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Worst dates, Part II

Some of my dates weren’t even dates.

This one definitely needs some context. I was seventeen and I’d recently rented a room in a shared house. I’d seen the “room for rent” notice on the bulletin board at the Women’s Centre, which was at Somerset and Booth (I think it was in that building that burnt down last year). The house was on Lorne Avenue, and the rent was $50 a month.

The first night I was living there, one of the women stopped by my room to tell me that they were radical feminist lesbians. They thought I should know. Also, they hated men and didn’t want any in their house under any circumstances. (They meant it too – if the plumbing broke down, they sent for the woman plumber in Toronto rather than call a male plumber in Ottawa.)

I was a strong feminist myself, but of the non-man-hating, non-lesbian variety.

But hey, I was only seventeen and still trying to figure out who I was and where I fit in. And I liked these women and their gazillions of radical feminist dyke friends who were always in our house. I met some pretty famous women in our house, actually.

They always included me in everything they did, so I was going to a lot of radical feminist dyke parties and consciousness raising groups and Gays of Ottawa dances and protest rallies on Parliament Hill. I was listening to Lavender Jane and reading Kate Millet and Susan Brownmiller and Shulamith Firestone. And I was starting to not like men as much.

I think the women I lived with and their friends just assumed I was a lesbian. I never actually said one way or the other, and I’d never actually had sex with anyone yet. At any rate, it was clear to me that they liked and respected lesbians much more than straight women. So I was kind of reluctant to confess to being straight. It was my little secret…nobody else needed to know, right? But I felt like a fraud, letting them believe I was gay.

I was probably the only straight teenager in the closet.

At the time I was going to high school in the mornings, working in the film library in the afternoons, and taking a couple of evening courses. That’s where I met Dan. We’d smoke and talk together during breaks in our Man in Society course. It turned out we both liked poetry, so we started showing each other poems we’d written. Dan was soft-spoken and shy and a little tormented and angst-ridden, just like me. (And just like half of all teenagers, now that I think about it.) Somehow I inflated these shared traits into some kind of soul-mate thing. I found myself falling in love with Dan.

Which was lovely, of course, but if I felt like a fraud before it was nothing compared to how I felt now that I was letting everybody believe I was gay while I was actually falling in love with a man. I felt like a fraud and a traitor and a liar and a coward and worse.

There was only one thing for it: I had to fess up. I had to come out of the closet and admit I was straight. I had to risk their scorn and rejection.

It wasn’t easy for me, not easy at all. But I did it. I told my roomies I was falling in love with a boy. And you know what M said? She said, “I’m sorry to hear that. But you should always be true to your heart.”

I felt so liberated once I’d told the truth. And then I hurried off to night school to meet with Dan and be true to my heart and tell him I was falling in love with him. Because, you know, the truth will set you free.

And you know what Dan said?

“I really like you too,” he said, “but I’m gay.”


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