One of the main reasons I married that man

wedding cake figurines of a bride and a groom, both of them looking off into the distance
My first marriage was just a little bit bizarre

I’m a lesbian. Always have been. Always will be. I’m more than a little non-binary, and when I was a little kid, I could detect no evidence, other than my nether regions, that I was a girl. I had no interest in girl things, girl toys, girl clothes, girl interests. No. Thank you. No. And when I had a crush on a love interest, it was always on a girl. No boys. Boys were who you played fort with. They were the ones you told to put their pee-pee back in their pants, because you didn’t want to see it. They were the ones you beat up for fun – because you could.

My teen years were … confusing. I was still way into girls, but you know how it gets, as you start to “mature”. Boys become interested. I wasn’t interested in any boys my own age. But I did enjoy the company of boys who were a number of years older than me. In my teens, I dated guys who were 5, 6, even 10 years older than me. I didn’t really think anything of it. They were gentlemen, and they never pushed anything with me, which was good. I think they were frankly just glad they could find a girl to hang out with who was funny and fun.

What did I get out of it? Getting to tool around in cool cars, doing grown-up things like eating out in restaurants, going on long midnight bike rides through the wilderness. Hanging out at a really cool, well-appointed cabin on some private land, instead of crashed on some stinky couch in an undergrad apartment. Smokin’ the really good stuff, and not having any trouble getting beer. I learned a ton about how to get along with people and how to get by in the world, by dating those guys. And they were actually pretty decent fellows, too. You could do worse.

I was still into girls, but I from the age of 15, on, I was in such a drunken haze, I didn’t know what to make of it. My best friend was in love with me, but I had no idea how she felt — until my wedding day, when she was my maid of honor, and she got drunk and threw herself all over me after the reception. Awkward.

Yeah, I was a mess. A drunken mess. And the man I married, who was a decent sort, himself, was really good at cleaning up after me, bailing me out of trouble, and just being there for me when I needed someone in my corner. He was a bit of a control freak, in all honesty, and many people said they felt he had some kind of Svengali-like hold on my mind. I would change when I was around him. I wasn’t like I was, when I was with the girls.

Thinking back, I’ve often thought that I was sort of a hostage in that relationship. But that’s only part of the story. The rest of the story is that I wanted to be a hostage. Because I didn’t trust myself to know what to do in the world. I was so turned around, so confused about social norms, so overwhelmed with the pressures to GROW UP, GET A REAL JOB, AND START A FAMILY, that were coming from everywhere around me, that I was rudderless in that vast sea of pressure and confusing signals.

In the midst of all of that, my (ex)husband seemed to always know what to do. He knew how to talk to people. He knew how to order food at restaurants. He knew how to talk to workmen to get them to do their jobs right. He knew how to negotiate. He knew how to handle the irate motorist who stopped traffic to yell at me, when I pulled out too quickly and dinged his car. He knew how to interact socially in countless situations, and that all served me in good stead.

I can’t even begin to say how much I studied him in the several years we were together. We dated for two years, lived together for a year, got married, and within 18 months of the wedding, I was out the door, on my own, sobered up, out as a lesbian, and looking for what was next in my life. And even after I left him far behind me, I still referenced countless techniques and mannerisms I’d watch him use with other people.

What worked. What they responded to. What seemed to make sense to everyone — except me.

It wasn’t so much that he was controlling, and I was a hostage. I was already a hostage of life. And in studying him and his ways, I found a way out of my dungeon, which serves me in good stead to this day.

And for that, I am most grateful.

Thanks, S. It was real.

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