My husband outed me to my parents when I was thirty. I’d been dating girls since I was fifteen, but it was always discreet. So, I’m thirty, with an infant, and suddenly, free from my last secret. (Sort of. I have two more secrets, but I’ll probably tell you at some point, so don’t fret.) My family losing their shit with me, and my marriage ending (the two are related) kind of crush the last vestige of dutiful girl out of me, and for the next several years, I don’t behave well. There’s the worst version of myself that I can imagine, and then there’s the awful fucker I was during that period of time. I cheated and schemed. I had hissy fits. I dated crazypants girls. Several truly crazypants girls. And it was high costume drama. For years.
And I argued against monogamy. And I talked about the bravery of following your every impulse. And I was painfully artistic and intense. And I hurt everyone. Probably my son most of all. It’s difficult to look at that period, and see the necessity of it. The second adolescence of coming out. The world new and bright with girls in every direction. All the shiny possibility. Discovery requires mess and error. I had to fail, spectacularly. I had to. Like any child, I had to push and crash and injure to know my limitations. To learn and respect those limitations for myself and others. I wish I’d been more thoughtful, but I was doing the best that I could — which is a truth of limited comfort — and I am not that girl any longer. But I have her scars, and her lessons, and her same awkward stories. And I am learning not to blame her. For her weakness. For her selfishness. For her shocking pyrotechnics.
Coming out is like virginity. Time and time again, you are vulnerable, and expectant, and at the mercy of something unknown, and unpredictable. And it may mark you, or be utterly forgettable. But you won’t know that at first. You can’t possibly know that until it’s over.
8 thoughts on “Adolescence, Take 2”
I have felt exactly this. I swing between forgiving my thoughtless hellion self from the past, and fearing her blazing, crazy return. She is still my shadow, and we communicate more than I like to admit.
Thank you for sharing this, Jill. Kind of courageous, I think.
Have you read Pentimento? “. . .a way of seeing, and then seeing again. . . what was there for me once, what is there for me now.” Lillian Hellman, Pentimento, Signet, 1973.
A really wonderful, entertaining book, though more fictional than biographical, but still, some very fine writing, about a fine anger, about smashing things.
That’s what your piece reminded me of, that fine anger in that book.
Melissa, those are three of the most anthemic sentences I have ever read. Beautifully stated.
Ulla, thank you. Bett, fine anger! I haven’t read the book, but now want to.
The inner world you reveal is addictive, a flow of Self drawn taut with
unflinching honesty. The tantalizing glimpses I get, as I peruse sections of your blog and read both your books at the same time, enhances my wonderment; such a distinctive Voice, yet told as if inside my own head.
I can feel your sentences, and ache with your allusions.
Really, Jill, I’m a bit astonished. The more I know, the more I want to know.
I hear what you’re saying and I’m glad to say that having met you during this period of angst for you, I was and still am impressed by your utter self confidance and unique way of looking at things. You inspire me. I only got to know your story in bits and pieces over time, but every conversation I had with you made me want to have another one. I wanted to know more about this crazy, delightful woman, brimming over with feelings and joy about living and about being a mom to the greatest kid ever. Life is a journey and a process….It’s hard not to look back and wish things could have been different, but take heart from the fact that during this period of inner growth, you were you, and I’m glad you were.
Kenna. That time at Auntie’s, surrounded by powerful, nurturing, intelligent mothers helped me become the mother I am. I am so grateful to you and Janet and Linda and Barb, and everyone else at the store for loving and supporting me. Thank you for this lovely comment. Thank you for all of your encouragement and stories and the way you made being a mother just the coolest thing ever.
“I wish I’d been more thoughtful, but I was doing the best that I could — which is a truth of limited comfort — and I am not that girl any longer. But I have her scars, and her lessons, and her same awkward stories. And I am learning not to blame her. For her weakness. For her selfishness. For her shocking pyrotechnics.”
– this is absolutely true. it describes me as well – my “coming out” as sexually abused, my “coming out” as an alcoholic. there is some fantastic wreckage in my past… some beautiful mistakes. lots of pain… I wish I had been more thoughtful and considerate of others, indeed. I didn’t know how to, though. and that is small comfort.