[Editor’s Note : ‘Straight Talk : The Women That Loved Me‘ written by Chitra Kalyani was initially published in the Gaysi Zine Vol. 2]
It is easy enough to pretend we do not know of the love that we do not necessarily desire; that girl that pines away in the corner whom you have deserted in the awkward moment when you realized the friendship has turned from being BFFs to something a little more, two girls promising to be soul mates, and you are not quite up to it.
You’re between ten or twelve years old and boys are icky, but you still kind of know you want to end up with one. But you do love her, and she loves you, and although she cannot yet be consoled by this, someday she will marry someone else and come to meet you with her two children and her mustachioed husband and you will not recognize in her the young girl who once swore to be your married love. She will remind you of that time, and you will struggle to make sense of it all. You will not want to remember.
Then someone asks you to write about your straight perspective on gender and you realize it’s never quite that straightforward. You’re always toeing a squiggly line where love meets friendship meets desire meets jealousy and they all intertwine in one big messy green forest. And you want to take away those twines and de-twine them into neat little straight lines where you were just friends with that one girl. You never really had a crush on the girl most girls wanted to be friends with, because at some time in high school, it was okay to say you loved her, and it was okay to say she was The One for you. But somewhere around age ten or twelve – at least for you – that stopped.
Or did it? You remember when you left this country and went to another and you were odd and did not quite fit. And so you even told someone you were probably lesbian – because that would make sense, because she was your only friend, and because she thought you were weird anyway. And you did not love her, and she did not love you, but it was okay to have found something worthwhile in the confidence you shared. You made other friends and you loved them as friends do, and you dreamed in your teens of men and not much else. Unfortunately, years later, you are still a teen, and you’re still dreaming of men.
Meanwhile there’s been others, the men that left, and the women that have strayed or stayed over the years. You count them – there was the lady with obscure orientation championing human rights (including LGBT rights), rights that others in the South Asian Committee found a funny cause. Haha, they said, yes let’s also put them together in the bucket with rights for Bhopal gas victims. You remember the photograph someone mischievously took at a party and sent to the same group, where her hand innocently rests just a little above your knee and both of you are laughing. The email is titled “Fire.” You know why and you ignore it. You remember that one day one of you is sitting on the other’s lap as you hold each other and you don’t feel uncomfortable, even now, as you remember it. You remember it as something warm, natural, but something that a camera and an email with a movie title would have distorted, or made to mean something mean, something more than the fine line you were toeing. Because you knew, she liked you perhaps a little more than friends do, but that is all right. You’ve learnt that from the many women friends who flirt with you as men do, calling you “honey” and “gorgeous” – names that roll off female friends’ tongues more easily than those of men you’ve known more intimately.
So you walk that squiggly line and cause it to ripple. You flirt equally with men and women, and pretend you don’t know how dangerous this game can be to others’ hearts. You choose to not take responsibility, until those moments hold you hostage to a question: will you cross the line? And what until then had been seemingly harmless flirtations, come to an end
But it’s tricky, isn’t it? Somewhere in the secret corners of your mind, you wonder if you are not really bi, or lesbian. You wonder if you should try it out since men are so hopeless. You remember that woman in grad school you admired for going up on the podium in a class presentation and saying sexuality and gender are all on a spectrum. You picture her in the cowboy costume she describes wearing and you wonder if that is what you imitate years later at a Halloween party, sans the sock-in-the-trousers. You wonder where you lie, and if it’s a little to the gay side, which may explain why you look and act somewhat tomboyish and why you prefer metrosexual men. People sometimes mistake a gay friend as your boyfriend and you almost wished he were. When you ask him, hoping that your south pole would find its true north and he would somehow swing your way, he says, “But that’s just not the way I am, dear.”
Your mind too is a forest and there are no straight lines to draw, only conclusions over years of encounters that teach you that you are no different from anyone else and that love is always a surprise. At the end of the day, you may not end up with a woman, but have you loved them? Yes, as many as the women that have loved you.