What it's REALLY like to be a lesbian "late-bloomer".
But when I came out, it was a fresh start and I was full of faith and hope that I would find love. It has been quite an adventure.
Many of my clients have walked out of the closet a little later in life and are dealing with being single and struggling with dating. Some of my readers have been telling me that they are recently out. I want to share a little about my own coming out story and a very big "ah-ha" moment that changed my approach to "being out".
I always knew I was attracted to girls but was never able to make a love connection with a girl.
Finally, I decided I could and would make it work with a guy. Let me also include the fact that I grew up in an Irish-Catholic family with all the assorted craziness of alcoholism, abuse, and neglect that you've read about in the epic Irish tales like Frank McCourt's book, Angela's Ashes.
I felt like I finally understood so much about my father when I read that book.
That's another story, but you get my whole "Irish-Catholic guilt, going to hell, God is a mean man with a big stick and I'm a bad girl" story. Enough said.
Compared to friends, I married late, at 26 years old. I also had kids late in the game at 27 and 38 years old.
I started college right out of high school but didn't have the emotional stamina or a personal vision to help me see it as something I should stick with at that time in my life. I quit after a couple of years and focused on "doing what I want."
Going back to school at 40 years old to finish up my Bachelor's degree isn't so unusual these days. I'm glad I finally did it. It changed the entire direction of my professional and personal life.
How's that? My personal life was changed dramatically. While finishing college in my 40s, I started to meet some amazing lesbians and I could no longer deny who and what I was.
I was also finally in a position where I realized that I would be able to support myself and my young daughter on my own. Not being able to support my kids on my own was honestly something that had scared me for a long time and had kept me married.
All of this is to make the simple point and to say that we all have our coming out stories and then, we have our "being out" story — that particularly sweet and often bitter period when we are first exploring what it means to date women, love women and make love to women.
If you're seeing a really good therapist, she is telling you things like go slow in dating lesbians, don't change what doesn't need to be changed in this period, important dating tips and, the big one: you're like a 14-year-old learning to date gay girls!
It took me getting to therapist number three to get this important bit of information. I was shocked, to say the least.
"Damn, you're kidding," I thought. I'm over 40. Yikes! Fourteen in lesbian years sounded awful.
This meant I was still way behind the curve, terribly immature and with all kinds of pent up feelings and desires. How was I ever going to conquer lesbian dating? Ugh! How can this be? Well it is this way, isn't it?
This is a hard lesson for late-comers to the "gay girl party". You can't fake the experiences you haven't had. Sure you can try, but often we stink at it or let me say, I stunk at it. Holy cow, I sure did.
You know the story about learning to ride a bike. You never forget. You might need to work on balance if you hop on a bike after not riding for many years, but the mechanics of it come back immediately. Your muscles and your brain neurons remember and fire off the commands you need to get the bike moving.
Well, if your dating experience includes only guys, guess what? You have no muscles or neurons that know how to date gay girls!
You're going to have to grow those neurons and develop those muscles and it's gonna get messy now and again. Guys are pretty simple creatures when you compare them to women.
The amount of drama I created for myself was astounding because I didn't understand this whole repeating adolescence piece.
I HATED my early teen years. I hated the sense of awkwardness and not knowing how to relate to the boys I wanted to date or the girls I wanted to kiss! I hated the competition to be liked and be part of the "cool clique." I hated not knowing what to wear or how to fix my hair.
My early school years were spent at Catholic schools wearing uniforms. Then, in middle school, I had to wear "regular" clothes every day. Ouch! And what the hell does a lesbian wear?
I know I swung through all those old adolescent fears in my first few years of being out. Some of my feeling crazy in those first years out was my own doing.
My excitement at being out, finally dating women, having an intimate relationship and being visible in the lesbian community meant that I made some pretty poor choices.
I also made some really great choices and had some amazing experiences. Everything was new and I was letting myself feel things I'd been denying myself for years.
I loved going to the local gay girl bar. It was a seedy little place with a pool table, an outdoor smoking area with a large dead tree in the middle of it and the tiniest bathroom stalls you've ever tried to squat in.
I'm 5'2" and my knees hit the door. Pity the tall girls! But it was the only place in the city that was strictly for gay girls. Nirvana! At least for a little while.
Just openly watching women was exciting! Come on, you do remember that? Especially when it was a room full of gay girls dancing, mingling and romancing. That's part of the adolescent experience.
I was clueless to all the drama that was being played out all around me at the time. I was totally in the high of finally being out and open in this environment. It felt amazing.
Along with the bar scene and trying to figure out how to pick up women, I was also living on my own with my daughter. I moved out of the house I owned with my husband at the time. I didn't want it.
I felt myself drowning in that married with children life and all I wanted was to be free to live honestly and openly as a lesbian and raise my daughter as my true self. My son was almost done high school and decided to stay with his dad.
The good of being openly lesbian had some pretty tough and painful lessons attached to it and my relationship with my son was one of them.
The adolescent lesbian in me held on to the excitement of this new life but the mom in me had a lot of heartbreak about my son and his reactions to my coming out and leaving his dad. I'm grateful that he and I have patched up our relationship over the years.
Oh, I should also say that I did the leaving part while not being in a committed relationship with a woman.
Now, that first relationship came pretty quick, but my decision to leave my marriage was based on my coming out to myself and deciding that I could no longer deny who I was.
Repeating my adolescence as a lesbian included learning how to live and relate as a lesbian in a relationship. It was tough, confusing and a mix of sweet and sour.
Women who come out in their youth often have little patience for women who've come out later in life. I can respect that now that I've become a little older in lesbian years.
This adolescent thing we go through is important stuff to understand. I feel like I'm finally on the other side of it after 10 years of being out. That would make me about 25 in lesbian years! That's progress, right?
So, how old are you in lesbian years? Join me at my website, Gay Girl Dating Coach and leave me a comment about this article.
This article was originally published at Gay Girl Dating Coach. Reprinted with permission from the author.