Coming home to myself
Renee taught me one of the deepest truths about myself.
In the spring of my senior year, I discovered the love of a woman. I hadn’t been seeking it; in fact, I hadn’t even imagined it. I loved being with women and had already been greatly influenced by them, but I knew nothing of lesbian relationships before being in one. I didn’t even know the word. Renee and I first kissed over a bottle of Boone’s Farm Apple Wine she had snuck into the dormitory after all the other students had gone home for Easter break.
Life changed for me in that moment. Not only did I enjoy sexual excitement for the first time—and that in and of itself was a giant revelation—I knew that whatever was happening between us was fundamental to understanding myself. Making love with her felt right, natural, and normal. I couldn’t get enough of it! I didn’t understand that others wouldn’t see it that way. I had no comprehension of the life I was stepping into.
Renee’s carefully honed rebelliousness is what first attracted me to her. She pushed limits in ways with which I had no experience. I followed the rules, did what I was asked, and was terrified of crossing any lines—not necessarily because I would get into trouble, but because I would disappoint someone. Renee’s eagerness for fun and adventure superseded any fear she might have had. Drinking a bottle of wine in the dorm commons, kissing a girl she was attracted to, even making love while a nun lived just a few doors down the hall didn’t seem to faze her. It was all part of the gamble. It didn’t take me long to fall in love.
When I was a kid in Rogers, I had a pillow I had bought at the only “head” shop on the University of Arkansas’s campus in Fayetteville. The pillow said, “Make love, not war.” My mom wasn’t sure it was appropriate for a young girl to have a pillow with that sentiment on her bed. I didn’t understand her concern because I didn’t know what making love meant. I thought being loving instead of violent was a worthy anti-war sentiment, and especially then, as the war in Vietnam raged, I was fiercely anti-war. I think Mom knew that I didn’t get it, or at least hoped that to be true, so she never made me remove it. Renee brought me to understanding. The next time I went home to visit, I appreciated that pillow in a whole new way.
Renee and I remained lovers off and on over the next five years. I loved her kind and gentle soul, her passion for nature, and her exuberance for life. She took me camping, introduced me to life with cats, and taught me the value of a competitive game of pinochle. I loved being in love with her.
We both had other relationships during our time together, most of them with men. Although I can’t speak for her, I sought out men to prove to myself and especially to my parents, that I could be “normal.” I failed miserably in that effort.
Eventually Renee and I broke up for good when I began to accept my identity as a lesbian and realized that we could never have a healthy relationship—not enough trust existed between us as we struggled to understand who we were, individually and as a couple.
Even though our relationship didn’t last, I’ll always be grateful for the risks Renee took to teach me about my sexuality. She opened me up to myself in ways no one else ever had and allowed me to claim one of the most sacred and essential facets of who I am. I’ll always cherish who we were together.
Accidental Mentors is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.