Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Before the Blog: Into The Woods

Oh my, the year is almost over and this is only the second installment of the Latest News! It seems to one of those "the cobbler's children have no shoes" situations - I've been staying busy working on other people's websites and haven't touched our own.

In addition to working fulltime, my feelance business is going quite well, even if it does keep me away from this site; I've got several paying clients now and is developing a nice little "niche" market in the LGBT community.

Back in July we said it would be "hard to top" the Melissa Etheridge concert in TownEverybodyLoves but, guess what - the BigCityThreeHoursAway show did top it!

This time we knew what to expect and shortly before the show started, we snagged a couple of empty seats near the front, right on the aisle she'd be entering through. Sure enough, she touched both of us on her way by, and we just fell right in behind her, slipped through the semi-blockade at the front and ended up right in front of the stage again!

The stage wasn't as high as it was in TownEverybodyLoves, so this time we were literally up against it, and again we got "high-fived" at the end of the show. And, of course, again, we were giggling like a couple of kids! It doesn't look like Melissa will be touring again anytime soon, but when she does, we'll be there - we can't wait to see how we'll top the last two shows!

In September, I finally convinced Shrike to go camping with me. We went to Funny Name State Park in TinyTownNamedAfterAGuy with an area LGBT camping club for their Women's Weekend.

After all the bitching and moaning during the planning period, the best I was hoping for out of Shrike was maybe a "well, it wasn't that bad, but I'm still never doing it again."

We decided to wait and go up Saturday afternoon, because the weather was bad Friday night, and then had car trouble on the way up Saturday. By the time we finally got there, I was thinking she'd be lucky if Shrike didn't leave me in the woods for the bears.

We did manage to get our tent set up without too much trouble and settled in around the fire with 13 other lesbians, only two of whom we'd met before. After a few hours of sitting around and talking, Shrike turned to me and said, "Ok, FINE, I'm having fun."

I was considerably relieved by this, but not too surprised. However, I was floored the next morning when Shrike started making comments like, "You know, we really need a bigger tent," and "I think we should get warmer sleeping bags before we do this again..."

Again? She's planning to do it again?!? Yep, It seems that I've converted Shrike into a camper - I'm not quite sure what I get for that, though - a marshmallow stick, perhaps?

I've even caught Shrike surfing online camping supply stores - I suspects that perhaps it's the gear and gadgetry that is the attraction.

Whatever it is, we've ordered those warm sleeping bags, and we're looking forward to spring when the next camping season begins.

Before the Blog: My Coming Out Story

I never really know where to start with my coming out story; so I guess I'll start at the beginning - coming out to myself.

I suppose I've always been interested in women. In retrospect, I can see that, growing up, I always had a crush on one friend or another, but I was probably in high school when I first consciously thought about a woman in "that" way.

I dated guys (well, a couple - I wasn't exactly Miss Popularity) in school, and was with one from my junior year in high school until after I'd graduated from college. After he and I broke up, I became the classic girl in her 20s, "out to find a man."

Through all that time, I was still getting crushes on girls, and still thinking about girls, but still convinced that it was just something that was fun to think about, but not something I'd ever actually do.

When I was 28, I was having a few drinks a good friend (on whom I'd had a crush for a while) when suddenly the converation turned to the subject of being with another woman.

Suffice it to say, I soon began thinking that perhaps I might be "bisexual," rather than just "a little bi-curious."

(I was still a long, long way from claiming the label "lesbian.")

Over the next year or so, I started visiting a lot of gay, lesbian and bisexual websites, and that's when I met Shrike. During the time that we were involved online, and were beginning to plan her move to Texas, I came out to a select few of my friends and they were very supportive, but then, it was a very select group.

I had no plans of coming out to my family any time soon. I told myself that if they knew Shrike and liked her before they found out about our relationship, that they would take it better. To be honest, I was just plain chicken.

Right after Shrike moved in with me, I spent a month working as director of a summer camp. Shrike and I spoke on the phone at least once a day, and a couple of times she drove up to see me, or to bring me things. At the beginning of the camp season, I was out to two of my staff members.

By the end of the season, the entire staff, and many of the campers had figured it out. I knew that one counselor, in particular (an ex-Boy Scout - coincidence? I think not!) did not approve at all, and I was somewhat concerned that he - or any of the other people who'd drawn their own conclusions - might out me "publicly" and it might get back to my family.

I knew that as much I as didn't want to tell them, I'd much rather they hear it from me than from someone else.

I decided to start with my brother, because he would be the easiest. I didn't really know how he'd react, but I don't worry as much about having his "approval" as my parents' or my older sister's, so I wasn't as worried about telling him.

As it turned out, he made it even easier for me. We went to dinner one evening, right after I'd come home from camp, and he told me about his friend from law school who'd just come out to him, and about going to PrideFest with her and her girlfriend.

After a few drinks, I said, "OK, I've got something to tell you." He just laughed and said, "You and Shrike are 'really good friends?'" Of course, he'd known all along, and had laid out all that information about his lesbian friends to let me know that it was ok to tell him. After I'd told him he said, "You know, our family just got like ten times more interesting!"

My brother was also a great help in convincing me to come out to my parents. Although I knew that they had never been anything but accepting of other gay people that they knew, I thought they might feel differently when it was their own kid. I really expected to get a "What will the neighbors think?" attitude from them.

He told me, though, how cool my mom was when he talked about his friends, and that he didn't think they'd have any problem with it at all. Of course, that didn't stop me from being terrified.

The next weekend, I finally told myself that I had to do it, and showed up on their doorstep unannounced. I went in and said that I needed to talk to them about something. I'm sure I scared them half to death, because I was shaking so badly. No telling what they thought I was going to say! I realized, of course, that I was now beyond the point of no return, I couldn't just say, "Oh, never mind," and leave, so I somehow managed to get through my little prepared speech.

I said, "I have something to tell you - it's about Shrike - well, it's about me and Shrike - we're not just roommates, she's my girlfriend."

They both looked at me, absolutely expressionless. So I continued, "I don't necessarily expect you to like this, and you may have trouble even accepting it at first, but I hope that with time you will, and that you will come to accept Shrike as a member of this family."

Then I sat there for what seemed like hours (of course, it was probably more like a second or two), praying for either of them to react - anything - just stop staring at me!

My dad spoke first; he said, "Well, it's your choice." I had a sigh of relief about half way out, when my mother said, "I don't agree with Daddy on that."

The sigh of relief turned back into terror in the split second before she continued, "I don't think it's a choice."

I was amazed. They were absolutely cool about it. Later in that conversation I told them my concerns about being outed at the school where I was teaching, and their reaction was basically, "So?" As my mom said, "It's not like they're going to fire you - they have a girl's PE department, you know."

Then she said, "But you don't want them talking about you? They'll make things up to talk about if they don't have something real, don't worry about it."

We talked about a lot of other things that afternoon, including my plans to leave teaching, what I might do instead (I had no clue, at the time) and that Shrike and I were thinking of moving to BlueState. It was the first real, honest, serious conversation I think I've ever had with them.

At one point during the conversation about possible job options, graduate school, etc, I said "I can probably get that information online."

To which my mother responded, "Evidently, you can find everything you need on the Internet."


Later, as I was getting ready to leave, my dad hugged me - we are not a hugging family, so this was a big deal - and then he just kind of shrugged and said, "Whatever." I don't think there's a much better reaction to be had from a dad finding out his daughter is a lesbian than a hug and a "whatever."

Once my parents were out of the way, I still had to tell my sister. In a way, she was even harder than them, because she is very religious, very conservative and very convinced that homosexuality is a sin.

I knew that she would still love me, but my biggest concern was how she would handle the information with her kids, who were barely 12 and almost 15 at the time. I wasn't really afraid that she'd stop me from seeing them or anything like that, but I figured she wouldn't want them to know, and I really didn't want to have to always be worrying about what they might see lying around our house, or always be afraid I'd slip and call Shrike "Honey" in front of them or something.

It took about another week to work up the nerve to tell her, and even then, I did it over the phone, lying in bed, with Shrike holding me while I talked to her. She had pretty much suspected as much, but was pretending it wasn't true. She wasn't real thrilled that I was forcing her to acknowledge it; I think she was hoping it would be a "don't ask, don't tell" situation. She was very surprised that I had told my parents already, she didn't expect me to do that, at all.

She decided that her kids needed to know, although she did ask that we not be demonstrative around them. A few days later, she told them. For a good while, neither of them acknowleged that they knew, but in the last couple of years, my niece, in particular, has been very matter-of-fact about it. During as recent t visit to Texas she even outed us in the middle of TCBY!

I didn't used to believe that there could really be such a thing as "hate the sin, love the sinner," but if it exists, my sister is the embodiment of it. It really impresses me that as much as she thinks that our relationship is wrong, she still treats Shrike like family, and I can still talk to her about our relationship.

She's given me "in-law advice," we can make jokes about it, she even read through our family history one night on the phone, looking for good last names, when Shrike and I were thinking about taking a whole new one when we got married. That turned out to be quite interesting - we discovered we have an ancestor whose last name was "Dyke"!

In case you're wondering about the last name thing, we legally hyphenated them in October 2001. Hers comes first, because it just sounds better that way; I have one of those "first name" last names, so with mine first, they sound like some guy's whole name! (Perhaps some long-lost cousin of Shrike's?)

I've been out at my current job from the beginning; I actually included an earlier, much more primative version of [my old] website on my resume. My boss is very cool; he even sent an angry email to Jerry Falwell after he blamed the September 11 attacks on "gays, lesbians, feminists...."

When our name change was final and I ask him if it was ok if I told the truth to any clients who asked (they'd see it on my emails) he said "That's your business who you want to tell what; and if they have a problem with it, then I'll have a problem with them."

At Christmas time in 2001, I wasn't quite sure how to handle sending cards to my extended family, since I would either have to use my old last name for the return address, or no last name, or explain why I had a new last name.

So, with my mom's blessing, I sent the usual cards to the extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins), but included a "newsletter" recounting our year, including the wedding (that went to everybody), and an additional "coming out" letter (we were already out to everybody else on the list).

The response was great - I heard back from several of them, and they all - even my mom's seventy-something-year-old Baptist preacher cousin - addressed their Christmas cards to both of us. One aunt and uncle even sent a belated wedding gift - a check for $100!

Now that my extended family knows, I can't think of anyone whom I really "know" that I'm not out to. Out of all of them, the only negative reaction I've gotten was from the one guy at camp, and even he never actually said anything to me (and I never actually came out to him - he'd just heard rumors.)

Other than that, the most frustrating reaction, which I've gotten from many people, has been, "Hell, I've known that for years!" - I always think, "Gee, thanks, wish you'd told me!"

I'm amazed at how far I've come in just a few years. I'm out to pretty much everyone I know, I out myself to strangers pretty nonchalantly, I have multiple pride stickers on my car, I wear a "freedom rings" earring all the time and Shrike and I share a last name.

We're not always comfortable walking around town holding hands and things like that, but we do it quite a bit, and I kind of enjoy "pushing the envelope."

A while back I realized that just because someone stares at us walking arm and arm, it doesn't mean that they are shocked or appalled or planning to hurt us - maybe they're intriqued, maybe they're impressed with us for having the guts to do it, and, even if they are shocked and appalled, at least they're being educated by seeing that we eat at the same restaurants and shop at the same Walmart, and have the same boring lives that they do.

Before the Blog: How We Met

Shrike and I met on a lesbian message board on November 8, 1997. At the time, I was doing a lot of online "research," trying to sort out exactly what it meant that I'd recently done some "experimenting" and was pretty sure I'd liked it.

That night, I stumbled upon the gay/lesbian message boards on Excite.com and read through several of them. After reading all of the posts in one called "The Shark's Den," I decided they sounded like a nice, friendly crowd, so I worked up the nerve to post.

This, incidentally, was the night that I started using the name "Whozat." Very concerned about anonymity, but not real long on originality, I first tried registering under the username "Who," but it was taken, so I tried "Whozat," and the rest, as they say, is history.

That first post said

"I've been reading your messages and thought I'd introduce myself. I'm 29, female and questioning."

That was all, but that was a lot more than I'd revealed to anyone else up until that point.

The next day I somehow managed to find The Shark's Den again and saw that there was one response to my message, from someone who called herself "Shrike." It said
"Whozat - questioning what exactly? As you see, I am too."

Encouraged by this, I read Shrike's bio and then told her to,
"Sit back, make yourself a cup of coffee, it's a long story,"
and proceeded to spill my guts, telling her (and anyone else reading the board, of course) about everything from crushes on friends in junior high to my recent drunken "experiments" with a friend.

When Shrike's reply included the line,
". . any time you want to get together for a drink. . ."
I wondered if this woman might be flirting with me, but decided that it was ok with me if she was.

We continued to get to know each other in "The Den" and on other message boards, and a couple of weeks later, I decided to forward Shrike an email that she had received from a friend.

The gist of the email was,
"Somewhere, someone is thinking about you. . . cares about you. . . wants to be with you. . .etc. . . ."
I worried that it might be a bit too forward, but sent it anyway. It would be the first of many, many emails.

By the Thanksgiving holiday, we were emailing regularly, and we spent most of that weekend doing what we came to refer to as "e-chatting," both online at the same time, sending multiple messages back and forth, over and over. (We'd yet to "discover" realtime chat.)

I can't remember exactly when she first starting thinking of Shrike as more than a friend, but I know that on December 1, I called a friend in Canada, to wish her "happy birthday," and when she mentioned that plane tickets weren't that expensive and that I should go visit her, my first thought was, "BlueState is near Canada, isn't it? Maybe I could meet Shrike at the same time!"

Of course, I had no idea what part of BlueState Shrike lived in, or how far it was from my friend's city (several hours, as it turns out), but that didn't stop me from mentioning the idea to Shrike, or from playing out the possibilities of such a meeting over and over in my head. Let's just say that those possibilities were definitely of more than friendship.

So, we started trying to figure out how to meet up while I was in Canada. I suggested getting together and going out to a gay bar there - because I figured drinking and dancing would help with my "plans."

I didn't find out until much later that Shrike thought I wanted to go to a bar together so we could dance with other women! Luckily, Shrike shared these concerns with another online friend who did her best to reassure her that she was the only one that I was interested in dancing with.
Over the next few weeks, we continued to email, and, in retrospect, we were definitely flirting. On Christmas day, Shrike sent Whozat an email "confessing her love," and, obviously, I replied in kind.

Once we'd both admitted how we felt, things progressed quickly, and we started discussing scrapping the whole Canada plan, in favor of Shrike flying down to Texas in March, when I was on Spring Break.

In January, I realized that she had a couple of four day weekends coming up - one the next week, and one in February. I told Shrike about them, and suggested they not wait until March to meet. Obviously the next weekend was out of the question, but within a week or so, Shrike had a bought plane ticket for Valentine's weekend, and we started counting the days.

Shrike arrived in Texas the evening of February 12. I had to drive about two hours to pick her up at the airport, ran into traffic on the way, and arrived about five minutes before her plane landed. Needless to say, I was a wreck.

We had exchanged photos, so I was looking for someone who looked like the photo, "but my hair is longer and straighter now." Shrike had also described what she'd be wearing as "a blue turtleneck and a maroon southwestern shirt."

So, I stood in the airport, scanning the deplaning passengers for a short blonde, with mid-length hair, wearing a maroon shirt. About the time it looked like everyone was off the plane, I heard someone call her name from behind, turned, and of course, it was Shrike - looking nothing like the photo she'd sent.

She had neglected to mention that her hair was also a lot less blond now, absolutely straight and halfway down her back - not to mention that I had totally missed the whole "southwestern" concept, and was looking for a solid maroon shirt, not one with a print.

It seems every time we meet someone new and tell them the story of how we met, Shrike says, "And she didn't recognize me at the airport!" I will never live that down! Of course, if you ask Shrike, you'll find out that everyone we show that picture to says it looks just like her and that they would've recognized her. Oh well, I knows who she is now, so that's really all that matters.

After a very long drive back to my house, hanging out at the house a while, looking at photos of each other's families and posting on the message board together, we went out to the local gay bar.

We were incredibly nervous there, and I felt like everyone (whom she'd been telling about Shrike for months, of course!) was staring at us, so I suggested we go upstairs, where we could be alone, and play pool.

Months later, we heard a joke:
What's a four letter word for lesbian foreplay?

Well, if there weren't some truth to it, it wouldn't be funny, now would it?

Needless to say, by the end of the weekend - hell, by the end of the night - we both knew that what we'd been feeling over the past few months was real. Unfortunately, our four days together ended much too soon, and Shrike had to return to BlueState. Within a couple of weeks, she had made the decision to move to Texas.

It took a little time for her to get arrangements made for the move, so we had another visit before then. This time I flew to BigCity2HoursFromRedburg and we spent Easter weekend together there.

On May 10, the day before my 30th birthday, Shrike arrived back in Texas. We lived there together for about a year, but it was very difficult for Shrike, being so far from her family, especially her nephew, who was less than a year old when she moved.

Over the course of the next few months, we made the decision that when school was out in the spring (Whozat was teaching at the time,) we would move to BlueState.

Of course, there was the small matter of explaining all this cross-country travel to our friends and family. . . .

Before the Blog: Who We Are

We're just your typical average lesbian couple who met and fell in love over the Internet, then moved halfway across the country to be together.

Did we say "typical average?"

You can learn more about how we met, how we came out and what we're up to now in the following [posts], but first, here's a little introduction to each of us.

I was born and raised in southeast Texas and lived there until June 1999, when we both moved to BlueState. I taught middle school science for nine years, spending her summer vacations working at the camp that I attended as a kid, the last three years as Camp Director.

Since June 1999, I have quit teaching, moved to BlueState with Shrike, taught myself web design, and started a job as a web developer.

Shrike was raised in no particular place; she was born in California, then moved to Canada, spent her elementary school years in Nebraska, and lived in Louisiana until her mid-twenties. She comes from a close-knit family, and when her parents decided to retire in BlueState, near where both their families live, she and her sister, along with their husbands, followed.

When we met, she moved to Texas to live with me, and after a year in there, she wanted to be closer to her family, so we both moved back to BlueState, where she now works at a local newspaper.

Now that you know who we are, you're probably asking yourself,

"How did these two get together?"
"What did their friends and family think about it?"
"What are they up to now?"

Keep reading . . . .