“Excited to do my first carpet job!” read the Facebook post from my ex-girlfriend.
It caught my eye, not least of all because of the double entendre reference to the sexual act that would make a middle schooler (and me, apparently) giggle. In reality, my ex was probably learning how to deep clean the carpeting in her house. The house she shares with her husband and two kids.
“I didn’t realize you were that curious. Who’s the lucky girl?” one of her friends commented on the post. It was a joke, I know. But it stung.
The friend who commented on her post knew my ex only in her present-day life, a woman married to a man living in the suburbs. I assume the friend didn’t know about her life before. He didn’t know she and I were a thing.
My thumbs readied themselves to respond to the post. I hovered over the comment and thought about what pithy quip I could insert in response. I could add a hand-raised emoji or a raised eyebrow. I could wink, or just leave an ellipsis, which would tip off some people, perhaps those who knew us both in that time, but not open her past up to anyone and everyone. She might seem straight now, but she was more than just curious when I knew her a decade and a half ago.
Despite my strong urge to set the record straight (or rather, gay) I put the phone down. I felt a heaviness arise in the space between the open-ended comment and me.
“Maybe she will respond,” I told myself. Maybe she would tell this friend that before she was married to a man, she had an intense relationship with a woman. Before she moved to suburbia and had two kids and a dog, she marched in the streets with rainbow bandanas to celebrate pride and kissed girls at the gay bars.
But she didn’t reply to the comment. Perhaps I should have known she wouldn’t post about something so personal on such a public platform, but for some reason, it still hurt. It probably wasn’t even a second thought for her. For me, though, it felt like someone took the back of a pencil to my life story and started erasing all the good parts.
One reason it might have felt personal is that my ex and I didn’t just sleep together—we loved each other. For more than a year, we spent every waking hour together. And when we moved hundreds of miles away from each other the following year, we wrote piles of love letters back and forth.
By the time I moved back a year later, she had moved away. We would never live in the same state again, but for the next handful of years we continued to visit each other and sleep together when we were between lovers (and, admittedly, at times when we weren’t).
She dated men and ended up marrying one. I have happily chosen monogamy with my wife. We keep in touch but haven’t seen each other in years. There were times when I visited, and she was dating a man and introduced me as her friend, which wasn’t untrue, but it also didn’t accurately capture the full depth of what we shared. It was painful to experience, as I stood awkwardly half-smiling at the guy who I felt couldn’t begin to understand her like I did.
The new life she enjoys feels worlds away from the queer city gal who lives in my memories. To be fair, I don’t know if she intentionally covers up that part of her life, or if it just doesn’t come up by default, but her present life and lack of dialogue about the past feels like a type of erasure for me. It makes me feel like I’m holding onto our memories all by myself. Her references to me as a “good friend” on social media on the rare occasion when we do intersect publicly on a comment thread, and her complete lack of mention of any LGBTQ issues, whether personal or political, only compound the issue.
Of course, I understand that it’s her story to tell and her version may differ from mine, but I feel like her lack of response to that post is emblematic of a larger silence that delegitimizes my own relationship history. It renders me the only party to acknowledge that our shared history took place. Sometimes that erasure makes me question whether I imagined the love we shared, whether I have a right to hold those memories so dear.
Sadly, this isn’t the only time that someone I had an intimate relationship with hid me from everyone and everything else in their world. I came out before Ellen DeGeneres was a daytime star, when Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die because he was gay. Many of my girlfriends pledged their undying love and then disposed of me when they got scared or decided it was time to move on to the straight life they perhaps always knew they were going to return to.
I’ve learned to deal with feeling erased by honoring my feelings of hurt. I let the sting hit me and then watch as it dissipates, and I move on with my day. I no longer allow myself to feel dismissed or invalidated by someone else’s choices.
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