I wrote the following post last summer. Now, it is less than a week until our 11 by 5 anniversary—11 years together, 5 years married. When Kim and I got together, same-sex marriage was legal only in a few states. Same-sex marriage in NY state passed in 2011, and US vs. Windsor gave federal recognition to same-sex marriages in 2013, but the year we were married was the year the Obergefell v. Hodges decision came down, which made same-sex marriage across the US, regardless of whatever bullshit state amendments had passed.
As I write this intro from a rented house on Canandaigua Lake—an attempt at respite from Covid—I flip through the memories of each time our relationship was deemed legally valid. The NY law passed the last time we rented a lake house. The 2013 decision came down while I was at work, sitting next to a dear friend and co-worker who’s also gay, and we both cried. In 2015, I was at the same desk but with different co-workers, who didn’t understand the power of that moment.
I provide this context because it’s easier than thinking about the season of loss the past year and half has been and continues to be. Instead, I’ll tell you how lucky we are. To be together. To be celebrating our anniversary. To be married. To be, at all. We’re so fucking lucky.
This month, Kim officially becomes my longest romantic relationship. On August 22, we will celebrate 10 years together (and four years married) on the 10th anniversary of our first date.
My second-longest relationship was nine (and a half) years, the last full month of which was August 2007. We separated in early September, and though I thought of us as together throughout the next six months (she even took me out on a date for what would have been our 10th anniversary), I realize now it was over as soon as Jenny (fuck the incognito “Dutch” thing from last month’s post) said she wanted out.
Kim and I met online through OKCupid. I was on the verge of shutting down my account after a series of bad dates—including one with a woman who was so tall I actually had to crawl into her lap so we could kiss—when the mysteriously profiled summerlang (a play on k.d. lang) took my “Match Me Quiz,” which I didn’t know existed (hashtag not a power user), and was an 80% match, which seemed pretty good to me (I didn’t want someone too matchy—I wasn’t looking to date myself). Inspired by her quiz-taking initiative, I clicked through to summerlang’s profile, which was highly entertaining—from the “I am unreliabile, thoughtless, and mean” headline to the repeated references to her “giant clown feet,” I was hooked—and sent her a message, something super eloquent like “I see you took my ‘Match Me Quiz,’ whatever the hell that is. I like your style, summerlang.”
The separation was my idea, a way of cushioning my shattered heart; with some structure around our breakup, I could pretend I had a modicum of control over what was happening to me. After all, we were considered married under Jewish Reconstructionist law—that had to count for something, right? We’d had a wedding seven years earlier in my parents’ living room in New Jersey, with a rabbi and a ketubah and a chuppah and everything, all things Jenny, who isn’t even Jewish (though she often told people she’d converted, which she hadn’t), wanted. I didn’t want any of it, but I took it seriously because she did and because I may not believe in god but I believe in honoring my commitments. So when she came home on the Thursday after Labor Day and told me she was leaving, I yelled and keened and finally collapsed into a fitful grief-laden sleep (greep?) with Jenny wrapped around me saying, I’m not going anywhere, I’m not going anywhere, which was a lie. And I went to work the next day and looked up “loving separation” or some equally as ridiculous fucking phrase and drew up paperwork that we both signed, which was as legally binding as our marriage. (Ironically, the fact that our marriage wasn’t legal made it much easier to end things. Who would’ve thought the fight against same-sex marriage would work in my favor? It also means—at least this is what I tell myself—I’m not technically a divorcee and therefore my marriage to Kim is the only one that counts.)
Kim was mortified that OKCupid had notified me about the “Match Me Quiz.” It turns out she’d taken it over and over again trying to get a higher match rate and had planned to eventually contact me when she felt her score was high enough. Lucky for Kim, OKCupid only notified me the first time. Also lucky for Kim, I messaged her even though she was too tall at 5’9” (5’3” myself, anything over 5’6” was outside my preferred height range) and hella-sporty (like, full-on sports dyke sporty, college-basketball-scholarship sporty, working-on-a-masters-in-physical-eduction-at-the-same-time-I-was-finishing-an-MFA-in-poetry sporty) and had a bizarre profile picture with photoshopped glasses and squiggly lines running through it (like a TV screen back in the day when you couldn’t quite get the bunny ears in the right place—see the screenshot above). Over the next week, we messaged back and forth, chatted online until late into the night/early into the morning, emailed each other non-squiggly pictures and music files, and then met in person on a steamy Saturday afternoon in Tarrytown.
Jenny and I met at the beginning of a semester abroad at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. She was a student there and shared a flat with one of my college classmates. We were very young. She was 18-about-to-turn-19, and I’d turned 21 on the flight over. She wooed me through her flatmate and our other American friends, and I fell desperately in love with her in spite of my plans to have lots of meaningless sex that term (something I’m really not built for but thought I should at least try). It was a difficult relationship. To begin with (and to end with, I guess), Jenny lies. A lot. About things big (for example, her HIV status and her inability to have children) and small (for example, what she ate for lunch). Maybe about everything. I told myself for years that she wouldn’t lie about anything truly important, that no one would make up the things I know now she did in fact make up (for example, her HIV status and her inability to have children), so I guess maybe I’m a liar too. Nevertheless, I stayed and supported both of us financially and worried over her T cell count and worried over her immigration status and worried over her mental health and considered carrying a baby because she wanted one so badly and defended her against any attempt to shine a light on what was happening. And I have no doubt that had she not ended it, I’d be with her still, unhappily ever after.
When Kim and I got together, my entire circle of lesbian friends was mired in the bog of online dating— OKCupid, Match.com, JDate, even Craigslist, we tried them all—and regaled each other with every episode in gritty detail (giants and pillow princesses and tongue rings, oh my!). However, the night before I was meant to meet Kim, I was quiet about it. My friends and I were at an Amy Ray solo show (so gay) at the Bell House in Brooklyn (of course), and all I said was that I had a date the next night and didn’t want to jinx it. Kim says she knew before we met in person that she was going to marry me. I think that’s beautiful and sweet and not at all how I see the world, but nonetheless, something held me back from the usual pre-date gossip, something made me use the word jinx, like there’s some first date scale I didn’t want to tip in the wrong direction.
That first date lasted into the next day. Kim met me on the northbound Tarrytown Metro-North platform with a brand-new umbrella (with the tag still on it) big enough to cover both of us in case the rain from earlier in the day found its way back up the Hudson. We got in her car, and she’d made a playlist of all the songs I’d sent her during the week, which I thought was either really romantic or a little bit creepy (obviously, I landed on the side of romantic). We took a scenic drive through Pocantico Hills, past Stone Barns and the Rockefeller Preserve, and then headed to Harvest on Hudson in Hastings for dinner, where they repeatedly asked us if we were ready for the check and we repeatedly replied that we were not. We headed back to Tarrytown for dessert and night-capped with Bud Light in Kim’s messy apartment she shared with a roommate also called Jessica. In the end, which turned out to be the beginning, following a first kiss in Kim’s 1997 Honda Accord in the Metro-North parking lot and a valiant effort to run when we heard the train whistle, I missed the last train back to the city.
After that, things took the usual lesbian course: our first date led to subsequent dates, which led to spending every weekend together, which led to making out in straight bars (welcome to Westchester), which led to trips to Provincetown and Hawaii and Miami, which led to buying an apartment and moving in together, all within our first year. It probably goes without saying that in addition to being my longest relationship, my relationship with Kim is also the easiest I’ve ever had, but I want to say it anyway. Hell, after years of love that came dragging fear behind—with Jenny, with my family—sometimes I want to shout it from the fucking rooftops: I didn’t know it could be so easy!
Easy isn’t the same as effortless. I’m talking about easy as in “marked by peace or comfort.” Easy as in “not burdensome.” Easy as in “felt readily, naturally, and spontaneously.” Maybe it’s easy because we met in our 30s and so we each knew who we were and what we wanted and what we didn’t want (two things I was looking for: financial independence and honesty; in other words, have a job and don’t be a fucking liar). Maybe it’s because we balance each other out (some people would call this “opposites attract,” but I think that’s bullshit; different isn’t the same as opposite). Speaking of bullshit, neither of us is willing to suffer it, so maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s because—as Kim believes—we’re soulmates. Maybe we just got lucky. Whatever it is, I’m here for it.
Taking it easy with summerlang,
Jessica the Westchesbian
Jessica lives with her shiksa wife and geriatric cat in picturesque Tarrytown on the Hudson. Although a proud Westchesbian these days, Jessica grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, back when the opening of the Olive Garden and the 24-hour Walmart were big news. During business hours, Jessica’s a communications professional who translates highly technical concepts into clear, concise, colloquial language that media buyers and sellers can understand. Outside of business hours, she’s a poet, cat mom, wife, avid reader, and lover of questionable crime, sci-fi, and supernatural TV shows (preferably all in one), not necessarily in that order. Her poetry has appeared in Tin House, The Paris Review, LIT, and The Huffington Post, among others.