rule number one

08 July 2002

Rule number one of being a dyke is this: "Never fall in love with a straight girl." As rules go, it's a good one. You don't want to risk investing your emotions into someone who doesn't have a prayer of returning your feelings, after all. Why give your heart to someone who can't love you back?

Sadly, our hearts are fools and do not mind this rule any more than you would mind stepping on an ant while walking down the sidewalk (which, incidentally, is about what you feel like after you've wasted your time on a woman who can't care for you the same way you care for her). How do I know this? Because, of course, I am a fool.

Back in the mists of time, way before I met Cyn, even before I met my ex-husband, I was a bright-eyed, seventeen-year-old freshman in college. It was my first time out of my parents' house, and wasn't I stoked? Yes, I was. I arrived at school a week early to sweat my ass off doing marching band camp in the August-in-Mississippi heat every day. Two days before school started, I lugged all my things across the quad from the band dorm to the freshman dorm, where I'd been assigned room 216 for the coming year. I arrived, bag and baggage, during dorm check-in for the Greek pledges, who had also arrived a week early and were getting in before the crowds hit the next day.

I stood in line, grumbling and muttering at the fact that sorority girls have no knowledge of manners or the concept of "waiting in line", as evidenced by the growing clump of giggling bow-heads at the check-in desk. The girl beside me, a short blonde with blue-gray eyes, turned to me about this time and made some wry comment about people who couldn't wait their turn. We shared a conspiratorial laugh while I made smart-ass comments about sorority chicks.

"I'm Marcie," I offered, holding out my hand.

"Jen," she replied, shaking my hand briefly. "What room are you in?"

"216, I think," I said. "I've been living in the band dorm for a week, so this is all kind of confusing."

A strange look crossed her face. "216? Are you sure?"

"Yeah, pretty sure... why?"

"That's my room."

"No kidding? Well, cool... I guess that makes us roommates." I smiled.

She grinned back, a dazzling, radiant smile that made my knees weak and my heart beat just a little faster.

We quickly became fast friends. Jen was from the southern part of the state, but her family origins were varied: her father was Cajun and her mother was born in the Belgian Congo of Africa. She used to joke she was the only blond, blue-eyed African-American in the country. She was a devout Catholic and absolutely loyal to her tiny family. She took a full courseload of 19 semester hours and made straight As. I thought she hung the moon.

I would watch her get ready for class in the morning, mesmorized by the simple act of her pulling a brush through her beautiful hair. If she smiled at me, it made my whole day; if we were arguing, the world was dark and dreary. Oh, I had it so bad for her. I made such an idiot of myself sometimes. All she had to do to get me to go out of my way for her, do her a favor, was to smile. One smile and no matter what it was, I was on my knees for her, ready to give her anything, anything in the world.

Surprisingly, I did not know this was called "being in love".

I was raised a fundamentalist Christian, you see, and in my worldview there was simply no room for women who fell in love with other women. It wasn't until sophomore year that I was able to admit that my gay friend Kelly really did love his boyfriend. Fundies are taught that homosexuals don't know how to love, and certainly there are no such things as gay Christians. My, how young I was.

Despite the fact that I would go to any lengths for Jennifer -- or may be because of it -- we fought like cats and dogs second semester of our freshman year. Unbeknownst to either of us, Jennifer had an undiagnosed thyroid problem, which were causing her drastic mood swings, which she would generally take out on me. I was desperate to resolve these conflicts. I tried everything: talking, arguing, pleading, begging. Nothing worked. Finally, Jen told me our friendship was over and she moved out. I was, quite literally, in hysterics for the better part of the evening. Three of the six RAs (resident assistants) from our dorm were in my room trying to convince me the world wasn't going to end. I had never cried that hard over anything, not even when my grandmother killed herself when I was nine. I thought I would die. I wished I would die. I would rather have been dead than live without her love.

Was I neurotic and fucked up? Oh hell yes. I knew that even then. It wasn't healthy to be as wrapped up in someone as I was. But I couldnt' help myself. All I knew was she was my best friend and I thought a part of me was going to die without her.

To make a long story short, I wrote her a letter telling her I would always be her friend, and if she needed me, I would be there. We hardly spoke for the remaining six weeks of school. Over the summer, we exchanged words a few times and reached some sort of silent truce. When school started, we ended up in a class together and were both enrolled in ROTC. ROTC proved to be the bonding point that brought us back into contact and, eventually, friendship.

Yeah, I know. Why would I want to be friends with a woman who fucked me over so badly? Well, love is blind. And stupid.

And no, I still didn't know I was a dyke in love.

It would take way too long to go into the decade that's followed since that year. I transferred to an out-of-state school for junior year after losing my scholarship. I didn't want to go, but circumstances being what they were, I didn't have much choice if I wanted to keep myself in school. Every day, I missed her. I missed her so damn much. I would go to class feeling like I'd had a limb amputated. I would drive down on weekends, four hours each way, just to spend 24 hours with her, and drive back the next day in time for Sunday night church. My car got a lot of miles put on it the first year I was away from her. One day I skipped class and left at eight in the morning, arrived by noon, spent six hours with her, and drove back in time for bed. It was ludicruous, but it didn't matter; no distance was too great, no price too high to pay.

This went on for four years. It's worth noting that Jen only visited me once in all that time -- twice if you count my college graduation. She and I are both notoriously bad at keeping in touch with people, so when I moved to Colorado in 1997, we dropped out of touch except for the occasional phone call and e-mail.

Fast forward to my coming out in 1998. That year, I finally realized why I'd been mooning over this woman for eight solid years. I realized the letter I'd written her the month before my wedding (and never sent) was actually a heart-felt, three-page love letter. A month before my WEDDING, for Christ's sake. I realized the reason I was so broken up when she moved out. I realized a lot of things, but the one that left me shaking my head in disgust was I had been in love with her for eight years and never known it until then.

It's possible to be denser than I am, but it's sure not easy.

Well, for the most part, I got over that. Once the dim bulb of my brain sputtered to life, I tried to re-direct that lost love to other, more available women. I met Cyn later than year, we started dating three months later, and the rest is herstory, as they say.

A few months ago, I asked Jen to be the maid of honor at my committment ceremony this fall. (I did this over e-mail, even though I would have liked to have spoken to her over the phone, because I still do not have Jen's address and number, even though she has been moved to her new town for a year. I have asked for it three times. She hasn't seen fit to give it to me. Anyway.) It took a month for her to write me a single e-mail back, in which she essentially said, "You know homosexuality is against my religion. I don't agree with your lifestyle. I probably can't get the time off or the money, anyway. I love you, but I just can't be there."

Right.

I started thinking. I thought of all those trips up and down the road to see her when we were in college. I thought of the heartfelt letters I wrote her when I was in basic training. I thought of all the times she'd used her smile and those pretty eyes to get me to do things for her -- take her places, buy her lunch, pick her up from class. I thought of the time she drove up to my tiny apartment in Jackson when she found out she was pregnant and her boyfriend dumped her, and I gave her my bed and slept on the couch, and she sobbed on my shoulder for three hours, and I wanted to kill the sonofabitch with my bare hands. I thought of all the times she was dating assholes, and I wanted to say to her, "I could treat you so much better than they do, if you'd let me."

I thought of twelve years of friendship, of all the love and time and tears I'd expended on her.

"I don't agree with your lifestyle."

I deleted her e-mail and didn't write her back.

Rule number one of being a dyke is this: "Never fall in love with a straight girl."

Words to live by.