- By the time I reached my 15th birthday, I was old. I smoked unfiltered Camel cigarettes and I had had sex with most of the boys in the neighborhood including my younger brother. I had mastered the public transport system so I could escape the stifling little town I lived in. Early every Saturday morning I boarded the Greyhound bus for the freedom of Santa Barbara, the big city to the south with its outdoor beatnik cafe. There I sat all day long drinking black tea, reading Eugene Ionesco, Teilhard de Chardin and writing in my diary.
I talked my parents into enrolling me in Marymount School, a private Catholic girl’s boarding school in Santa Barbara, because I knew that graduating from Lompoc High School was a dead end. I arrived at this bastion of custom and convention wearing a rock on a leather thong around my neck. I resisted wearing the uniform—which included white oxfords and a poorly-styled short-sleeved blouse—and was repeatedly sent back to the dormitory to change out of my loafers and long-sleeved, button-down collared shirts by the nun in charge. I felt it was enough that I was wearing a skirt, something I hated doing. Still, I was happy for the rigorous educational setting, and quick to find a special friend who also liked madrigals, poetry and long walks behind the campus.
She and I became inseparable. By the end of my first term in this tightly stratified girls social setting, we were the source of jokes and whispers, jealousy and resentment. We were smart, talented, attractive, and rebellious. And we were crazy about each other.
As these things go, things went…the skipped classes spent together in an isolated garden grotto led to a series of dramatic events and angst-filled encounters with the principal and parents…an ever-intensifying awareness of every moment in each other’s presence… and then one night, at the end of December 1963 she was visiting me in Lompoc over the holidays.
We had been talking for hours. First, we had turned the overhead lights off, then the side table lamps. Now we were in the dark – talking and talking, telling each other things we had never told another soul.
It was very late. We were tired. And suddenly, we came to the end of everything there was to say.
There was a silence in the darkness that was rich with expectancy—rich and thick—and sweet like butterscotch. Out of nowhere, up from the depths of my central self, came a surge of desire so overwhelming I was faint. This feeling was accompanied by two crystal clear thoughts: I want to kiss her. I am going to kiss her.
Let me be clear: It had never occurred to me to kiss a girl. I had only kissed boys…and not the boys in the neighborhood. Not those boys. Only the two young men who had asked me to “go steady,” neither of whom I had allowed to go “all the way.”
Thirty seconds elapsed from that surge of desire, my determination to act and the act itself. Thirty seconds to travel the distance through social convention and familial expectations to a place so far beyond the pale I had never imagined such a land existed. I kissed her and I was immediately home. Some unhinged, untethered, unfinished, untenable existence came to an end.
Everything made sense. I had no language for where I was or who I was but I felt comfortable in my skin for the first time in my life. This enfolding, intoxicating, unbound passion was connected to the young woman in my arms. It was about both of us being young women entwining legs and arms, pressing hard against each other, reaching into each other with tongues and fingers, searching gloriously for the center place, for the core.
It is now decades later and it is the same for me, this passion. Only now I know who I am, what I am. I am a lesbian.
Margie Adam is an integrative counselor committed to creating a safe, empowering, and joyful environment for women exploring recovery, aging and project completion issues in Berkeley, CA. (Phone sessions are available @ 510-517-5013.) She is also a singer-songwriter-pianist and one of the founder-organizers of Women’s Music, a Second Wave feminist cultural initiative fueled by lesbian passion. www.margieadam.com
This article originally appeared in Trivia: Voices of Feminism, Issue 10. www.triviavoices.net