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..."My Dinner with Andre"
There was nothing visibly conflicted about it, I hope, but for me, there was more than one layer to it. A former IBM intern (we called them co-ops), who met me through our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) employee group in 2001, contacted me last week. She told me that she was going to be visiting her new girlfriend in New York, and would I be able to meet with her while she was there?
Pat was going to be out of town, at her annual Tennessee golfing trip with her former league team. I told the former co-op that I'd be happy to see her again and that her girlfriend was welcome to join us if she were available. We agreed that the three of us would meet for dinner after my class.
Prior to meeting me, they walked around the Columbia campus; it turned out that her girlfriend was a Barnard alumna and also had earned a Masters at Teachers College (TC); the two of us gave my former colleague a brief tour of TC's main building and library briefly and then headed to LeMonde.
The one, really cool feature I showed them was the Millbank Chapel. The door was open, but it was dark. Another woman was wandering through it, looking for the lights. It hadn't yet become dark outside and so there was a bit of sunlight, coming through the stain-glassed windows.
"I was here for a year and never knew about this," said the girlfriend, as I looked at the metal of the organ-pipes, glinting in the bit of light that squeezed through the narrow windows.
The Chair Beside Me Was Empty
At dinner, it emerged that the girlfriend went through a time at Barnard, where she thought she wanted to be a nun. The co-op had come from a deeply evangelical family. Both of them still loved their religion, even as the co-op looked as though she had been bruised by misuse of it by well-meaning, but frightened relatives.
The nearly-former nun was appealing in her long skirt, long hair, long, gold-loop earrings, thong-sandals and dark jean-jacket. The very cute co-op didn't have clothes that I noticed. Consciously, I looked her directly in the eye the whole time. The girlfriend was 36 and had never before fallen in love with a woman. The auburn-haired, former intern was now 27 and was as winning as when she had been an Engineering major, spending the summer at IBM.
They had met in February during a Habitat for Humanity trip to Nicaragua. It was all so vicariously romantic. I still got excited, remembering how I felt around Pat for the first 18 months prior to either of us, being courageous enough to venture into a conversation with each other; I needed to conjure up that time, though, as it was nearly 19 years ago.
Sitting with them, I felt extra-lonely for Pat.
What Makes Couples Last?
"When's she coming back?" my former colleague asked.
"On *Tuesday*, I said forlornly.
"That's tomorrow!" she reminded me.
I smiled. I hadn't realized it.
"My friend got us together," said the girlfriend.
Earlier, when all of us were telling "when we knew" (we were attracted to girls/women), I had mentioned having a physiological response to my friend when we were at the beach at 11, and how upset I was by it. I *knew* that it was momentous, and that I wished I didn't feel how I did.
"That's exactly what happened to me with her," said the girlfriend, pointing at the co-op, "And I thought, I don't need this. I like my life the way it is, and I don't want a long-distance relationship, but then my friend helped me see that life is short -- "
"It is," I confirmed, adding, "And love is elusive!"
My love is home now and yet I'm here, blogging. It just shows that when I need the relief of writing, I need it. I talked with Pat before she turned the light off and she understood. And it'll make joining her for sleep all the sweeter...but first, what was that extra layer to the conversation I referred to above?
It was my disorientation at being with a couple, but not visibly part of a couple myself at the time. That nearly never happened to me and I was unsettled by it.
It was weird, like I needed to borrow some of their couple-energy to sustain me while I sat there on my own. My need made me feel a bit self-conscious. And I was not used to being with a brand new couple either.
"How did you accept your identity, considering your religion?" the girlfriend asked.
I said that I threw it away for some time, but fortunately, found my way back to Judaism because it was too good to give up.
She smiled approvingly, it seemed. She still felt ardently Catholic, and the former intern was fond of being Christian, too. All of us agreed that it was positive that they had religious enthusiasm in common. I offered for them to come with Pat and me to one of our Sabbath services whenever they wished. I hope they will....