Sometimes you have to go there to discover that’s not where you belong.
By Nancy Ford
It was a Monday morning like most others. Rainy, kind of steamy. I was plowing through my de rigueur 200+ daily pieces of spam, separating the wheat from the chafe.
No, thanks, I don’t need a prescription of Cyalis at discount prices. No, thanks, I’ve already seen more never-before-seen photos of Britney Spears than I’ll ever need to see.
And as for you, Prince Abuenrtsposnbepcir of Tanjsbagtania, I couldn’t be sorrier that you are being forced to live in exile, but you’ll just have to find your way back to your rightful throne without benefit of my bank account number.
I was almost finished delete-delete-deleting when I came upon another spammish-looking e-mail.
It was from my ex-husband.
No typo. You read that correctly.
Those of you who have been faithful WAW readers for these past 20 years know that, yes indeed, for a brief, crampy period in the ’70s, I was married.
To a man.
With a penis.
During that period of wedded less-than-bliss, I discovered unequivocally that I am a lesbian. After the ensuing ballyhoo, we divorced, I left Ohio for Texas, and last I’d heard, he’d enlisted in the Air Force. That was 1980.
And now here’s an e-mail with his not-very-common name in the subject line. Nawww—couldn’t be, after not hearing hide nor het hair from him in 28 years.
This is one skillful spammer, I thought. Whoever sent this blast has definitely done their homework.
Curious, I opened the message. Sure ‘nough.
“Nancy – I will be in Houston this Sunday and Monday at the Convention Center as part of an equipment demo that my employer is putting on. I thought we could get together for coffee and catch up. Let me know if you are interested.”
Am I “interested”?
If “freaked out,” “slack-jawed,” and maybe even a little “frightened” are similes for the word “interested,” then yes, you could say I was “interested.”
Other than the many jokes it inevitably spawned in my early stand-up career, my hetero marriage is a part of my life that I have since compartmentalized into a seldom-visited corner of my memory. When I do think of it, it is in a frame, bordered like a TV screen, like I am watching a sitcom of the story of someone else’s life.
X and I were married back in the day when all the boys and many of the girls sported haircuts we see on That ’70s Show reruns. A gallon of gasoline was barely a dollar. I drank scotch and voted Republican. I wore pantyhose. It was a much different time.
Curiosity being a strong motivator, I suggested we meet at Baba Yega, high noon, for lunch. I wanted to be on my home turf, some familiar place where, if I suddenly shouted “Gun!,” wait staff (knowing I’m a decent tipper) might jump to my defense.
Nearly three decades later, X’s Ashton Kutcher haircut has been replaced by a standard-issue corporate ‘do. He’s a little grayer, he’s a little heavier—aren’t we all? But he was still as good-looking as ever. White collar. Two cell phones. He assured me that the heart of a hippie still beats under his now-corporate demeanor.
Politics, philosophy, music, religion—X and I talked about nearly everything except how different our lives would have been if we had not divorced.
Who would I be today if X and I had stuck it out to celebrate our 32nd anniversary last month? Who would I be if I had never found my way to a gay nightclub stage to strum my angst away on, or to a gay rag to deposit my rantings in? Who would I be? Would I even be at all ?
I could easily have been doomed to spend these past 30ish years sublimating my true self to be a wife, and probably a mother. How many other women of that era married men, not knowing they were lesbians, and sublimated away their entire lives?
I thought about those women as X and I said our goodbyes. I also thought about how very, very fortunate I am to have married a man who, chaotic as our divorce was at the time, let me go on to live my life without trying to beat the hetero back into me. Or worse.
Funny, I didn’t know X and I had any peace we needed to make; I’d never felt the need for closure, per se. But walking out of the restaurant that increasingly sunny Monday gave me a renewed sense of faith in—I don’t know—in something.
Maybe it was just comforting to be reminded why I had married this man in the first place: He was a nice guy. Funny. Smart. Decent values. Loving. Great hair.
Who knows? If he hadn’t been born so straight, so vaginally challenged, maybe we’d still be together this very day.