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Lately, it seems like all the women I know are leaving their husbands for other women. I moved from the big city back to the small Southern town where I went to college, and they began to flock to me, these women. Or did I flock to them? I have recently decided to leave my husband for women, and I’m not sure who is attracting whom at this point.


I met M through a friend years ago. One night, not long after I move back, we reconnect at a party. M is married to a man; they have a child. We talk animatedly for hours, M and I, sitting down, facing each other, our knees pressed together, spilling secrets. The way women do. She lets slip that she and her husband might hate each other, beyond what is normal hating each other when you’ve been married for ten years and have a small child. M reads as gay to me, though I’ve been obsessed lately with diagnosing closeted gayness as the root cause for everyone’s issues. (I’m only half-joking.) When M leaves her husband eight months later for a woman, I can’t help but feel triumphant.

A couple of months later, I meet N and H, twentysomething best friends. They’re so beautiful it hurts. Or is this just how all of Gen Z looks to me? N left their hetero marriage a year ago for women and H is married to a man and dating women. I am invigorated by their confidence, their sex positivity, their freedom from labels. One day, I ask N about a mutual friend they’ve been seeing. “So, are y’all dating?” N, who is polyamorous, replies, “Dating…I don’t even know what that means!”

Another friend, V, is a person who would like to leave her husband for a woman, though she says she likely won’t. Once, in college, we got super stoned and watched a bunch of French music videos and then went to the bathroom together and for some reason, I can’t remember why, V took her top off, revealing her lacy black bra underneath, and I got paranoid, afraid she was coming onto me, and ran out of the room. V is into past lives, shadow selves, astral projection. “You’re being authentic to who you are,” she tells me on the phone, patiently, when I express doubt for the hundredth time about leaving my husband. “Selfishly, I want you to do this, because when people live their truths, everyone around them benefits.”

The women. They keep finding me. My best friend T just came out as bisexual to her husband. She doesn’t want to leave her husband but wants to be intimate with women. T has been through the worst hell of her life, of anyone’s life, since her toddler was diagnosed with cancer. We joke about going on a lesbian cruise together for her 40th, a joke that isn’t a joke at all. I tell her, “Of course you’ll sleep with women! You have a long life ahead of you of sleeping with women! You’re going to eat so much pussy!” I tell her this to make her feel better, but I also want it to be true, because I am now a firm believer that if you have even the slightest inclination you want to eat pussy, you should at least give it a try.

When I think about it, the majority of my female friends in hetero relationships are bi or queer. C, R, T, S, K, J, and S are all married to men and also desire women in some capacity. A year ago, I remember sitting around a table late at night and asking R, who is queer and has been with her husband since college, “But do you ever think about being with women? Do you ever regret being with a man?” I was seeking permission, though I didn’t yet know what for. She answered immediately: “I do think about what it would have been like to end up with a woman, yeah. But in the way that I think about what it would have been like to end up in New York…or working as a graphic designer…or going back to school for my master’s. It’s just one of hundreds of paths I could have chosen, and didn’t.” In retrospect, it’s this moment that will kickstart something for me. Because despite loving my husband more than anyone, despite having been happy with him for nearly 15 years, my desire to be with women feels white-hot to the touch. Not casual in the slightest. I’m always conscious of my penchant for wanting to try on other lives. I have many versions of the graphic-designer-in-New-York ghost life. But this—my desire for women—feels different.

One day, I’m having post-yoga coffee with my friend S and thinking about leaving my husband. S, who is married to a man but occasionally dates women (she’s bi; she and her husband are sometimes-poly), says to me, “Mostly I really like my hetero lifestyle. But then there are some days when I see a woman and I just think, Fuck, I’m so gay!” I let this sink in, tuck it away for later. I’m aware that I’ve been collecting my friends’ sexual orientation narratives in hopes of cultivating my own. I don’t know what my narrative is yet; I hadn’t given it much thought until last year. I guess I’m still hoping it goes something like this: formerly straight woman develops her first same-gender crush, realizes her sexual orientation has changed, she’s a little gay now, okay she’s pretty gay now, she’s possibly getting gayer by the day, yet she loves her husband and their life together and she’s not leaving, they’ll figure out the version of polyamory that works best for them, the formerly straight woman is gay but content being gay on the side, and she and her husband live happily ever after, the end.    

Shortly after my husband and I decide to separate, I make myself go to a queer writer’s night. I feel heartened when I hear about the gay events in my Southern town because it seems like these weren’t happening when I was in college, though it’s possible I just wasn’t looking. I didn’t know I was queer until I was 34 years old. I was repressed, or I simply changed. There is evidence for both.

At the event, I meet D, who was raised Southern Baptist but denounces all religion now—a common thread in my town. I get the feeling that D, who has been out since they were 16, would prefer to talk about something other than being gay, as this is no longer notable for them, is now one biographical detail among many. But I can’t help myself. It’s like when I was trying to decide if I wanted to be a mother, and I couldn’t stop going around asking everyone about their birth stories. I wanted to know everything. Now I ask everyone for their coming out stories, even though I should know by now many people don’t “come out” at all, or they come out over and over, for all of time, because heteronormativity.

Soon after the queer writer’s night, I decide to get on the apps, mostly just to see what they’re like. I think I know what my “type” is (soft masc aka “beautiful girl who looks like a 15-year-old boy”) but who knows? For two weeks straight, I am obsessive, scrolling and swiping and messaging like it’s my job. I enlist the Gen Zs for help crafting replies. “This is so much fun!” I tell friends who’ve been on the apps for years, not caring when they roll their eyes. I’m not sure if I want to do anything other than scroll and swipe and message, but then B messages me: Your profile made me swoon! B looks like a brunette, tattooed Greta Gerwig. She has a dog and mentions therapy twice on her profile. I reply to her a few minutes later: Yours, too! Multiple heart emojis. We make plans to get a glass of wine at the only queer-adjacent bar in town. The evening comes, I am so nervous I want to puke, in the best way possible. I put on a white peasant top and high-waisted black linen pants and Vans (I don’t yet know what my gay lady category is. Am I a soft femme? Hard femme? Granola tomboi? Chapstick lesbian? Why does it seem like there are more labels in the queer world than in the straight world?), I get in my car, I call my sisters, they reassure me, I park at the next-door yoga studio, I walk into the bar, I see B, she’s wearing a tight black dress that hugs her curves, I hug her hello, she asks if she can buy me a drink, I say yes, we sit down, I am barely able to focus on the conversation because I keep thinking, I’m on a date! With a woman! She bought my drink! We’re both girls! B was married to a man last year, but she’s divorced and openly bi now. We talk for two hours, but it turns out there is only friendship chemistry between us. This has to be one of the best parts of being gay—you could go on a date and even if there are no romantic sparks, you could still end up with a new friend. And we’re friends now, me and B. We sit on my porch and take walks and talk about divorce and decide neither of us is ready to date after all. I delete the apps.

On another rare upswing in my Post-Separation Summer of Depression, I go to N’s monthly craft night, which is basically a bunch of queers collaging shit and gossiping and drinking seltzers. I ride there with E because, when we separated, I let my husband have our car. Even though E is a new friend, we open up to each other easily. The way women do. E is 22 and hyper. I tell her I’m newly out and nervous about going to craft night because I won’t know many people there. “But you know me!” she says. Later, she’ll find me talking to someone I’ve just met, and, pink-faced, tipsy on fancy cocktails, say, “You’re doing so well! No one would ever know you were nervous!” Only slightly mortified, I retreat to the kitchen for cheese and crackers where I meet K, a woman who immediately caught my eye when I walked in the door. She’s wearing a black leather jacket and has cropped dark hair and doe eyes. We bond over poetry. I try to impress her and wind up talking a lot about Jane Hirshfield’s collection Come, Thief. I (smoothly!) ask for her number so I can send her my favorite poem from the collection. I don’t feel like myself, in this kitchen, flirting with this woman, but I’m beginning to realize this is what it’s like to have a self—as soon as you think you know “who you are,” you’ve changed again. One moment you could be making niçoise salad with your husband, swooning at the way the sunlight streaming in from the window accentuates his muscular calves; the next moment, you could be in another kitchen, in another lifetime, flirting with a woman. 

K reveals to me she left her husband because she’s a lesbian (I am no longer surprised by the number of these confessions in my life; I expect them at this point). I tell her, “Same.” I tell her I had no idea a person could be this sad, and most days I wish I were bi so I could still be attracted to my husband. I tell her I almost wish my husband was a worse man than he is, to make it easier to leave him. “I get it,” she says, “I really do. I’m so, so sorry.” She has tears in her doe eyes when she says this, which is, as I’ll later learn, one of her most endearing traits. She tears up when other people tell her hard things. I text her the poem at 1 a.m. that night and she texts back immediately. Omg that’s so weird, I almost texted you just now! I love this poem! It was great to meet you. I’m not sure what I want to happen between us. A couple weeks later, we meet for drinks. She’d reached out to me, saying she knew how hard this part of the process was, she knew how lonely things could get, she was there for me anytime I wanted to talk. Before I get to the bar, I’m intensely curious, wondering if the flirty energy will still be there between us. It is. But then she shows me a picture of a painting she did recently, which she made while her now-girlfriend was going down on her. Apparently they met the day after craft night. I feel a little wounded, but the truth is, I’m already mixed up with someone else, another woman, my first woman, and every day I’m drowning in her.   



From the beginning, there was sexual tension between us. A direct line of energy, running from me to you. Which was confusing, because I was straight, had always been straight, had spent 34 years loving only men, and nearly 15 years loving a particularly good one.

It sounds scandalous to say it now: You were my husband’s younger co-worker. I met you on his last day of work. We were preparing to make the move from the big city to our Southern college town. I came to his office to take him out for lunch, celebratory tacos and margaritas. He’d been excited for me to meet you, wouldn’t shut up about it. Later, after everything happens between me and you, he’ll tell me, laughing drily, “It’s almost funny. I wanted you to meet her because I knew I’d been talking about her a lot, and I wanted you to see you had nothing to worry about because she’s gay.”

I had nothing to worry about. Because you’re gay.

When I see you that day in the office, we don’t talk about much, just exchange small pleasantries, but I feel like I’ve tapped into an electrical current. You’re wearing a pale blue button-down shirt and slim men’s Madewell jeans. I remember my husband told me you both often show up at work wearing a variation of the same outfit. Your thick brown hair is cut short and your eyes make me feel at home. I don’t worry about what I’m saying to you, the way I normally do when I meet people for the first time. For some reason, it’s hard to stop talking to you and go to lunch. I have a strong urge to invite you to come with us.

The second time I see you, it’s at my husband’s going-away happy hour, which eventually turns into a 2 a.m. bender, with everyone consuming obscene amounts of mezcal and beer. You come over to me and we fall into a rapport almost instantly. You’re palpably excited, talking a mile a minute, which I find adorable. We discuss our mutual obsession with St. Vincent and how I met her at the Trans-Pecos Music Festival in Marfa—how, when I saw her striding past me in all her alien goddess glory, I felt compelled to say, Hi, Annie, and then was so horrified I cried. We talk about how we both want to hang out with Liz Lambert and her lesbian posse, a group of high-powered women that includes cast members of The L Word, Carrie Brownstein, and Jenna Lyons. We talk about Call Me By Your Name, the book and the movie. Yes, we talk about a lot of gay shit.

At one point, you lean in and ask, “Are you a writer? I’m just getting that vibe from you.”

Yeah,” I say. “I’m a writer.”

That’s what I thought! My last three relationships have been with poets,” you say.

Later, a few of us end up at another bar with a pool, our feet in the water, our faces glimmering with sweat in the thick, soupy air. I wind up crying a lot to a friend. You’re there, too, but you’re deep in conversation with my husband. Then, you come over and sit next to me and I instinctively lean against you. I’m drunk, but conscious enough to think I can blame touching you on my drunkenness, if necessary. I don’t think it will be necessary.

The third time I see you, it’s 90’s Country Night at my favorite bar. I’m dancing with a group of girlfriends. The bar is a sea of people wearing cowboy hats, bouffant hairdos, sequins, boots. But when you walk in I clock you immediately. I knew you’d be here tonight because my husband was at your party and mentioned you’d all be coming out, but your presence almost makes me keel over.

I walk over to you and impulsively throw my arms around your neck. It’s just a hug, but then a few seconds pass, and then another few seconds, and then I’ve had my arms around you for a full minute. This is a strange thing to do to someone you barely know, but you let me do it. I love that you let me do it. We cling to each other, slow-dancing even though it’s a fast song. Your body shimmers with possibilities.

The next night, we’re in bed when my husband gets a text from you. You say you’re at a Shannon and the Clams concert and want to know if we’re out. I make him read the text verbatim to me. I feel like you’re communicating with me via him; we don’t have each other’s numbers. So I go outside to do something I’ve never done before: I call you through Instagram. Earlier that day I’d friended you and you’d friended me back within an hour. You don’t pick up. I feel shaky and vaguely miserable. I pace up and down the sidewalk in front of our house, barefoot. You call back. You call back! “Are you really calling me through Instagram right now?” you say. “No one’s ever called me through Instagram before. This is kind of creepy.” I agree. We laugh. At first I tell you I’m not really sure why I’m calling, and then I immediately backtrack and tell you, actually, I do know. I like you. I’d like to see you again before I leave. How’s tomorrow night?

I tell you my husband and I have an “arrangement.” A lie that flies out of my mouth as naturally as my own name. We agree to meet up and hang out at a park. Alone. At night.

The following evening, I’m giddy as I fuss with my hair, put on invisible makeup, and agonize over what to wear. I tell my husband I’m going out for a walk and also I might sit somewhere for a while. My husband and I don’t have this kind of relationship—the kind where one person lies to the other about what they’re doing, says they’re going for a walk when really they’re going to sit in a park with someone they want to kiss. I have never done anything even remotely like this. My husband and I are partners. We’re occasionally unkind, but we never treat each other with this level of blatant disrespect. After all this time, we still really like each other. So, what the fuck am I doing, meeting a woman I barely know in a park and hoping she’ll kiss me? I’m a stranger to myself, running on pure adrenaline, completely single-minded, willing to obliterate my husband’s trust if it means getting to do this one thing. I keep thinking about being an old, gray person in a decades-long marriage, about how I could give future-me this gift of a memory—kissing a woman in the park at night—so I could turn it over and over when I needed to, a precious jewel in my palm. No one ever has to know but me.

On my walk to the park, the air is blood-warm. I can’t remember the last time I felt this alive with nerves. You text me: I’m here! Just chilling on a bench watching people play tennis. For the fiftieth time that day, I think about what it would be like to come in your mouth.   

I’ve been having trouble remembering what your face looks like. This happens whenever I have a crush on someone. When I think about you, it’s just short brown hair atop amorphous features, a blurred-out void where your eyes and nose and chin should be. But when I see you in the park, I think, Oh. That’s right. Yes.

We hug and then walk to the edge of an open grassy area. You lay down a quilted blanket and pull out a bottle of red wine from your bag, which you then struggle to open. I take the bottle from you and pull the cork out in one motion. I get the sense you’re the type that likes to take care of someone, to be the person providing the blanket and the wine. I wonder how this dynamic would work between us, whether I could allow myself to be cared for like this. I’m older than you by seven years. I wonder if you like this about me. You’re young and sweet like a puppy. I like this about you.

We talk about nothing and everything. We ask each other leading questions and listen attentively to the answers. You’re so sincere it throws me off at first. When I tell you about my writing, I say, “But I mostly just write copy now. Day job stuff. I don’t know, it’s been so long since I’ve written anything for myself.” You look me in the eye and say, “Don’t do that. Don’t be down on yourself like that. What you do is creative! What you put out in the world is special.” I can’t imagine saying this to another person with a straight face, but you do it with ease.

The cicadas’ song rises above the trees. Everything feels like it’s pulsing—the insect bodies, my body, even the night air somehow. Your clingy white baseball tee glows in the dark. The wine is making everything unbearably sexy. At some point, I can’t ignore the ache any longer. You’re being so respectful and it’s killing me. “Can I touch you?” I blurt out. “Please,” you say.

I thought I knew what kissing was. Faces mashed together, a surge of love and comfort welling up from the deepest part of me. But the “deepest part of me” wasn’t even the deepest part of me, it turns out, or maybe it’s just that I’ve expanded. What I’m trying to say is this: When I kiss you, it’s like every queer love story I’ve ever read makes sense to me now. I can’t believe how easy and soft it is, I’m not worried about where my hands or mouth should go, we both understand exactly what to do. I’m so wet I can smell myself. A geyser between my legs, mangled animal noises coming from my throat, grass stains on my favorite red skirt. Less of a kiss and more of a revelation. 


All the women I know are leaving their husbands for other women. Or, they want to leave but can’t, or they want to stay married and date women, or, they experience desire for other women and are curious. 

What are we to make of this?

I don’t know if I became queer in my mid-thirties, or if my queerness was always there, bubbling below the surface, but I’ve gradually become less interested in this question. All I know is something in me shifted, and it won’t go back to the way it was.

It isn’t just about fucking, of course, that’s obviously some homophobic bullshit, though I also can’t deny how good it feels to fuck a woman after a lifetime of men. What’s that line in Big Swiss, about how you never feel so thoroughly fucked as you do when you have sex with a woman? Yes. That.

The fucking is amazing, the fucking is all I thought about for a solid year after coming out, but now I know it’s almost beside the point. (Almost.) 

Recently, I stood in a crowd of mostly female-presenting people and watched, transfixed, as Lindsey Jordan, the (very hot, very gay) frontwoman for the band Snail Mail performed her latest album. I’d been heartbroken for so long, but that night, I looked around the room, saw multiple women making out, saw all of us lusting after Lindsey, saw very few men, and I felt lighter than I had in months. Deliriously light. Free.