I wasn't one of those teenagers who 'experimented' with my sexuality. In fact, I was as straight and narrow as they get; waiting until I was an appropriate age to have sex and always behaving according to the book. The relationships and friendships I had with boys were emotionally rich, and not really that brief, though none had the 'wow factor' that I'd heard could exist. They didn't blow me off my feet. When break-ups occurred, none were that messy that I couldn't continue being close friends with the person afterward. While that was a good thing, it meant that I hadn't "gotten in deep" with anyone.
When I reached my mid-twenties, I met someone in graduate school who changed everything for me. She had an outgoing personality that complimented my shyness, and we became fast friends. I was in a heterosexual relationship at the time, though it deteriorated due to me being uncharacteristically scattered. This girl became my roommate and we shared everything like excited school children. Right from the get-go, something clicked with her. I couldn't explain it to myself or anyone else, I just understood that it was a real connection. She and I talked at length about things, both big — like how we might look to other lifeforms from space, or what we envisioned our parenting styles to be like —and small, such as which brand of Olive Oil we genuinely thought was the best value at the supermarket, or who we were rooting for on Top Chef.
Sometimes we bickered like married people who had been together for decades. We had fights, but always made up afterward. And after many confused conversations, we confessed overwhelming romantic feelings to one another. This was a perplexing situation, as it wasn't only me who had never pursued women before. She hadn't either. But sure enough, we were now pursuing each other quite aggressively. Soon after that, we started to cuddle. Then all of a sudden, it was happening. Intimacy. A relationship. I was dating a woman. We were best friends, full-on dating each other and living together.
With that wonderful revelation, things got even more confusing. Do we tell people? How do we tell people? It was actually really stressful and complicated. The idea of explaining my newfound love to my family — in which, to my knowledge, everyone else was as straight as I used to be — gave me honest-to-God goosebumps. The situation with her family was the same. We knew that when we did drop the 'bomb,' the aftermath would be hard to deal with. And it was, because the questions kept coming. Is this a phase? You don't present as a lesbian. Is this exclusive, or are you dating other people on the side?
These were all fairly reasonable, and we tackled them one by one. Of course it was an exclusive relationship and one that we didn't anticipate being a phase at all. Despite the questionnaire that we each had to satisfactorily complete for our families, I wasn't as surprised by their reactions as I was to the general reaction of civilians on the street. If a man and a woman stroll down Sunset Boulevard, hand in hand, no one bats an eyelid. However, if two women or two men perform this same act, there's always a handful of people who just stare. For the life of me, I can't imagine what's so incredibly fascinating or peculiar about an everyday couple expressing themselves. Nevertheless, the 'looks' come at us all the time. Sometimes we smile and wave at the interested person, which inevitably makes them scurry off in the other direction.
Having said all that, reactions of other people are of little concern to us. Since we got together, we've always been a couple who make a point of getting out and doing things. Due to our polar opposite nature, we debated absolutely every activity in the beginning. She wanted to go camping in the wilderness. I wanted to go to a poetry slam in a black box theater downtown. Pretty quickly, we decided to do it all. I was extremely skeptical at first, but camping is now one of my favorite pastimes. I saw a bear cub once and I put on my toughest face, snapping photo's like a tourist. At the poetry slam, she put on her bravest face and didn't ask to leave early. Alongside both new and familiar experiences that we share, we are always celebrating. Sometimes we go all out on a slap-up dinner, other times we chill at an arcade or bowling alley with friends for one of our birthdays. Gifts are exchanged on Valentine's Day. This relationship, and all its moving parts, has transformed my entire life. Every day we encourage each other to charge forward with confidence, as our very best selves.
It's been five years now since my girlfriend and I got together and, like many couples we talk a lot about the future. We're proud parents to a rambunctious mutt dog and a large black cat. We've traveled to Texas and Australia to meet our respective families, who are still coming to terms with our union. We laugh all the time. For Christmas last year I bought her a bunch of board games, and our current favorite is a pack of cards that sends everything into a mad flux. We compete against each other on the tennis court two or three times a week. Taking this plunge into a same-sex relationship is by far the most terrifying thing I've ever done, and easily the most rewarding. Gosh, it's weird how extraordinary life can be.