Tag Archives: Coming Out

Kissing Games For Girls (A Companion Piece To ‘Good Kisser’)

Yesterday, in the deepest, darkest recesses of my word-processor, I excavated an unpublished article that I composed more than a decade ago.

‘Good Kisser’ (https://beanloveblog.wordpress.com/good-kisser-written-in-springsummer-2004/), a personal account which explores the discomfort I often experienced with regards to sexuality during my teens and early-to-mid-twenties, was not only a testament to how much my writing has improved over the years, but also a window into the ways that it has lost some of its boldness. Because despite the clanging cliches and baggy sentences, and the initial mortification I felt when I reread my proclamation to the world about how I was a ‘bad lesbian’, who often snogged men in straight bars out of boredom, I was secretly pleased with its unyielding honesty – and truth be told – a wee bit jealous of the devil-may-care attitude brandished by my twenty-five-year-old self.

At the time I wrote the piece, I had been single for about half a year, following a final dramatic break-up with my first serious girlfriend; I’d also recently thrown myself head-first into the lesbian dating pool once again and was revelling in the attention. Now, I won’t bore anyone with the specifics of my love life except to say that there were a lot of dates with a lot of different girls; there were also a helluva lot more knock-backs, but that did not dissuade me from putting myself out there time and time again. Back then, I was high on optimism, and it also helped that I was not too bad looking.

These days, I can’t imagine myself seeking romance in a gay bar. I can’t imagine walking up to a strange woman and asking for her phone number or offering to buy her a drink. But I did those things frequently, and without hesitation. My friend, Tracy, who often played the part of wingman, was thoroughly amused at the way I used to ‘work’ the room: staking out the attractive single ladies and then insinuating myself into their conversations, and often their affections; although she admitted to me later that the novelty very quickly wore off as, more often than not, the girls who were most interested in me turned out to be the ones we needed to steer well clear of.

A lot of the scenarios which occurred during that period were later embellished upon as I poured them into my fiction: I wrote mostly about bar-culture and queer-culture at this time; and my butch narrator, Vicky Romeo, gained a greater sense of humility as one by one her previous conquests came back to haunt her during one of the many rewrites of my novel, ‘Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz’ (https://beanloveblog.wordpress.com/an-extract-from-my-novel-vicky-romeo-plus-joolz/), as well as a back story where she endured a lonely adolescence as the girl who had never been kissed.

Nothing was wasted. Nothing is ever wasted. Those hours I spent wining and dining Ms Wrong were valuable experiences, as were the lonely teenage years I whittled away by trying to make myself appear attractive to boys I didn’t really have the heart for.

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Last Tango In Sudbury

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A couple of weeks ago, Antonia asked what I’d prefer as a Valentines gift: a romantic weekend in Manchester (a place I’ve been wanting to revisit for years) or the red, retro, replica telephone box / display cabinet that I saw in a shop in Long Melford. I chose the telephone box, of course – not only is it a beautiful and jaw-dropping collectible piece of furniture, but it’s the perfect kooky habitatat for the remaining fifty or sixty pocket dragon ornaments I hadn’t yet managed to showcase. Anyway, as a result, we will probably be spending a significant amount of time this weekend under my duvet… with a bowl of salty popcorn / kettle chips / other random tasty vegan snack whilst tuning in to the rest of ‘Last Tango In Halifax’. That’s what we’ve been doing all week actually, and we’ve become so hooked on the show that we’ve already binge-watched two seasons in the last five days!

The BBC one comedy-drama about lost opportunities and second chances, was written by British BAFTA winning writer Sally Wainwright and was inspired by her mother, who gained a new lease of life after she married her second husband. The show follows widowed septuagenarians Alan Buttershaw (Derek Jacobi) and Celia Dawson (Anne Reid) who reconnect on facebook then rekindle a romance which started nearly sixty years before. Alan and Celia’s later-in-life relationship and their live-life-to-the-max attitude is juxtaposed to the modern day mayhem that governs the lives of their respective daughters, Gillian (Nicola Walker), a bed-hopping farmer who works part-time in a supermarket, and Caroline (Sarah Lancashire), an Oxford-educated head mistress of an elite secondary school who, unbeknownst to Celia, has become intimate with a female colleague following the breakdown of her marriage to lovecheat ex, John, the father of her two teenage sons.

To be honest, I only started watching this show because of the lesbian storyline between Caroline and Kate (Nina Sosanya): I’d read the appraisals in Diva magazine regarding Sally Wainwright’s portrayal of the relationship between the two forty-something divorcees, and I was curious to know what was so special about it – well, that and the fact that you rarely see lesbians on tv unless they’re in a prison drama or a fleeting fancy in a soap. And I wasn’t disappointed. Aside from the brilliant dialogue, I was pleased to see that neither Caroline or Kate rushed to define themselves ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’ (although, interestingly enough, other characters did label them); nor did storylines include any long drawn out coming out scenes which ended in hysteria, or tortured depictions of either woman struggling to accept their sexuality. They were shown as just a normal couple.

So I’m glad that Antonia’s mother lent us the DVDs so we could watch ‘Last Tango’. But not just because of the queer-themes. No, I completely fell in love with Alan’s character, and Celia was particularly inspiring with her gutsy gung-ho adventurous streak – I could almost forgive her homophobic references and the stupid faces she pulled whenever she didn’t get her own way. But more than that, I was pleased to see elderly people being represented on TV as something other than doddering old stay-at-home windbags who criticise and complain about everything.

Now I just have to work out what to give Antonia for Valentines day. I’m thinking, perhaps, a few more shades of red, pink and purple acrylic paint. And maybe a new blank canvas. She likes to work whilst the TV is on in the background and has been manically creating recently. I just hope she doesn’t get too excited during season three and splatter the lot on my bedcovers!

Coming Out Processes

Coming out as vegan might have been harder than coming out as gay, but coming out as brain injured is even harder. I was reminded of this today whilst filling out a ‘limited capability for work’ form for the dwp: one of the categories on the form concerned itself with asking about my social life, or more specifically how I survived ‘coping with social situations’.

Now, it may come as a shock to some people who know me, but the truth is I have a significant lack of self-confidence when it comes to going out and meeting new people these days, and this is largely because I’ve learnt from the mistakes I’ve made and the dicey situations I’ve gotten myself into in the past when I’ve been out.

Deciding whether or not to disclose my brain injury to new friends and acquaintances is and always has been a major cause of anxiety for me: usually, if I disclose my brain injury, people either feel sorry for me or they avoid me because they don’t want the burden of being around someone who has a disability. But if I don’t tell people, then interacting with them becomes awkward because I constantly have to make excuses as to why I don’t have a job or children or any of the other normal things that most people my age have in their lives – the only saving grace is that people often (wrongly) assume that being a lesbian is the reason I don’t have a family.

In the past, I have played down reoccuring problems such as getting lost (sometimes for hours) inside pubs or night clubs; and I’ve often made jokes out of my inability to being able to find the toilet or the bar on my own. And sometimes it is funny. But sometimes it’s just not.

It’s even worse when people I am socialising with decide that they want to change venue while we are out. When this happens, I am faced with an entirely new dilema: I can either make my excuses and go home early (like a right killjoy), or I can follow them to a place where I am in potential danger because of my topographical memory impairment*. In the past, I have gone along with others’ suggestions on the basis that someone else has said they will help me to get back home, and as a result I have ended up seriously lost and bewildered (because although a lot of people mean well, they just can’t grasp that I really don’t remember how to walk to my bus stop or that taxi rank we passed that is just two minutes walk away; and they’ll often trot off and get drunk and then forget all about me). Because of this I don’t go out at night on my own or to places that I haven’t been to before.

Sometimes when people later find out from someone else that I’ve had a brain injury, they often become annoyed, hurt and offended because I have hidden things from them and lied by omission. I’ve been called ‘irresponsible’ for not making them aware of my memory deficits, and perhaps they’ve got a point. But why should I have to come out?

No matter what I do, I often feel socially isolated.

* Topographic memory involves the ability to orient oneself in space, to recognize and follow an itinerary, or to recognize familiar places.

Sweet Fanny Adams

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When I first came out to my family more than a decade ago, my mother shrieked then promptly blamed the serious blow to the head that I’d received when I was just fourteen:

‘You’re confused!’ she’d cried. ‘And you’re vulnerable because of all the traumas you’ve had in your life. And it’s not doing you any favours hanging around with all those gay people.’

She swiftly followed this up by asking if I’d now slept with women as well as men, and when I didn’t answer (largely due to embarrassment, because sex was something we’d never talked about), she decided to take this as a no, and therefore proof that I was going through ‘a phase’.

Even now, at the age of thirty-six and a quarter, I find it difficult to discuss my romantic relationships with her, and as a result I’ve experienced a wall of barely concealed resentment gradually piling up between us. Of course, she was right about one thing: it’s quite normal to have emotional and social problems after a brain injury; and so it was no surprise that I found myself regarded with suspicion (and sometimes ridicule), by the wonderful and mysterious lesbian peers that I set out to know.

Frankly, I was desperate to find a girl and fall in love – I wanted moonlight-and-roses, candlelit dinners, fireworks, serenades, and one of those kiss-in-the-rain-endings that you see in old movies; I didn’t just want a romance, no, I wanted a full-blown courtship, but for some reason the girls I met found flowers on a first date inappropriate, and were expecting cunnilingus by at least the second. I wore the term ‘romantic’ like a shiny gold star badge; and in my head, sex was supposed to equal love, and love meant wooing and waiting until they told you that you were ‘the one’, before sweeping them off their feet and into bed. In saying that, a night spent nauseously in a gay bar, jaded with alcohol, and loneliness, and the frustration that I was somehow detached from everyone else and was looking for something that did not exist, was enough for me to temporarily throw chastity to the wind.

When I broke up with the partner I was with before I met Antonia, my whole romantic reverie fell apart spectacularly; and I spent nine months feeling like I wanted to rip my own stupid pulsating heart from my chest and hurl it full force into a spiral slipstream. Every ballad I heard, every dreamy handholding couple I glimpsed on the street, made my insides jerk and my eyes sting. Because even though it was me who had ended the relationship with my ex – I’ll call her Fanny Adams because sweet FA was precisely what I got out of that relationship, and because it softens the blow a little to give her a ridiculous name – I could not stop thinking about her.

I had finally realized that love – albeit it wonderful and warm and fuzzy, like a cotton blanket you want to stay wrapped up in forever – could also be a viper that squeezes and constricts and then turns on you with sharp plunging teeth.

If there had been an on-off switch for my emotions, then I would have jammed it permanently, so that I never again felt that tightening of my chest or the dryness in my throat, when I saw her grinning back at me from photographs we’d posed for, or heard a song on the radio that we had allocated as ‘ours’.

And it didn’t seem to matter how many times I poked and prodded at the corpse of our relationship, for I could not erase the lies she’d told or understand exactly how I’d gotten myself so entangled in her mind games in the first place.

Because the truth was I never in love with her. And right from the start I was suspicious of almost everything she said. But I was also blindly optimistic and I was clinging so badly to this stereotype of what I wanted love to be.

I fell in love with Antonia because she was everything Fanny Adams wasn’t: she moved to Scotland for me; she became vegan for me; and once, during a particularly stressful road trip, she told my mother a few belated hometruths for me.

It just goes to show how much your ideas regarding matters of the heart can change.