My first gal-experience came at the age of 18. The night involved a bottle of Belvedere vodka and a guy who giddily joined us. My next experience was the following year: this time with a lesbian couple and no booze in the afternoon.
More moments came later, some with sexy strangers at parties, some with close friends. Often the lady said afterward, "I'm still straight, though." Sometimes the chicks were proudly gay and told me I must be gay too.
I fell in love with the girl from the vodka night. At 19, when my father booted me out of his house for missing curfew, the two of us moved into an apartment together.
The first time Jane (not her real name) and I made each other orgasm without alcohol, I wanted to discuss it. Until then, I'd chalked it up to: "Oh, man! We were so wasted!" I sat on our pink couch, in my white nightgown, with my head in my hands.
I asked twice for her to sit and talk with me — once when she walked past me to the kitchen for water and again when she walked back to the bedroom. She refused. The next morning, I broached the subject again.
"Naomi, it didn't mean anything. We were just horny," she said with an eye roll. "Stop being such a ... poet."
Jane and I lived together four years, renting four different apartments, never talking about what we did. Each time we had a party we'd sneak off to make out in our bathroom. Sometimes we'd share a bed for weeks. We adored "naked brownie night," a tradition which involved brownies, wine, a rented movie and vibrators.
Sometimes I'd tell friends about the sex with Jane, and ask what they thought it meant. Their response would usually be something like, "If alcohol's involved, it doesn't count!"
I'm not sure when it happened, but I started to hate her. Maybe it was when she stopped reading my poems, or started smoking cigarettes. Maybe it was the trip we took to Cape May, N.J., where she told me I was the most selfish person she'd ever met.
The first time I realized fully that I no longer loved Jane was during a first date with a guy. Andrew and I had been enjoying the same poetry class at Oakland University. All semester long he'd sat cutely in the corner, raising his hand often and making hilarious but insightful comments.
In a dumpy Chinese restaurant by campus, he told me he grew up in low-income housing with a single mom. He would be the first in his family to earn a college degree. Then he told me he was a bisexual.
My first reaction was shock. The shock then morphed to disbelief. Clearly, this guy was gay and ... confused. I thought to myself, maybe he's going through a transitional period, and using the term bisexual to soften the blow.
In between bites of orange chicken, I told him I was straight, an ex-Christian and confessed that the woman I used to love had now become a stranger sharing my refrigerator. I spoke of old boyfriends, past girl lovers. It was the best conversation of my life.
After Chinese came a second date with burgers, and then a third meal of Middle Eastern, during which he said, "Naomi, consider your actions and feelings. Why do you say you are straight?"
Wham. What a kick to the stomach.
As obvious as it would have been to anyone else, it had not been obvious to me. Why did I say I was straight? Did it have anything to do with the fact my grandfather is a pastor and my mother the pianist for his church? Why did I say I was straight?
Andrew and I have been in a monogamous relationship for about a year. We live together and make plans for our marriage. Jane moved away three months ago.
Together we've spent an enormous amount of time reading poems (Sandra Alland is great), books and journals, viewing films, and talking to people about human sexuality. Together we have learned of many truths and myths. Being bisexual is not a merely a pit stop on the way to gay. Our label is about attraction and fantasy just as much as it is about physical action. We know (thank goodness!) that we are not greedy, oversexed sluts with personality disorders. And we understand, finally, there is nothing in the least bit wrong with us.
Together, Andrew and I communicate our bisexuality — so far — in small ways. We read our sexuality poems at art galleries and coffee shops. We write blogs. Our MySpace pages display our orientation as bi. We've trusted close friends and a few selected co-workers.
When we say we are bisexual, sometimes it's like saying a bird has feathers. It's like proclaiming the sky's above. As Sharon Staum once wrote: "Being bi is neither an honor nor a curse, just a fact" (The Gay & Lesbian Review, July-Aug. 2006).
Andrew has yet to be physically intimate with a man. As a young child he experimented, but he's 27 now, and so far there've been no opportunities. I think, sometimes, he's a bit envious of all my same-sex experience. And I sometimes think he is a bit mystified by the relationship I once had with Jane.
Sometimes I am mystified by it too. I haven't seen or spoken to her since the day she moved out, three months ago. Jane, are you reading this?Naomi Lee is a local poet writing under a pseudonym to protect the privacy of others who figure into her account. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org