The Moment

20 12 2010

We pinched this idea from one of our favourites – Smith Magazine: describing a Moment that transformed our lives. The Moment might be “a split-second decision, something you witnessed, a message sent or received, a literal or mental discovery. Moments can be serious or silly, as short as a tweet, as long as 750 words, told via a single image or illustration, series of photos, or a scanned letter or post-it note…” (Smith Magazine)

Here’s ours…

1.

I think my moment was when I said yes to adopting a kitten this year. I was sold the idea after some effort, involving pathetic descriptions of how pitifully she was found, sheltering from the pouring rain under a car until M picked her up and brought her home and now she needed to be adopted, poor thing. An innocent question about what colour she was, brought a hail of abuse upon my head, featuring the words ‘appearance based discrimination’ and ‘how cruel’. So I hastily accepted the tiny creature who has turned out to be a strong minded individual (more than most, and I should know, having had many) who never moves slower than a dash, usually speeding from place to forbidden place, who is oddly more interested in investigating exactly how the loo flushes than in her next meal, is voiceless, but still communicates her wishes perfectly, never answers to any name, doesn’t mind getting wet but hates being laughed at above all things.

My cat is a frequent troublemaker, constant entertainment and perfect companion, who has definitely transformed my days. Saying yes to adopting her was one of the best moments of my life.

2.

When I left Sri Lanka for the United States I knew I would come back. Gut feeling in the face of ‘you might want to stay’, ‘it’s the kind of study environment you will like’, ‘everyone says they will come back but when you go there and experience the comforts you will think differently’.  Even, ‘when you come back you will want to go back because it is so dirty and dusty and chaotic here’. So I went to the States, and I loved it there. The parks, the cafés, the hundreds of books, the people not staring, the freedom of walking back home alone at 3 in the morning without much fear. I immersed myself in that. But I was waiting to come back because I found out what it is like to not have a patch of garden to walk on, not talk to neighbours over your wall, not have friends who will flock to you whatever time of day or night if you are in trouble and not to be able to get to a hot beach in a couple of hours.

And I still remember the moment when I realised that the sunshine was an illusion – you can walk in it but it wouldn’t warm your skin. My entire two years there was one long Moment.

3.

My life changed completely – for the worse – last week.

I switched my mobile phone brand from a Nokia to a Blackberry. Ever since owning a mobile phone, I have embraced the easy to use and functional Nokia. Last week I got carried away by the messenger service of the Blackberry (BBM) as my family lives overseas and  I wanted to communicate with them more easily and for free, so I went out and bought the 9300 Curve 3G.

Firstly, it took a whole day for Dialog to activate the Blackberry service for me, and then I learned that it would cost me an additional 1,100 rupees per month on top of my current mobile bill.

Then I made the mistake of linking my personal Gmail account to my hand held device (after all that’s what its there for, right?) I now receive emails all day (and night) – on the device and on my computer. It hasn’t stopped making burping sounds since it was activated. Worse, I can’t tell the difference between an SMS, an MMS, an email alert, a Facebook update and the phone ringing. They have all merged into one big belch!

What really took the cake was when this afternoon my mother sent me a BBM message asking me what I had for lunch!

This is the beginning of my end…





First love…

2 08 2010

1.

I had two first loves. The first first love happened when I was 13. The second was when I was 25. The second first love had more of a life impact on me, so I will make that one the subject of my contribution to this post….

I was 25 and she was a year older than me. It was the first lesbian experience for both of us, so it was all very intense and consuming. We were good friends before we became lovers. We were both straight at that time and we both had boy friends. None of our friends knew and neither did our parents. (However her mother found out towards the end of our relationship.) We were together for two years before we broke up. During our relationship we read sad lesbian stories and books where the gay or lesbian character would often die at the end. Our favourite was ‘Lihaf – the Quilt’ – a short story by Ismat Chugtai. We both loved the sea and spent a great deal of our leisure time in the water…

It took us an age to break up…and even when we stopped being lovers, we continued to see each other as friends. Trying to keep up a pretence of friendship when you still desire someone is not a good idea. It was very difficult and I don’t recommend it to anyone.

(Next time it has to be a clean break and no seeing the ex for a good while I told myself!)

Are we still friends? Yes we are. Not the best of friends but friends nonetheless.

Sometimes when I see her I am reminded of our old relationship, but we never talk about it or discus it. I think an old flame is easily rekindled, especially the first. But we have never gone back. Some things are best left alone.

2.

As above, I have two first loves. Or I should, because I came to loving women later in life. But I spent the last few days trying to remember which boy or man I first fell in love with, and I can’t! I suppose falling in love with a boy is not really a life changing experience.

When I first met the woman I fell in love with I had no idea I would fall in love with her. If someone had told me at the time that I would fall in love with a woman half a dozen years later, I would have laughed. Some things become significant only after events have unfolded. Memories are strained through a sieve then. The sand is allowed to fall through and checked for specks of gold. The shiny stuff is kept separately.

What is chronological time when you measure feelings? At the time I used to think that we went our separate ways too soon, but maybe it was just right, that time. When the beautiful die young they are forever beautiful. Pardon my macabre sense of humor. But because there were beautiful things in it, we could remain friends. The shiny flecks could be sifted for gold and it didn’t have to be all thrown away. Why would you want to send away someone who knows you far better than most people around you, listens to the stupidest things you’ve done without judging you and gives you a hug when things are really bad? Such friends are fine gold, and I keep them close.

3.

I remember the first time I saw her.

It was such a long time ago, or so it seems to me now. Maybe that depends on the event too…and on the person. The distance and space it all acquires as time passes and you move on from your self. From the way you were then, the thoughts that passed through your head and the feelings that moved your heart and hands. The way you remember things sifting, shifting and maybe taking on qualities they never had at the time.

I couldn’t swear to any of it. What I am now is so different in every way, it could have all been a dream. There are doors in my head though, that were not there before, and I have to open a great number of them, one leading to the other like Russian dolls, deeper and deeper, into the very heart of myself, till I reach that place where I look at what I saw once and then lost and I feel the first tear burn my skin like fire.

But the pain that I imagined infinite then, has passed of course and I remember all of those events as a learning experience only, as a time in my life when I was transformed, and that is enough. I do not ask any more of it, of her, of myself now. It has been such a relief to forget, to cease wondering, to enjoy every moment of every day without waiting for the day I look up, look around and see her there again.

But when it was happening it was a continuing story in my mind, with all the passion and fire of any script, any song, any poem, any tale told to any child or lover. For it is mine, you see. It is part of my story and I am it.





Priceless responses by open-minded, liberal-thinking women

26 02 2010
  1. “Leave her for a few days at a time.” On breaking up with pull-all-stops partner.
  2. “Meet and talk to her.” Aka – Don’t worry about your feelings, just think of her demands.
  3. “It’s easy for her because she was the one who left.”  Walking out of home and living out of a suitcase is good training for nirvana.
  4. “You told too many people.” On confiding in mutual friends after partner told all and sundry.
  5. “You must also take responsibility.” For a violent end to a long-term relationship.
  6. “No proper handing over of duties.” On stopping volunteer work under no-way-can-you-go-there circumstances.
  7. “You chose to leave, so it’s not your house anymore.” On leaving home after a violent incident with no option of going back.
  8. “She can’t advise you because she is straight”. So she doesn’t know what happens when people are in relationships?
  9. “People will talk if you’re seen around with X.” Two months after the end of the relationship.

And of course, the best:

10. “Prove you’re not committing adultery”. To  reassure suspicious partner who sneak-peeks into text and mail.





Coming out

23 02 2010

1.

I don’t have a coming out fetish – I know some people do. They have to come out to everyone. For me it’s not like that. I think it’s important to think about how my coming out affects the other person while I am thinking of the relief (along with the more painful consequences) it may give. Neither can I think of coming out as one side of a binary: out vs not out. Is anyone really completely out or completely closeted? I don’t think so. I think most of us go through life being out to different people and to different degrees. I am out to friends at work, I am out to some cousins and not others, one person in my family is oblivious to my love for women and with another I have a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy!

The first people I came out to were my group of immediate friends. I didn’t have to tell them anything. When I first fell in love with a woman in my late twenties, it was right in front of them. And they surrounded me with a safety net, without being told anything. What would our lives be without our friends! I had such good luck coming out to friends that I thought all my friends would be accepting. I was right. The people who were important to me were accepting. What I didn’t see was that people who were important to the people who were important to me, would find it difficult to deal with. So when my best friend started avoiding me, it was a shock. Obviously, she would put her relationship before her friendship with me, but how could such a wonderful, sensitive, open-minded person be with a conservative prick who thought being friends with a lesbian was bad??

There is nothing I would change about coming out to the people that I have come out to. But that doesn’t mean I have to follow that up with coming out to everyone in my life. You choose who you come out to (when you can choose). You try to think if this person is important to you, if it is important for this person to know this part of your life, how much good or damage it will do to your relationship with this person, and so on and so on. You have much to lose by coming out in our kind of conservative society with taboos against same-sex love, but there is also much to gain. You are yourself! No more pretending that the person you love is a man, no more pretending that you find the penis desirable and best of all, no excuses needed for crying when your ‘friend’ suddenly leaves!

2.

I came out at 13. But not to myself…I just came out to the older girl I was in love with at that age – she was 15. I told her I wanted to be with her forever. I meant it wholeheartedly. Later in life, I married (a man). My childhood sweetheart told me I was making a mistake. The only person who had the balls to tell me that home truth! In my heart I knew she was right, but I never had the courage to act on that knowledge.

I came out again when I was 26. This time to myself and to the girl I was in love with at that time. My mother said “I should have known.” and “Why did I let you marry a man!” There was much drama. Then we broke up and she married – a man!

I was very sad and confused and lonely in those days – I think it lasted at least a year. Nothing could lift me out or up. It was one of the hardest times in my life. Until I finally met a few women like me… dykes! Hallelujah! What bliss… mad, confused, wonderful, strong women – the bravest women in the world. Finding this community was the best thing about coming out.

Since then there has been no turning back.

Of course this is the abridged version. If I were to tell it all like it really was, I could fill a book. But in the end I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Now I can truly say “Been there, done that and now I know what I really want. So there!”

PS: A cardinal rule in life: Be true to yourself first.

3.

I came out very late in life – I must have been around 30 at least and it was sort of involuntary but also very definite. I was married at the time and hadn’t really thought about being a lesbian (I had trouble with the word, even) and certainly was not identifying as such. But nevertheless I ended up having one of the most spectacular coming out stories of all…involving falling in love with my best friend (at the time), while many other people – friends and family – contributed to much general drama and gossip that went on for months, ending in a divorce.

Looking back, the best thing about it was the fact that I was finally forced to deal with the elephant under my bed – the fact that I was a dyke and had plenty of evidence for this from childhood but never really took it on board for all the usual reasons – religious upbringing, family background, social condemnation, guilt, fear and all the rest of it.

The worst thing about it was that I hurt someone I cared about, who had never been anything but good to me, which I regret to this day, although I know I have been forgiven.

What I would have changed: I wish I had had the courage to know myself and come out when I was a teenager, which would have been a much more appropriate time and would probably have caused far less trouble all round. Today I am out to my family and I would be out to my parents if they were around. I am not overtly out at work but neither do I trouble to change anything about myself in order to inhabit that environment.

I have changed so much since then I think I am an entirely different person today. I have this idea that coming out marks the end of one life and the beginning of another. I am proud I took this road and though it has often been painful it has also been the source of the most joy. It is certainly the most real thing in my life. I have never regretted it.