And now for something a bit different.
We Women of WIT would like to share the following short reflection written by one of our members in response to the Michiana GLBT Resource Center’s call for monologues for its performance-fundraiser, “Come Out, Michiana.” It represents a different manner of reflecting on some of our usual themes of spirituality, love, sexuality, solidarity and religious differences.
“The Woman I Loved for Four Years”
The woman I loved for four years never called me her girlfriend.
We never used words like “date” or “dating.” We would talk about the distant future—would I still make her pancakes when she was 70? (I would have)—but never say “partner” or “wife.” “Lover” was absolutely off the table. But love was OK. Love was our touchstone. Love was our verb and noun and pet name of choice. She was my love, and for four years she loved me.
By mutual unspoken decision, the words that were in and the words that were out were determined by their presence or absence in our prior years of friendship. If a word had been used before we became the unnamable thing that we were, it was fair game. But if a word would openly name the change in our relationship, it hovered but never alighted on a tongue.
It sounds sad now, I know, but at the time, it was sort of sexy, this subtle reworking of meanings, circumscribed by an inviolable rule we both and neither understood.
The woman I loved for four years never called me her girlfriend, but one night as we sat alone in her college apartment, she looked at me and she asked: “Do you think I should wear my hijab when we’re alone together?”
In the previous years, when “I love you” meant something different and we were just girls who were friends, she had only ever worn a scarf when there were men in the room. But now, now that “girl” and “friend” had to maintain the safe distance that our bodies no longer observed; now that nervous brushes of fingers on forearms had become tentative “I don’t know what I’m doing” kisses, and kisses had become deep and passion-filled, and her head was always on my lap on the sofa and her hands could go wherever they chose; now the logic of covering her head when with men should apply when with me.
I think I laughed. It wasn’t a silly question. We had come to our love precisely through such questions about religion, and if our friendship had been founded on the solidarity between Catholic guilt and Muslim guilt, our love was bound up with our ache-filled loves of God. But this understated acknowledgment that things were different for both of us—things were flesh, bone, heart, hijab, soul different for both of us—it made the words we knew not to say come out of my mouth, and I’m glad they came as a laugh and not a cough or a sob. Or a breath.
Two years later, I was the one who ended it. It was complicated, like it always is. It’s not just the words we could never say out loud, but that was part of it. I don’t think either of us could give the other what she really needed. But when there are days I think about her and can only see the words we never used and start to wonder whether our “agreement” never to use them was actually a disagreement—what is it I actually meant to her?—that question is what I think of, the thing that tells me it wasn’t in my head.
It’s weird, I acknowledge that: I don’t think of the times that we kissed, or the clothes that came off. I think about that question.
I think about her wondering whether her scarf should stay on.