Surprised by bisexuality
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Once upon a time a young gay man found himself sleeping with and in love with a young straight woman. Nothing prepared him. It almost destroyed him. That bisexuality was a surprise is an understatement. Even though I once lived with a woman and eventually found myself open to all gender qualities I still regard myself as gay, queer, use your favorite word (excect homophile, leave that coinage in the grave it deserves.)
She was my only female lover
At twenty-five I mocked my younger selves for their naiveté. Good thing I never stopped laughing at the earlier editions of Richard Evans Lee.
She worked for me when I had the grossly inflated title of Field Services Director at Far West Research, a small market research firm in San Francisco. (Meaning I supervised those annoying people who call you on the phone, knock on your door and stop you in malls to ask you "just a few’ questions.) She was one of a group of people who were working for me that I also hung out with. They shared an apartment; the others were gay guys. I made out with one; we were too drunk for it to lead to anything more.
Siobhan Marie Sullivan and I started spending lots of time together. One of those chance acquaintanceships that deepens into steady companionship. We talked a lot. Maybe I talked and talked and she did lots of listening, an easy vice to fall into with someone who (seems to) enjoy listening. She was a woman, as much as I liked her, there was no reason to think that we’d do more than talk, get drunk and stoned, listen to Bowie, Roxy Music, John Cale and the other folks I listened to back then. (I was half hoping that something more might happen with her roommate, a very bright, cynical guy.Mirable dictu even his beard didn’t bother me. (Last I heard of him he was involved in an S&M relationship with a gay punk Nazi.)
Then came an unanticipatable evening, likely colored, perhaps enriched by Thai sticks, wine and the Velvet Underground. That intoxication hamper’s my memory now, that night it released unexpected potentiality.
Maybe we were having such a happy time together that one of us hugged or kissed the other. We must’ve kissed. Passionately, tongue wrestling with tongue. My inner movie is missing too many frames. Somehow we weren’t wearing clothes anymore.
I found myself doing something I'd never done before. The motion was familiar enough although the orifice was altogether new: warm, wet, wholly satisfying. Orgasms are multifarious in their intensity and quality. The surprised delight of those moments has remained clear through the years.
I’d never expected to make love to a woman. I didn’t know that the pleasure having my cock in a vagina love was within my power.
As a teenager I’d fantasized about women. Four girls in high school I can remember as stars of my strenuous schedule of masturbation. Four sounds like a low number, doesn’t it? None of them I recall with the lingering violent longing for a boy in 9th grade. Most potent of my high school erotic memories is of a straight couple: he was a tall lanky blonde, she a Polynesian beauty with long, lustrous hair. As far as I know all they did was hold hands, which they did seemingly unceasingly. The image was equally romantic. I never had fantasies of them, either separately or together (had never read about threesomes – my erotic imagination lived on poverty row, admittedly sex with more than one person isn’t anything I’ve ever been tempted by: focus on the one, if only the one of the moment, is my idea of joy, in conversation as much as sex).
Where’d the fantasies about women go? One of the best things about having friends you confess all to is they can refresh your memory. One reminded me that not long after coming out I’d told her that I couldn’t fantasize about women without also fantasizing about guys. Ashamedly, I confess that until I saw my friends Victor and John kiss that didn’t give me a clue that I liked boys. Reflecting back, although her life after she left my father would prove it illusory, I probably absorbed sexual ignorance from my momma.
Deciding I was gay, I never looked much at women. Seeing a very pretty girl I’d sometimes note her hair or dress. My body never gave the uncontrollable evidence of interest the male body is heir to. No private movies of women when alone at night. It wasn’t hard for a gay man to meet women who might like to, well, if not save him, let him explore. I remember the straight woman who seemed to think I might be a candidate for making her pregnant. A hasty bus ride later I was in the apartment of a lovely young man.
Siobhan and I would live together for five years. We left San Francisco for Manhattan. Later we'd pass through Atlanta, Savannah, Bethesda, back to San Francisco before moving to Chapel Hill, NC. We went wherever I wanted to go. Fairly passive she was happy to follow the lead. Taking it has always been to my taste even if I do enjoy pushiness in a lover.
Sex stopped working somewhere along the way. Why? I’ve never been sure. It wasn’t her body. My lust was lively enough. If I’d manifested my intelligence in my romantic life we might be still living together. (I don’t wish it. I’d never disrespect Charles that way. And refurbishing you past with should’ves and could’ves ranges from the pointless to the poisonous.)
Let me pause my narrative to tell you about Siobhan. She was five years younger, twenty to my twenty-five when we met each other. She didn’t shave her legs; I never cared. She mostly wore jeans, flannel shirts and army boots. Not that she was butch: very long curly black hair, fair skin. Her smile and clear, lovely eyes, equally keen and amused, I’ll always remember fondly. A handsome body, with ample breasts. Often I fell asleep holding one in my hand. For strict aesthetes her nose could’ve been smaller.
Siobhan was lucid, rational smart. Always powerfully appealing. She was kind and compassionate; qualities I regarded less highly back then.
Our life together was too long and complicated to redact. I’m not going to do justice to her virtues or her weaknesses.
One day shortly after we opened Books Do Furnish A Room, Siobhan called me to say she wouldn't be picking me up from work. She was leaving for Texas with a guy who’d been visiting with us. A friend told me later he’d wondered if they’d been sleeping with one another, something in the glances they exchanged.
My lover was in sexual misery. I wasn’t lacking in the capacity to end it (cunnilingus is wonderful). Exceptional intelligence and empathy I’ll claim. Didn’t use them, what happened was exactly what I deserved.
Siobhan had been my way of getting to and from Chapel Hill. I spent nights sleeping on the floor of the shop until Gordon rented an apartment in Durham so we could live there.
The loss of Siobhan was the single worst event in my life.
I became bitter, venomous, spiteful. I ate badly; I ate far too much and boozed like a fool (my usual retreats from blasted heart and weary mind). Romance seemed a path to damnation. I was alive with lust (for both women (say, Heather Locklear) and guys (boys with great butts who came into the shop). Sleeping with someone might lead to . . . Of course a good fuck would’ve been the sane action.
Bitterness receded ( - by my recollection after three years - ) but the manner of life continued.
I devolved into a fat drunk. Don’t let me fool you; the old pain went away. But I became someone who hoped he’d have a heart attack instead of die from cancer.
My hobbies and enthusiasms amused me agreeably enough. But I was throwing my life away. I was killing myself.
Rum, followed the next morning with a Bojangle’s Tailgate Special for breakfast took their toll. When Gordon moved to his new home I couldn’t help. When Yance and I went to a store to look for lumber or whatever I couldn’t stand up for more than fifteen minutes.
Eventually sloth took me to the hospital. Pink spots appeared on one foot. They really hurt. I ignored them. I was running Psychotronic BBS back then. One of the folks who called had a nurse for wife. She came took look and scheduled a clinic visit to Duke. The intern who saw me asked me how I could’ve done that to myself.
Sweet Doctor Kathy Waite entered my hospital room. Stop it or get ready for insulin injections was the least of her warnings. I grew up watching relatives stick the needle in their belly. Her warning and the prescription of synthroid were all I needed to get healthy and recover my life.
Failed love had ramified into everything but death. After years of being alive only in medical fact my clarity was recovered. My joy in simply being alive revived.
That I threw away much of my life I’ll always regret. But you have to shrug your shoulders and know that who you are stems from who you’ve been. Wishing life had been different is akin (however obscurely) wishing you were dead.
So a gay man fell in love with an exceptional girl. An exceptional boy could’ve been as deadly. My fatal flaw is an overly deep romantic nature.
My reward has been the discovery that I’m one of the lucky folks. No quality of gender stops me from thinking you lovely or loving you.