Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It Gets Better

I feel fortunate to live in a place and time where and when I can live, love, work and play as I choose. Modern urban America is a far better habitat for women (especially GAY women) than, say, Afghanistan or Pakistan. That's not to say life here is perfect. Even in my small hip town outside New York City there are signs of old thinking, acting and re-acting.

"Look at you two ladies, carrying that all by yourselves!", a woman (yes, a fellow woman!*#) said to my partner and me as we carried our kayak down the ramp to the bay for a summer paddle. We smiled. "Don't worry, dear, I know what I'm doing," smirked the refrigerator guy who proceeded to tap into the wrong pipe for the inside-the-door ice and water dispenser. This was AFTER I had accompanied him down the stairs to show him the RIGHT pipe. "Aren't you an intelligent little lady," proclaimed the school district's hired architect who was fielding questions from residents at a school board meeting. And I still receive mail addressed to Mrs. Robert Lay, even though my husband and I have been legally separated for three years. My own name appears nowhere in that title. It's as if I don't exist. Come on now. As the heroine Abeleen, in the bestselling book 'The Help' taught little Mae Mobley, I too am smart, I am kind and I am important. I have made it my business to know how my pipes flow and how my school taxes are spent.

This is not to say straight women cannot know from kayaks and cold water pipes. I think I am just a little more defensive than most, perhaps due to my orientation. I have little patience, no, make that NO patience for chauvinists or condescension.

That said, I am so glad to live here where I can walk down Main Street holding my partner's hand and invite neighbors in for dinner. My partner and I can sit together in church where everyone, old and young, knows us as a couple. It is a great thing to be able to maneuver through entire days without once thinking about how we might appear to others. Our kids belong to their high school's thriving Gay/Straight Alliance where I was surprised to learn, the ratio of gay to straight is approximately even. It is okay to come out there and same-sex couples are welcome at the Prom. Now, I'm not foolish enough to think there is no anguish. It's not perfect by a long shot. But it is better than it was a generation ago, when I was an uncomfortable teenager living without even a name for what I was feeling.

I am 56 now, and out. Happily so. It feels good to live clean and true, even though it took a while. Life can get better.

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