Exit Two

2 10 2010

A few weeks ago Kelly and I took Liza for her final fitting on her dress for our wedding. The bridal store was just off Exit Two in Nashua and as I drove down the long exit ramp I suddenly flashed back almost seven years to the time I got off Exit 2 to go to the movies for the first time with Kelly.

At that time in my life just getting out of bed was a challenge. I was in the process of divorcing and I was terrified about what the future would hold and how I could even begin to think about surviving as a single mom. I felt as though I was standing on the edge of a steep, tall cliff and I was either going to crash in pieces at the bottom or figure out how to leap hard enough to make it to the other side. I had lost my sister and one of my best friends within a year of each other, and I was unsure how or even if I could tell my mother that I was finally going to come out as a gay woman. A terrific network of friends surrounded me for whom I will always be grateful, but I was fearful of becoming “that” friend. You know the one. The one you see coming and think ‘Oh great, here comes Katie moaning about her divorce and her dead sister again.” I had no idea which direction to turn in, what road to take or how to parent my child. I was wracked with guilt about hurting my ex-husband and breaking up our family. I was lost. Sitting up one night I searched the computer for any kind of support group that might help a woman in my unique position. While I didn’t exactly find that I did find a notice for a local gay women’s group advertising a Friday night “Food Night”at a restaurant about 25 minutes away. I thought, “Well, I can talk to anyone over dinner. Maybe I’ll meet some new friends.” Let’s be clear here. I was not looking for romance. I was not looking for anything other than maybe finding a few women who might have been through similar situations and who might help me find some good resources to figure out where I was going. Taking a deep breath I emailed the event organizer, got directions and put my name on the list. It was time to start leaping.

I found my way to the tiny strip mall that housed the inauspicious Thai restaurant and entered to find a group of women chatting while the hostess arranged for their large table. A woman in a plaid shirt, baseball hat and I started talking about the latest season of “Survivor” (Pearl Islands in case anyone is keeping track) and instantly bonded over who we were rooting for (Rupert). “I know. Rupert right?” the woman said and then stuck out her hand to shake on it as if our shared backing of a bearded reality show contestant was a deal we were closing. “I’m Kelly.” She said. And so it was.

That night I laughed harder than I had in years. Laughed in a way I thought I’d forgotten how to laugh. Kelly mocked my choice of wine. “Ooh Shiraz…FAN CY!” (I loved this, for, like most people who use humor as crutch, I only mock people I really like). We chatted about seventies television, Oscar winners and tried to out-trivia each other. After dinner she invited me to join her and the group for ice cream down the road and we headed out with her best friend Jackie and Jackie’s then girlfriend in a convertible that nearly took our heads off when Jackie accidentally started raising the top back up. I didn’t recognize myself it was such a leap for me. But all I knew was I was laughing and happy in a way I’d forgotten how to be. When I got home that night I had an email waiting for me from Kelly. (This was pre-Facebook, otherwise I’m sure she would have ‘friend-ed’ me).

A few weeks later Kelly invited me to join her for a movie at a cinema near her home. “I live just off Exit Two” she said giving me directions. I accepted with a combination of excitement and trepidation and as I drove down the exit ramp I wasn’t sure what to expect. But then there she was opening the door of her condo and somewhere deep down I suspected life as I knew it was about to change. I didn’t start dating Kelly that night or for many months to come. I was skittish and nervous and busy trying to make some kind of order out of my new life. But little by little Kelly’s presence in that new life became a constant. She was there shoveling my driveway (which by the way she’s not so enthusiastic about anymore), taking me and Liza on outings and adventures, cooking me risotto, and leaving funny songs and trivia questions on my voice mail each morning. And little by little I found myself letting go of that breath I’d been holding. Little by little I found my smile again, my laugh again, and let down my guard and opened my heart and my life to this woman who lived off of Exit Two.

Today is our wedding day. After nearly seven years of movies, road trips, horrible tennis games, helping Liza with her school projects, and white wine and brie on the deck on Friday nights; after nearly seven years of growing together, leaning on each other, loving each other and most of all laughing with and yes at each other, we are getting legally married. And I’m so glad that the scared woman I was nearly seven years ago took that chance and made that drive down to Exit Two. Happy Wedding Day Kelly. I love you.


Just Be Glad I Didn’t Get the Matching Pants

18 10 2009

Living with Kelly comes with many perks – she cooks wonderful meals, empties the dishwasher, lets me put my feet in her lap while we plow our way through episode after episode of “Nurse Jackie” on demand, and of course lets me borrow her clothes.   Within days of her moving in I had already pilfered a few of her choice argyle sweaters and she had plundered my collection of button down shirts.   So when I returned home the other day to a pile of clothes in the living room and Kelly’s excited proclamation she had gone shopping my first thought of course was “what can I borrow?” Her pants were out of the question as Kelly’s inseam is a good four inches shorter than mine, although there was some promise in a few of the new tops. Then she showed me the vest.

It was pink — bright pink velour with rows of satiny trim on the collar and the unfortunately placed pockets.  I bit back my initial reaction of “are you kidding me?” and smiled and murmured a vague “mmmmmm” instead.    Now Kelly is no fool.  One of the things I love best about her is she always knows what I’m thinking – sometimes even before I do.   She knew I didn’t like the vest and she plotted the perfect moment to wear it.

This morning Kelly showered as I curled up with my coffee and contemplated the day ahead – some grocery shopping, a quick errand at Home Depot and then afternoon rehearsal followed by a pint or two at a nearby Irish Pub.  It was the perfect agenda for a gray day that would bring the first fat wet snowflakes of the year.   “I’m all set!”  Kelly called and I unfolded myself from the couch and headed upstairs to shower.   There she stood in our bedroom in all her glory, jeans, black long sleeve t-shirt and….the vest.   To complete the look she had added hot pink socks and her sturdy black nursing clogs.  As I groped carefully for my response she smiled wickedly, zipped the vest, stroked the velour and said “oooh yeah baby…. You hate this don’t you?”

Later in the car I got lost in the rhythm of the windshield wipers Kelly asked what I was going to write about next and I replied “that vest.”  We spent the next ten-fifteen minutes coming up with lines for my blog ranging from “the bejeweled zipper pull momentarily blinded me,” to “her popped collar and matching pink socks sent me flashing back to 1986,” to  “I didn’t know there was that much pink velour still in existence.”   Laughing to the point of tears, we pulled into the grocery store parking lot where I said  “you go on ahead, I’ll catch up with you.”  “Oh no lady,” Kelly replied,  “you can’t lose me in this vest, I’m like a beacon in the night.   As we entered the store I thought of how much laughter Kelly has brought into my life, the way my heart feels lighter when I’m with her, the way she inspires me to follow my passions, see beauty in myself, and let go of so many of my anxieties.  This quiet reverie came to an abrupt halt when Kelly turned to me, smoothed the vest, sucked in her cheeks, struck a pose and said “just be glad I didn’t get the matching pants.”

What I didn’t say — what I should have said –is that even in matching pink velour track pants there is no one I’d rather be seen with.

On Cohabitation, Cats, Cleaning, and Committment

1 10 2009

Monday. Monday is just hours away. Tomorrow, five years of struggling as a single mom to Liza will start to come to an end and the great co-habitation experiment will begin. For the five years of our relationship, Kelly and I have clung fiercely to our independent lives. For a lesbian couple to be together for five years and still live in separate houses is nearly unheard of. We’ve all heard of that old joke that lesbians bring a u-haul and luggage on their second date – a stereotype Kelly and I were not eager to embrace. She’d lived alone for nearly 7 years when we met, I was freshly divorced and relishing a life of my own after going from college right to marriage in my early twenties. We often joked we’d be the only couple in history to get married, have a big reception and then go home to our individual houses after the honeymoon. Maybe we were only partly joking.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Kelly. I ADORE Kelly. When she came into my life I laughed longer and harder and blushed more furiously than I ever had. In Kelly I found my soul mate, that person who got references to old movies, lived for pop culture, and for some reason completely unbeknownst to me, thought I was beautiful – and made me feel it for the first time in my life. My happiness with Kelly has been so profound that in the early days of our relationship three separate people from completely unrelated walks of my life asked me if I’d “had work done” on my face because all my worry lines were gone. But in spite of the rosy bloom of new love we knew there were some roadblocks to moving in together – the biggest of course being that Liza was still quite young and I was fearful of moving a new person into her life and home too quickly. However there were other differences. “We have different standards of cleanliness,” Kelly used to joke to our friends and she was right. I used to clean the kitchen at her condo after she made me dinner – only to have her clean it again after me. I’d spend all day cleaning my house for her only to b e greeted with a vague mmmm hmmmmm” when I asked her if she noticed. Let’s face it, I’m not exactly a slave to cleaning products. There was also the issue of her cats. While my allergies got better over time due to repeated exposure and, to be fair, while I have come to love all ‘our’ cats – I’d never met anyone like Kelly who, well, let’s just say put their comfort above pretty much anything else. I like the cats but at the end of the day…they’re just cats, an attitude that often puzzles and maddens Kelly.

So this year when we finally decided we were tired of saying goodbye on cold Sunday nights, tired of packing bags for sleepovers back and forth, tired of paying a mortgage and rent, two sets of utilities bills and tired of not feeling like a real family all time, we decided it was time for THE BIG MOVE. Honestly, I’m thrilled that we’ll have a home together. I’m delighted that our lives are moving toward marriage I’m ecstatic that we’ll grow old together. I’m relieved to have another set of arms rowing our financial boat and another pair of shoulders to take on the household responsibilities. And I’m terrified.

Living with another human being can be daunting. It exposes all our strengths and weaknesses and makes us vulnerable to scrutiny. I’m not terrified of what I’ll learn about Kelly. I’m terrified what she’ll learn about me and about what I might do or not do to make her wonder what she ever saw in me. What if I inadvertently let the cats out into the woods behind our house? What if the proliferation of wayward drier sheets all over the house ceases to be a charming quirk and becomes a major irritant? What if she’s horrified that I like to lie in bed at night and watch classic Star Trek episodes on Hulu? What if she discovers my habit of eating a bowl of cereal before bed when I’m stressed out. What if we can’t finesse a shower schedule for 2 women and a girl with varying beauty routines? What if Liza, admittedly not the easiest child to live with, makes her crazy? What if she decides that her life of peace and quiet and cats and cleanliness is more attractive than a life of moody tweens, the Jonas Brothers, and toothpaste hardening on the bathroom counter? What if I never sleep again between nocturnal cat wandering and her penchant to snore after a hard day at work? What if I can’t make her happy?

As I sit back and reflect on the newly cleaned-out closets and empty spaces awaiting Kelly’s clothes, dishes, books and furniture I am surprised to find myself oddly calm. Tomorrow she will come fully into our lives, with her love of Coen brothers movies, her penchant for finishing my sentences, her amazing macaroni and cheese recipe, the uncanny ability to know when I need her to rub my head at night when I can’t sleep, and a heart as big as the universe. Will we drive each other crazy? Most certainly. Will we make a new kind of family out of three headstrong often maddeningly hormonal females? Undoubtedly. Will it all be worth it? Do you have to ask?