level of security and confidentiality, to the extent that she can’t give a board the information it usually requires. We can easily afford the apartment and the monthly maintenance charge, and fortunately the board was pragmatic rather than a stickler for protocol.

We haven’t moved in yet. It’s a complete wreck. It has to be almost completely rebuilt; all the walls have major cracks and the ceilings in two of the rooms have collapsed. There’s water damage all over the place.

And we’re ripping out the kitchen and consolidating it with a small bedroom (what they call a “maid’s room” here in NY) to make the kitchen of our dreams.

The design work is done and we’re getting bids. It’s interesting for me personally to be an owner. We needed an engineer for the kitchen design; hiring one was particularly amusing.

We’ve found a donor.

My fiancée has thrown herself into pregnancy planning.

This is bizarrely uncharacteristic. It’s funny, actually. Or it would be, if the potential for disaster were not so high:

  1. She is a force of nature. When she gets the bit between her teeth, there’s no stopping her.
  2. Never having planned anything, she has no idea how to go about it.
  3. She has the best part of a year to waste spend on this.

It’s like being in Tornado Alley with a thunderstorm on the way. You know there’s going to be havoc, you just don’t know where it’s going to hit.

She has scored some early successes. She’s proposed a donor (this time with the potential to help us). It’s a guy who once proposed marriage to her. (She turned him down.)

I initially rejected this. It’s just too weird. But I’ve met him now, and, for a lot of reasons, it turns out not to be weird at all. I just hope that, if we have a girl, she looks like my Love.

Wedding planning is progressing.

On the other hand, she’s not permitted to do any planning for our wedding. Our mothers, our sisters and I have pointedly excluded her. She’s allowed to ask questions and make requests (which have generally been excellent), but not to participate.

Her father says that makes my fiancée the man in our relationship.

We’ll let her pick her wedding dress. That’s it. She has exquisite taste in clothing. Her business has been so successful that her budget is effectively unlimited.

I’d love to have her pick my wedding dress, but, of course, that is out of the question.

The next best thing: Our sisters are coming to New York next week. First they’ll help her. Then, armed with that knowledge, they’ll help me.

We are going have a lot of fun. It will be my sister’s, and one of her sisters’, first time in New York. There’s not much room in my apartment. Either it’s going to be a big sleepover on my living room floor, or hotels.

Thanksgiving was lovely, thanks.

I’ll write more about that when I get the chance.

Faith

I intended this blog to explore my Christian faith, my traditionalist, conservative values and my love for another woman. Instead, it has exclusively addressed the last.

Partly, that’s because life with her has been such a revelation to me. Partly, it’s been that after a dozen utterly unmemorable years, my world is alive with joy and meaning that I never imagined. Partly it’s that everything in the last year has been new to me. I want to babble like a kid coming out of a movie.

But part of it is that I’ve found it difficult to express ideas about faith and values that are probably foreign to most people who read this.


One of the most startling things about New York is its pervasive secularism. Faith is as embarrassing topic as an alcoholic uncle would be back home. My Love warned me about that before I came out here, so I haven’t committed that faux pas at a fancy dinner. Still, it’s disorienting,

So I’m not sure how to address it. I don’t even know if anyone would be interested in it. If New Yorkers are any indication, I suspect most people would just click on after the first couple of sentences.


If that sounds like I’m ashamed of my faith, or afraid of what people will think, or afraid of losing followers – well, I’m not. It’s just honest perplexity.

I’m just not sure how to proceed. We don’t speak a common language. We don’t have a common cultural base.

It may just be my anecdata, but most people – believer and non-believer both – seem to stop thinking critically about God when they’re teenagers, if not before. If they think about God after that, it’s to read something that reinforces their belief – either the latest God-is-love inspirational or the latest Dawkins screed. Neither stands up to critical thought, but people aren’t looking for critical thought. They are looking for something to reinforce their uncritical thought.


I’m not condescending.

I understand that for most people, thinking critically about God isn’t as important as their job, or their kids, or the latest Bond film. It’s just not a part of daily life.

I’ve struggled with faith every day of my life. I had to. I could not accept the Catholic doctrine of my upbringing. But I could see that my argument was with Rome, not with God. It took a long time to find Him, although He was there all the time.

At 15, my fiancée became a thoroughgoing atheist. At 20, she heard the still small voice. She was just too damn self-aware and too damn logical and too damn brilliant to ignore it.

So I’m planning to write about faith. Even if you have none, I would value your attention.