Our Story: Just Friends (2)

Something I have been wanting to do for a while is write down our story. This will not be in the ‘right’ order, but should make sense both as a series and as individual posts.  I might ask her to write some too, so that you get it from both perspectives. Telling stories is important.

If you want to get an email each time the story is added to, just scroll down to the bottom of the page to follow the blog. No spam, I promise!

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Just Friends Part 1

Karlotte-Hannelie

We matter.

Love, we matter. I don’t know how else I can say it. Who we are, what we do, together. We matter.

A friend of yours is coming to visit.

We have been together what seems like a long time, our lives intertwining; sometimes beautifully, sometimes painfully. We have a little house which we pay for together by scraping together my student loan and your minimum wage salary. We save up and go away together – the Yorkshire Moors, Northumberland or the Lake District. You make me go hiking and I make you rest afterwards. We have ended up with a little, spiky, scared kitten that turned into a big soft lump of a cat. You are growing cucumbers in our living room, which block out most of the window so that the light that filters through all summer is green. I remember this detail in particular.

We sleep in the same bed, comfortably. We are done with being anxious about this. You and I know how to curl up around each other. You bring me coffee in the mornings and sometimes in the evenings we read out loud to each other; somehow such an intimate sharing. We have made a home, finally.

But a friend of yours is coming to visit. A Christian friend.  A friend from the past. Yours, not mine. She knows about us, and I can’t help feeling she has judged us accordingly.

‘Who brainwashed you?’ she asked when you told her about us.

And later, that we (read I) couldn’t come into her house ‘because of her young daughter.’

But this time she is coming to our house, yours and mine. Our little home with the cucumber-filtered light and the cat and our books and collection of stones from the seashore and our bed.  She is bringing her sister, her niece, and her daughter (the same one who needed to be protected from our presence as a couple). They are stopping on the way to somewhere else.

I go into overdrive cleaning and baking. I want them to like me. I want us to be the proof that same-sex relationships can be whole and healthy and good and blessed. I make biscuits. I make plans for dinner in case they stay a while. I promise myself I will be careful not to say anything controversial. On a subconscious level, I think I decide that I will make as many references to the Bible and Christianity as possible to prove I am a real Christian and not the woman who brainwashed her friend.

You and I don’t touch while they are here – we somehow both come to this arrangement without actually talking about it. We sit on the same sofa but apart. I am suddenly ridiculously aware that I am avoiding using the pronoun “we” in case anyone feels uncomfortable. I am doing my best ‘smiley auntie’ impression to the daughter and the niece, who are oblivious to the awkwardness of the situation.

Your friend’s sister is looking confused. The whole time I have been assuming that everyone knows about us but isn’t saying anything, until she pauses, looks us over and asks:

‘How are you two related?’

After a nanosecond of gut-wrenching panic, I reply, hardly missing a beat:

‘We’re just friends’

I deny it. I deny us. Everything about who we are together. I deny the home and the hiking and the cat. I deny the bed and the coffee and the reading of stories.

Wound up by wanting to be liked, surprised that your friend had not thought to explain the situation to her sister, squirming in the pressure of the moment and the presence of the daughter, I sit in the glow of your cucumber plants and deny all that is beautiful about our life together with one simple, haunting sentence. Just friends.

And you nod, silently, sealing the lie.

Later, I excuse myself to the bathroom where I sit on the edge of the bath and I don’t cry, I just clench my fists in anger and frustration, digging my fingernails into my palms, wishing I’d been braver.

Just friends means I am ashamed. It means I am pretending. It means I am a liar.  For my own sanity I need to be open and honest. I don’t do well with pretending. And I am not ashamed of you, of us.

I cook the dinner I had planned; we keep pretending until we wave your friend and her sister and daughter and niece off to their next destination.

Love, we matter. I will never again deny all that we are.  It is not our job to ‘protect’  people from the reality that we are together and that we matter.

Hospitality does not mean completely effacing our relationship because the knowledge that we live together as a couple might make someone feel a bit uncomfortable for a few minutes.

Nor is it about proving that gay relationships are lovely and perfect or trying to change people’s perceptions.

Hospitality is simply saying here I am, here we are, here is our home. Please come in. Because we matter, and because you matter to us.

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8 thoughts on “Our Story: Just Friends (2)

  1. Diek Grobler says:

    Ek het nou so n klein bietjie getjank. Mis julle. X

  2. This is truly beautiful. How jealous I am of this perfect love…….I do admire these words. You are so brave and honest. You matter.

    • Hey Yolande, nice to hear from you! I wanted with this series to take some risks and share bits of our story (with H’s permission!). We met 10 years ago this year so it seemed about time. If you want to follow the stories, you can sign up to get email updates at the bottom of the page – no spam, I promise!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this reflection. It’s all too easy for LGBT people to be forced back into the closet. We can relate as we’ve been there, done that. You are together, you do matter, and you’d be welcome as a couple at any time in our house.

    • Thank you Sarah and Lindsey 🙂 Yes, being LGBT often means coming out over and over again, each time having to decide how to react. There can also be a massive pressure to be “perfect” or to want to “prove” that LGBT couples are “normal”. I think we have come to the conclusion that the best thing is to be genuine, to offer hospitality and to be willing to talk. Pressure off!

  4. […] Norton at Middle Ground offers a heartfelt reflection on her relationship with her partner. Our Story: Just Friends (2) is one post in a series that Charlotte hopes to continue. You can find the link to Part 1 at her […]

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