Before I had children, I spent a long period as a lost soul, searching for my place in the world, not quite fitting in and feeling pretty miserable for it.
As I came close to the end of my twenties, I moved to a job in London and met Bee, a gay man who was the life and soul of our office. With him around work was fun and I was soon joining him at gay bars in Soho after work as well.
As our relationship developed and we grew closer, he invited me to his house for dinner, then we would go clubbing at some fab gay night. Afterwards, we’d catch a night bus back to his and I’d sleep on his sofa. Then we’d spend the rest of the weekend recovering together with wine, takeaway, chocolate, crisps and a good film. Exactly as a hungover weekend should be!
It was a wonderful relationship – I’d found the perfect boyfriend without all the crap! Ok, without the sex too, but we’d cuddle and hold hands, sometimes we’d even watch TV snuggled in bed together, so it wasn’t entirely devoid of intimacy. He cared about me and I cared about him. And my god! We had so much fun together! We misbehaved at work, at pubs and at clubs. We’d tease our colleagues, wind up friends and mock bouncers. It was a fantastic period of my life – finally letting my hair down as I saw out my twenties, after many years of depression and feeling miserable, alone and empty.
Of course, the downside was that it was a relationship without a future. I couldn’t behave like this forever – my debts were mounting as my salary didn’t come close to financing the lifestyle, my reputation at work was suffering as I became known for my misbehaviour and I had my first ever bad performance review. And it was no way to find a real relationship with each other always lingering in the background.
However, it had opened my eyes to a world I’d hitherto not realised even existed. The technicolour gay world, that illuminates as soon as you step into Soho from the black and white of Oxford Street. Going to pubs and not being lusted at by leery, drunk men was a revelation and I loved it when we found a mixed gay bar where I could sit and swoon at the confident lesbians hanging out, playing pool.
The fun we were having gave me the confidence to take some risks and I tagged myself as a trysexual – someone who’d not made a decision about their sexuality and wanted to experiment. My first lesbian kiss was with a voluptuous Irish girl who was visiting London for the weekend and it was amazing! All my suppressed feelings for my best friend at school suddenly made sense. If only I’d had a chance to kiss her like this, I wouldn’t have wasted the best part of my life searching for a man that simply didn’t exist.
After that, it was fairly easy, despite the concerned warnings from Bee who alerted me to the “can of worms” I’d opened. Did I realise that I would never have the big wedding, the children, the ease of just getting on with life? This was always going to linger in the background, he warned. And he was right to a degree as being gay means you can never just switch off to how people may see you and judge you or assume that there won’t be trouble; you’re constantly coming out, again and again. However, I did have a wedding of sorts – nothing like those you see on films, but it was ok for us. And, obviously, the children part was more complicated, way more expensive and a lot less enjoyable, but it didn’t stop me.
I had considered the mild possibility that I might be gay when I was at school, but back then, lesbians were a scary myth I had no experience of, other than the teasing of girls in my year that didn’t have boyfriends or wear the right clothes. Thanks to Bee, I was able to explore a world I’d otherwise have spent my life avoiding and finally found a place of comfort. We are no longer in touch as our lives took such dramatically different directions when I came out and moved to a new company. But I will never forget him and all he did for me, and will continue to miss him. And I will always smile when I remember some of the best days and nights of my life.