One of the things I was scared of when I was a little girl was being a lesbian. In particular, I was scared of people finding out about me being a lesbian. So, you’re a lesbian now? asked the smiling women modelling bras in the Next catalogue. After studying them I would force myself to turn to the bulging underpants of the men’s section but they had no faces, no smiles and so I didn’t like them as much. I would be lay there on my top bunk, then panicking, thinking, “I’m a lesbian, I’m a lesbian and I don’t want to be.”
Now, I am ashamed of my childhood lesbophobia. I tell others I am bisexual, my mum says I go on about it. To myself, I think, ‘sexually fluid!’ but then I remember that sex can be difficult for me and the word fluid seems too simple to properly represent how I feel. So I worry, am I straight, am I straight and I don’t want to be?
Does it matter anyway? I try to make it not matter to me. I stop thinking about it directly, I decide to pretend to be straight. Then I am drunk on beer in the long grass with my friend and I want to kiss her, or I am with another friend in her bed and I want to kiss her. Both times, beautiful blonde friends that I love. Later, I say to men with beards that I don’t fancy blonde women but this isn’t true, just something I’ve heard other people say. Who knows what I fancy? A snog in the dark on the heath, lifting up her body by the waist…
The first time I had sex with a woman, she was a friend of mine, Z. We had only been friends for a few months. There was something about her that I found difficult. She was tall with smiling eyes, I was afraid of her. She had just stopped dating a man called J. She and I hadn’t slept together yet, we were still only friends. I started sleeping with him.
I told her about it in a cafe. It was winter and she had a line of shiny white pencil on her top lid. She welled up. I was sorry but I was confused. Was she crying because of me or because of J?
I was polyamourous then, she wasn’t into that. When we met up we talked about politics, about being bisexual, about people she didn’t like.
When I was with J I was excited about polyamory. In previous monogamous relationships I had always felt a dark guilt, like I was pretending, acting as if my partner fulfilled all my romantic wants, as if I only desired them. Now, I didn’t need to pretend anymore, I could shrug that off. J wasn’t straight either. When he went on a date with a man or non-binary person I was excited, told him to lean back and let charisma pour out of him like honey. Once, he slept with a woman I knew and I felt cross and small. She was a writer I admired, better at writing than me and probably sex.
In a South London cemetery, J and I spoke about relationships. The sunlight streamed over his denim jacket, his arms outstretched.
“Oh, Cat, you just want to be loved,” was his conclusion.
Did I? I said I found it hard to meet women to have sex with. He told me he was attracted to boyishness.
I asked, “Am I boyish?”
He shrugged, “You must be because I’m attracted to you.”
He was very handsome then and boyish himself.
I stopped seeing J. He asked, “What changed?”
We weren’t on the same page.
In the summer Z came to my house and said, “I’d forgotten how hot you were.”
Later she took her hoops out of her ears and put them on my bedside table, telling me, “I’m nervous too,” so softly.
Things changed for J too. He came to meet me on my lunch break at work. I walked him to a park, it was sunny and he was smiley as he always is.
I said, “oh, guess who I had sex with!” But then I told him who it was straight away. “So we’ve created a perfect…”
He turned around sharply to me as I was putting my thumbs and index fingers together to make the shape.
“I thought you were going to say baby.”
I laughed, “No you can’t make a baby like that. With two vaginas.”
We were sitting next to each other on the grass now, I looked at his profile, his eyelashes were so long and pretty like a girls.
“Although, if you and Z could make a baby, it would be beautiful” he said.
I haven’t been in a relationship or even dated anyone for many months now. The last person I was with had another girlfriend who he had been with for years. He told me that he loved me but I could never really feel it or believe him. Although I wasn’t pretending in the same way that I had done in monogamous relationships, I was still hiding the way I felt. Even to myself, I acted as if I was more OK than I was, less jealous, as if I didn’t feel inadequate.
When I think back to what J said to me in the graveyard, I think he was right, I do just want to be loved, but it’s not just that. I want to go back to that day in the cemetery with the lines of sunshine over his denim arms to tell him what is as true now as it was then, when I am loved it’s never quite enough.