The Professional Guest: Are You Gay?

o-SINGLE-WOMEN-facebookThe other day, an acquaintance asked me if I was gay. She was being very honest and earnest. She had questions and wanted answers. It seemed obvious to her. I’m single, 59 years old, never married, have a dozen wonderful women friends, have my hair cut super short, and don’t seek out men for dates or companionship. I get that.

Still, the question took me by surprise. Because I tend to just live from day to day, doing my graphic design and hoping to find more clients. I seldom think about guy-girl relationships. I get up in the morning, shower, fix my (short) hair, put on makeup, feel most comfortable in T-shirts and cropped pants or skirts, and get on with my day. I’m not really that “girly” on the outside. But I’m extremely “girly” on the inside.

It would be a seismic shift for me to start wearing flowery clothes, low-cut tops, tight-fitting skirts or slacks, glittery sandals, and growing my hair out long so I can spend hours styling it. I’ve never been that way, not even in my young and beautiful days… although I have to confess, as a teenager on Friday nights, I did spend a couple hours fixing my hair and perfecting my makeup so I could go out and get drunk and sloppy and ruin it all in three more short hours. The goal was to find a cute guy, dance with him to Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music, White Boy” or Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business” on the multi-colored disco floor, get in his Camaro SS and make out in the back seat.

I had plenty of boyfriends, most of whom I had to sneak out of the house to spend time with. My parents were strict and didn’t approve of anyone who didn’t go to the same church we did. It was hard being a blossoming teenage girl in our house. My parents were suspicious, over-protective, over-bearing, and were keen to cause a big scene if they thought their girls were out doing something they should not be. I understand the worry, but it would have helped if we girls had been taught about healthy relationships, encouraged to be pretty and attractive, had boyfriends welcomed in our home followed by decent discussions about whether they were good boys or bad boys, and had openness and encouragement. In our house, sex education was shame-based for the girls. The boys could do whatever they wanted. The girls had to lie and sneak.
Word to the wise: It’s not all about STOP, STOP, STOP…The better thing might be all about “Start, start, start!” Your girls are the ones who keep you family together. Never forget that.

My parents were Depression-Era parents, in their 40s by the time I came along, and mid-50s by the time I was a teenager. The only messages I received were, “Never let a boy touch you THERE,” and constant patrols if any boy was brave enough to enter the house to spend time with me. I had to sneak out. If I was going to have any kind of dating life at all, I had to say I was going to the basketball game or bowling. I learned how to lie.

I was also Number Eight in a family of nine. Nothing special. I never thought of myself as special or unique or gifted or possessing interesting qualities that should be honored and celebrated. My father was trying to support a large family so he worked all the time. He was creative, a self-motivated man, honest and smiled easily. My mother was—well, there’s no other way to put it—crazy. Menopausal crazy. She had a boatload of emotional troubles from her own childhood, was artistic, beautiful, loved her children, but was inconsistent, emotional, dramatic, and prone to outbursts which usually resulted in harsh discipline. Dad avoided conflict with her at all costs. You know that old saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy?” That was the rule in our house. We walked on eggshells. At least I did. Discipline was not healthy. It was abusive, plain and simple. It took me years to finally come to the understanding that I was actually abused as a child and when I understood that, I understood the paths of extremes that I took in my adult life. When a parent takes a stick to your behind and you can count the strikes, “seventy-eight, seventy-nine, eighty, eighty-one, eighty-two….” you are being abused as a child. Today’s teachers, therapists and counselors would have intervened and called in Child Protection Services. Back then, it was whatever the parent felt right about doing in order not to “spare the rod and spoil the child.”

So, there’s that. And then because I had never learned how to establish safe boundaries with boys, and I wanted to feel loved, needed and appreciated, I would give myself to them on the first date. Any eager 16- to 17-year-old boy is not going to pass up that opportunity! Are you crazy? It was a no-brainer for them.

The result was a series of one-night-stands, a lack of self-worth, a lack of self-awareness, and a lack of boundaries for me. And stunted emotional growth.

So back to the question of “Are you gay?”  It’s taken me into my late fifties to finally have a sense of who I am, what I am worth, who God sees me as, and not being willing to throw myself to the wolves just to feel loved and get attention. I’ve fallen in love four or five times, had my heart broken each time and I’m just not willing to go there anymore.

For me, girlfriends are safe. I can talk about my day, my life, what’s bugging me. I can pray with them, laugh with them, dance with them, go out to Fifth Avenue with them and be social, conversational, relational. I need these things. And like I said, I’m very girly on the inside. I’m feminine, soft, caring, and compassionate. I like to listen and I like to encourage. I need my alone time. And I love men. Boy, do I love men! I’m not attracted to women in a sexual sense. I don’t even pretend to understand how that happens.

I love men and admire them, for their ability to fix things, to think logically, to be strong, to protect, to be focused. I love their physiques. I admire broad shoulders and slim hips. And if they’re funny, I love them even more. To me, men make the world go around. We women can take care of ourselves and usually outlive our men, but the world is SO much better because good men have shared their lives with us.

So the answer is, no, I’m not gay. If a handsome man knocked on my door tomorrow and told me I was the one he had been looking for all his life, and I felt the same way, I’d pick myself up off the floor and run away with him… in a heartbeat.

It just hasn’t happened. And I’m not sure it ever will. So I’ve learned to live as a single person. I wake up in the morning and plan to “just get it done.” I’ve learned to travel alone, go to movies alone, go to restaurants alone or drag a girlfriend with me. I’ve learned to take selfies at wondrous events, always of me and a girlfriend who came with me. I’m not sure I even know how to talk to a man anymore. That’s okay. I have brothers, I have nephews, I have married male friends and I admire the heck out of all of them. And I have a son… a SON!

Nothing made me understand love more than having a baby. A son to love and raise. I poured my heart and soul into him. My heart went pitter-pat the first moment I held him and it’s never stopped going pitter-pat since. Unlike my own mother, I raised him with common sense. We had frank talks about sexuality and morals and what to expect when he was old enough to ask questions. The subject was always approached with a smile, encouragement, understanding, technical stuff, and plenty of “Atta-boy!”

I just never wanted him to grow up with a sense of shame like I did. And he didn’t. Of all the men I love in this life, my son tops them all. He’s kind, caring, funny, possesses supernatural wisdom and understanding, and knows God. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

I am single. I have never been married. I love my women friends. And no, I’m not gay. I wear my hair short because it’s easier here in “hotter-than-Hades-Florida.” There’s your answer.

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