I have been reflecting deeply on the meaning of ‘assume’ over the past few months. In French ‘assumer’ translates as ‘take responsibility’ or more colourfully: ‘own your shit’. In English we do have ‘assume responsibility’ and ‘assume the position’, yet ‘assume’ on its own generally means ‘take something to be true without knowing the full facts of whether it is true’.
I have done some assuming of the latter sense over the past few months. I assumed a firecracker of a girl had romantic feelings for me just because she paid attention to me, made an effort to know me and demonstrated that she cared. Also because I had romantic feelings for her, I wanted her to like me. I assumed that she liked me. It emerges that she does, just not in that way. We’re friends. Through my acceptance of the reality of her feelings, I can assume comfortably that our friendship will last the distance. It hasn’t been easy to keep her in my life, though the opposite would be harder.
It’s the French sense of ‘assumer’ that I’ve been forced to face over the past few months.
I am a lesbian. I am sexually attracted to girls.
I have begun to own that fact. Yet for some reason that I could not have fathomed before all this slapped me awake, it’s been a tricky navigation to this point.
I am 34 years old. For twenty years I dated boys and men. I had sex with them and relationships with them, though I have never fully put two feet into these relationships. Sex was fine, sometimes it was good. I rarely desired it, though, and never instigated. I lived by the unexamined assumption that sex was for men. My desire – or lack of it – seemed irrelevant.
The fact that images of women – only women – came to mind in private fantasies never seemed relevant.
I ignored the fact that I was aroused by breasts.
I blocked out my teenage crush on a girl.
I dismissed a kiss with a girl in my early 20s as simple drunkenness.
I blinkered myself to the fact I’d visited a lesbian bar alone in NYC when I was 30. Most definitely by design and not accident.
I tolerated as a familiar little pet my curious and increasingly frequent habit of researching the lesbian bars in every new city I visited.
I observed myself checking out lesbian events and bicurious dating sites, every few nights in the few months leading up to the day that she showed up.
I googled ‘how to approach a lesbian’ and I still assumed I was straight.
I was reluctant to let go of the one guy I had met who I was actively sexually attracted to, because I doubted I’d fancy another guy. He was skinny and had soft skin.
I still didn’t get it.
Even when I fell in love with a stunning meteor of a lesbian I still assumed it was ‘not real life’.
How much more indication did I need that I had to assume the role, the position, the reality of the fact that I like girls?
I love them.