In her poem, Luna, Mary Oliver wrote, I live in the open mindedness of not knowing enough about anything. Nice place to live. And I’ve tried to imagine what that kind of openness looks like—bitterness and judgment dissolving into simple curiosity without any crutch of assumption. It’s lovely when I’m there, like the quiet, purposeful fluttering of Oliver’s moth. But it isn’t long before some Trump-ish Republican–some entitled profiteer–comes along, ravaging my thoughts, and the moment is gone. Surely Mary, herself, reserves the right to a few absolutes.
In general, however, absolutes do make me nervous, though it seems they are hugely profitable in our society. Maybe they make me nervous because they are hugely profitable. Think testing in education or mammograms in medicine. I cringe at the numbers cooked and fears stoked just to keep those industries profiting and moving along like they are absolutely beneficial to the masses. In fact, my internal eye-roll goes off just about anytime I hear something or someone is going to be “fixed.” Yet in the year or so before I finally gave myself permission to come out (on some level, at least), I found myself uncharacteristically looking for absolutes. I thought surely there were stories exactly like mine; surely a doctor had seen this before. If I could find the study or the story, I could show it to my family and they would understand and accept… I would understand and accept. Instead what I found was late-in-life lesbians who “knew all along,” who could go back to attractions they’d had when they were 15 or 18. What about those of us who never had ANY thoughts of women till we were 40? Then there was Elisabeth Hasselbeck who made one of her notorious comments on The View about those women just not being able to get a man because they were too old, which, naturally, I could dismiss considering the source, but then there were some out-at-18 lesbians who’d said the same thing. In fact, on my second date with a woman, I was hammered with questions:
“So, you were married to a man?”
“That means that you fell in love with a man.”
“Well, not exact–“
“And you had sex with him. Did you like it?”
“Doesn’t matter. Lesbians don’t like sex either…”
That was my second date, and on my first, I sat awkwardly across from a smart, lovely woman, thinking only, If she knew I’d never been with a woman, she wouldn’t be here. I’m a fraud, I’m a fraud, I’M A FRAUD.
I guess it was sometime after I’d decided it best just to be honest and let the chips fall where they may, sometime after I’d fallen in love and discovered that there was at least one other human being in the world for whom not knowing was an acceptable place to both live and love (I’m sure there are more), that I let go of the search. And, ironically, when I got back online, preparing to write this blog, I found the out-late lesbians and doctors who are now telling the story–my story. But I’m so very grateful I couldn’t find them a couple years ago; my failed search taught me that the only validation I need, any of us needs, is the simple human kind—in having a story at all, and in living life as honestly as a luna moth, galloping this way and that way through the trees and under the trees.
Mary Oliver. Why I Wake Early. Beacon Press, Boston, 2004.