Reflections on What Would have Been my 26th Anniversary

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Today would have been my 26th wedding anniversary. Would have been, except my now ex-husband was gay. We’ve been divorced for a little over 5 years now. Since then, I have learned an incredible amount about myself, and continue to make progress as I deal with what was essentially two decades of neglect.

Let me just state clearly right up front that I am very much an ally for LGBTQ rights, and I always have been. In the 80s, several men chose me as the first person they ‘came out’ to because they knew I would not be judgmental. I long for the day when society gets over itself and stops imposing false moralities on segments of the population. Possibly even more so now–I am the living embodiment of collateral damage from society’s judgment. Because society made it difficult to be homosexual, homosexuals repressed themselves and tried to assimilate. They married. They had kids. And then they came out and wreaked havoc on their families.

I dragged my husband out of the closet kicking and screaming. He came from a blue collar family and was absolutely convinced they would not accept him. In fact, for over a year after the day in counseling where he admitted that he was gay (counselor: “Laura, why do you think things have been this way?” Me: “I think he’s gay.” Him: “I think you’re right”) I was not allowed to tell anyone. Anyone. So while my marriage was falling apart, everyone thought I was this hellacious bitch, leaving a perfectly good husband for no reason. Fortunately, for him, his family was accepting. And once the truth was known, opinions of me softened.

I had to deal with the fallout, and some of the weirdest reactions from people. The one that I found the worst was “How could you not know?” This, to me, sounded blaming, as though somehow it was my fault. I finally realized it came from a place of fear: if I didn’t know through 20 years of marriage that my husband was gay, it was possible that they also didn’t know if their spouse was gay. Still, that response makes me instantly on edge. Another response was “That’s so great! He must be so relieved to be out!” Well yes, I’m quite sure he is. However, for twenty years because he could not be a true partner, I felt as though something was wrong with me. I tried everything I could to get through the wall he built, but I couldn’t. It was devastating and damaging, although I did not realize it at the time. I  gained a lot of weight. I fell into a major depression, from which I have not yet recovered. I felt stupid, betrayed, foolish, attacked, and used. The first thing I felt, though, honestly, was relief. The crumbling of our marriage had not been my fault.

Were there signs? Probably. He was the one with the elaborate wedding plans; I was never the sort of girl who played ‘bride’. I woke up two days before the wedding and my voice was completely gone–I’d been hoarse before, but never before (nor since) had I entirely lost my voice. (Indeed, in more ways than one.) And driving to the church, he and I ran over a black cat that darted in front of us. I am not kidding. (As one of my friends said “Did God have to hit you with lightning???”– evidently.)  Right after the birth of our oldest son I found a gay porn video in a box filled with his college stuff. Overloaded with pregnancy hormones, I handled it badly-screamed at him, throwing things and demanding to know what this was. He swore up and down he wasn’t gay. I believed him. I really had no choice. However, now, he tells people that “I knew the whole time” in part because of that incident.

He was never affectionate, but he came from a family that is not affectionate. He was (is) a workaholic. I tried to engage with his hobbies–he did not want to casually ride bikes or ski, it had to be at his level and I could not do that, much less the kids. His isolation increased, as did mine. I tried countless times and ways to reconnect; he grew more and more dismissive. I lost a lot of weight–he pushed me further away. Ultimately, I insisted he see a counselor. And the truth came out.The first thing he said was “Don’t leave me, I can’t be alone.” I stayed for almost a year. It was nearly my complete undoing. I literally could not breathe in that house. I still get tight in the chest when I’m near the house.

We tried to remain friends. That quickly did not work. I did not deal well with getting divorced. Neither did he. He has a partner who does not like me and the two of them talk shit about me in front of my sons. They tell me. All it does is make my children unhappy with their father. I can’t help that though. I never say a bad word. No matter what I think, this is their father, and I honor that.

I cannot wish i was never married; I believe that God has a purpose for everything. I believe that our children were meant to be born. And I believe that I was meant to go through this. Maybe my words will stop a gay man or woman from marrying to hide. Maybe a straight spouse will see this and feel less alone. I dare to hope. Someday I hope that October 20th is just another day.

If you have learned that your spouse is gay, there is help. The Straight Spouse Network is available. Link here to their Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/Straight-Spouse-Network-180124484371/?fref=ts

 

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Challenge your Prejudices and Vote

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This election cycle has been vicious, nasty and horrifying. As a centrist/center leftist, I am distressed by the choices available for President. I have felt this way in previous elections, but never to this depth. Nevertheless, as before, I will vote.

I am more distressed at the violence and hatred lurking not so quietly. Allegations of voter intimidation on one side, fire-bombing on the other. This is quite simply unacceptable and flat-out un-American.We are better than this. We have to be.

I would like to add my voice, clear and distinct, to those urging all Americans to vote. Make your opinion heard. Do not sit this, or any election, out. Other nations literally die and kill for this right–do not take it lightly. If you are female or a non-Caucasian, your right to vote in THIS country has been hard won–do not abuse the sacrifices of our forebears.

I also would like to add a challenge to every voter. I would like for you to challenge your prejudices. I am completely serious on this. It may not change your mind on a candidate; it may merely solidify in your mind that you had the right candidate in the first place. But I submit that going through this process will force you to examine yourself, any prejudices you may harbor (and I believe we all do, every last one of us), and break down your decision.

What I would like for us all to do is take the candidate we do NOT like and imagine if the worst we believe about them were not true. What if, for example, there really was a media conspiracy against Donald Trump? What does that mean to you? What if the allegations against Hillary Clinton really are completely false? What does that change? How do you know feel about her candidacy? Spend some time, do some research. What is the source material you have to work with? What news outlets make the reports you believe? Who owns those news outlets?  (Warning: You may wind up feeling horribly jaded about the media.) Read opinions that do not agree with yours with an eye towards understanding another point of view.

Continue to challenge yourself in your interactions in person and online. If someone posts an opinion you disagree with, stop yourself from denigrating the person. Chances are the person is not stupid. Ask why they have that opinion. Explain your side, keeping personal attacks out of the equation. Listen. Listen with intent to understand, not intent to dissect and parse the wording and phraseology.

This could lead to actual civil discourse. And, God help us, genuine problem solving.

But most importantly–vote. Vote your conscience. Vote for who YOU believe is the best candidate–not who the media pundits believe, not who your favorite celebrity endorses, not who your family is supporting. Vote for who YOU want. If you will have difficulty getting to a polling station, there are dozens of organizations that can help you. Reach out to a church, or a local political party–they are almost certainly organizing rides to vote. And if you feel disenfranchised and as if you don’t matter, your vote won’t count, stop right there. The single-most enfranchising act you can take is to vote. You do count. You do matter. You must vote.

I am weary of the partisan snarkiness, the constant name-calling. I am sick to my soul with dismissive attitudes and belittling entire groups of people “Muslims” “women” “Republicans”. The woman in the head scarf wants her children to grow up free to learn, worship, and realize their goals–same as I do. Silence your fears, and remember that openness and inclusiveness strengthen our nation, There is no ‘us versus them’–we are all us, we are all them.

Bless America. Vote America. Every one of us.

Three Fictional Characters

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There’s a thing going around Facebook right now to post pictures of three fictional characters that you identify with. This is exactly the sort of thing that sometimes makes me happy, sometimes makes me roll my eyes… but this time I actually thought about it. I quickly started to post… and then had to stop. Identified with. Characters I identified with.

I read a lot. I only know a handful of people who read more than I do (I’m sure there are tons more but in my personal acquaintance, less than 5). I love to read. I have found many many characters to love, to be inspired by, to love to hate, to wish I could hang out with. But… had I ever identified with one? Had I ever thought, gee, this character is so like me!

I have not. In all seriousness, this has occupied an inordinate amount of time over the last week for me. I began a semi-systematic run-down of characters trying to find, if not three then at least ONE I could say I identified with.

I started with the Classics, because, you know, intelligent looking and all. Shakespeare: there’s gotta be someone in Shakespeare, right? Romeo and Juliet? Nope. Juliet was, well, a drama queen. I eschew drama to the best of my ability. I liked Tybalt the best, but identify with? Nope. Macbeth? Oy. Power hungry nitwit. Lady Macbeth? Even worse — manipulative, ruthless. Nope. No identifying here. Desdemona? Adulteress…no thanks.

Then I moved on to children’s lit–the stuff of my childhood. How about Anne of Green Gables? A redhead, spunky, somewhat of a spitfire…. I really loved Anne, and wanted to hang out and be ‘bosom friends’ but I didn’t see myself in her. Winnie-the-Pooh? As much as I love all of the residents of the 100 acre wood, I didn’t identify with them. I mean… somedays I’m Eeyore and somedays I’m Tigger. Aren’t we all??  I’m named after Laura Ingalls Wilder–but in addition to not identifying with her, she’s a real person, not a fictional character.

Movies? TV?  I really wanted to say Lisa Kudrow’s ‘Phoebe Buffay’ on ‘Friends’ (as I have been told on more than one occasion I am ‘kooky like her’–I think that’s a good thing…. but I didn’t identify with Phoebe. I really liked the character, but saw little of myself in her. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but on that show I most identified with Ross. Geeky, but desperately trying to fit in with the cool kids. On the fringe, but not enough to be with the real punk rock type outsiders. That’s me. I didn’t know it at the time but a gay ex-spouse — and the ensuing uncomfortable jokes from people who care but have no idea how to navigate the terrain they’re on– something else Ross Geller and I share. There. That’s one. I identify with Ross Geller.

Back to books and modern works…. Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich’s series. I identify with Stephanie in a whole lot of ways! Continually falling ass-backwards into jobs and making the best of them, proving myself without any “proper” credentials and background; find life surprising on a regular basis–seriously surprising, not being flippant here!! I feel like Stephanie goes through life doing her best and loving on true blue friends and family. This I identify with! What I don’t identify with is having two incredible guys between whom I cannot pick. (grammar, yo) I do not identify with that at all. On zero levels. Still. I believe I shall count Stephanie Plum as a second fictional character with whom I identify.

Is there a third? Others I have considered and rejected include: Nancy Drew (too perfect), Catwoman (I’m allergic), Hermione Granger (this was tough–I have all of Hermione’s awkwardness and hopefully a lot of her inner toughness, but she falls into the admire category), Aragorn (I love him–I always consider Aragorn), Wonder Woman (I just want to be her), Agent Scully (she’s a redhead… but I am more like Mulder, Scully’s far too serious)….

After all of this contemplation I have decided that I can’t really find anyone else to identify with–2 out of 3. But I can’t leave a list like that… therefore, clearly, the only thing I can do is write a character with whom I can identify. It’s as simple, and as horrifyingly complicated, as that.