W was 13 years older than me, one of my higher-ups, married to a really wonderful man, female, straight, and a Republican. I was married too, and absolutely dedicated to the idea that I had never loved or truly been attracted to anyone but my husband, which was a self-protective lie in a really miserable circumstance. W and I worked together three days a week, and while she was training me to do one of the things I would end up doing best in my life, she also gave me such wonderful nuggets of advice as “Dazzle them with bullshit” and “Ask forgiveness, not permission,” and “Shit in one hand, wish in the other, see which one fills up first.” She encouraged me to get a better job and to dedicate as little energy as I could to the job I had so that I could give as much as I could to school.
One of the reasons I was hired was that our boss thought that I would be particularly suited to put up with W’s demanding, high-energy personality, and I was; we got along well, joked easily, made hard days fun. It wasn’t spectacularly long before we were hanging out outside of work. A year after I met her, I had an argument with my husband that resulted in me taking the afternoon and evening for myself to go buy a leather jacket and get a tattoo, and afterward I took cupcakes over to W’s place so that we could commiserate about our respective woes over frosting.
It was that day, when I was driving to her home, that I started realizing that I really, truly depended on and wanted her. I brushed it off as no big deal and maybe an impulsive product of my discontent with my husband, but my feelings for and the thought of her persisted, and I started having to watch my behavior around her. That realization changed our friendship.
She was exactly, precisely, and perfectly the wrong person to fall in love with. She didn’t even know that I was capable of being attracted to women, although I did; part of that self-protective lie I mentioned earlier was to tell people that I was “monosexual,” meaning attracted only to my husband and no one else, partially as a joke but partially to appease him. The truth was that I came out as bisexual when I was 14 and had (and have) frequent attractions to men and women, and genderqueer and trans and intersex people. It all just got stuffed down, and, of course, with W it weaseled its way back out of its hiding place and reared its beautiful head.
My marital circumstances made it so that telling her about it would have had very dire consequences for me, but I’m glad that I felt so pressured to say absolutely nothing because it forced me — albeit for the wrong reasons, but still — into doing the right thing. If I hadn’t been with a rabidly jealous man, I might have been impulsive and intuitive and gone ahead and divulged my feelings, and it would have made our mutual friendship hard. It would have cast me as a troublemaker in relation to her marriage, and she would have been taken completely off-guard. It likely would have made her massively uncomfortable, and I truly didn’t want that. Furthermore, what could it possibly accomplish? She was straight. The married part doesn’t even matter at that point.
Instead, I said nothing, backed off of communicating with her, got a lot of distance, nursed my memories and unfulfilled feelings. I learned a few lessons — like that sometimes holding your tongue means saving yourself a lot of stress and drama, and that’s completely worth it. Or that I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was attracted to her and that meant I wasn’t being honest with myself, and I had to address the reasons why.
There are so many people you could end up loving and being in love with over the course of your life. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do with your love is keep it for yourself and be happy that you felt it, until you meet someone to whom you can give freely.