originally posted May 18, 2014
In February 2004, San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.
I married because it was what was done. I had children and I loved them but I can’t say there was a lot of love in my marriage. I did my wifely duties, and my husband did what was expected of him, but still, I suffered from the most profound loneliness.
In the beginning at least, there was a kind of friendship and a domestic comradery which made things tolerable. The thing is, I never cared much for sex. I never felt any passion for him, or for anyone. I just assumed this was how it was. For a long time, when I saw ostensibly happy, loving couples, I thought they were just putting on a show for the sake of appearances. Or that they were lying to themselves and after a while, they would no longer be able to sustain the charade.
I had a good job as a supervisor in a large hospital so I was always financially independent. This was important to me in case I ever decided to leave. I’m not really sure why I didn’t. I guess I was secretly afraid of what I’d discover about myself out there.
My children grew up, got married, and had children of their own. I loved my grandchildren and was happy to live so close, so we could be an important part of each others’ lives.
By this time in my life, I’d come to the realization that some couples really are happy. I was pleased to see that my children were among them. But this was a bittersweet feeling because it always made me wonder what was wrong with me. It made me realize what I had missed.
When I was 63, my husband was killed in a work-related accident. I should have been sad, but I felt nothing. For years, he’d merely been a presence in my life – neither positive or negative. We both went about our business and never included the other in any interests or plans. The only time we appeared in public as a couple was at family functions and at holiday time, and even then, we didn’t relate much.
I often wondered if he kept a girlfriend on the side, but I wouldn’t have cared much if he did. His private life was of no concern to me.
After he was gone, I became more social. I joined clubs and organizations and even some citizen action groups. I tried dating, at the insistence of my children, but no one ever interested me and it just wasn’t worth the effort.
When I was 67, I met a woman in one of my groups, who made me feel something I’d never felt for a man. For the first time in my life, another human being gave me butterflies. She was a few years younger than I was and a recent “widow”… (I later learned, from a long term relationship with a woman.)
I didn’t understand my own fascination at first. To be honest, it disgusted me. I disgusted myself. What kind of freak was I? I’d been married for nearly forty years. I had kids and grandkids. I wasn’t like that!
I convinced myself that I just enjoyed her friendship. I’d never met anyone before her with whom I was so compatible. We laughed at the same things. We’d read the same books, had seen the same movies, and loved and hated them in the same measure and for the same reasons. We liked the same music. Had the same values. It was easy being with her. I felt I could tell her anything. We quickly became almost inseparable, but if my feelings drifted into the realm of romantic love, I quickly pushed them aside.
It went like this for over a year until finally she suggested we go on vacation together. I was happy to have someone to travel with – I’d always wanted to, but was afraid to go alone. To save money, we shared a room. It made perfect sense. It didn’t occur to me that anything would happen. Looking back, I was in deep denial.
The second day, we walked for hours. That evening, she offered to rub my feet, and one thing led to another, and soon I was kissing her with complete abandon; with more passion than I’d ever felt in my life!
I am ashamed to say, I wasn’t very nice to her for the rest of our trip. I was scared and confused. But she understood and give me enough time and space to find my way back to her. And so I did.
Eventually, we moved in together. We called ourselves “roommates” and claimed it made the most efficient use of our limited budgets, but I’m not sure how many we actually fooled. Of those we didn’t, I doubt any of them even cared. I always assumed my kids had figured it out, but they never actually said anything. They simply accepted us as a unit.
We were happy like that for many years, until at 85, she passed away in her sleep. At our age, it was inevitable that one of us would leave the other. I should have been prepared, but I was inconsolable. I, myself, was also gone within the year.
I know now that we’ve been together before, and that we will be together again. I just hope that next time, it doesn’t take so long for us to find each other. Maybe the lesson here is, it’s best to be true to yourself from the very beginning
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