I came out in my very first Daily article. No, I don’t just mean that it was my debut as a writer venturing into the realm of print media. I mean that I gave a detailed account of my desire to take ladies out for dates and then touch their naked bodies — as long as the feeling was mutual, of course.
Looking back, it was an odd choice. I’d hardly even come out to myself at the time, let alone my friends and family. Perhaps slipping “I want to put my mouth on both men and women” into casual conversation was too ham-handed and uncomfortably earnest for me, so I just put that information on the Internet where all my future lovers and employers could unearth it with a simple Google search. Sure, it was a reckless move, but definitely efficient.
Right after the essay was published, I crossed paths with my editor at the Daily Jeopardy party, which was churning with drunken lovehounds on the scent of Daily Points. In one breath fortified by giggles, she shrieked, “I love your writing; my entire staff wants to sleep with you.”
She wasn’t the only person to have this giddy response to my openness about dildos and bad gaydar. Women weren’t lining up around Kerrytown to kiss my hand, or pelting my window with pebbles by moonlight, but my Facebook inbox gathered messages from ladies thanking me for my bravery and looking for coffee dates. People were asking me for sex advice. It was nuts.
But honestly, though I enjoyed the attention, I was confused by these exuberant reactions. I didn’t think the essay was sexy at all; in my mind, I was merely confessing my ignorance and fear about my own identity. In fact, when I revisit it now, I’m still seized by anxiety flashbacks — partly because not much has changed in the last few semesters.
Of course, the events of my life have progressed since then. My gaydar has improved. I came out to my parents, who basically replied, “We’re not surprised; just don’t mention it to your grandmother.” I had an affair with a dazzling roman candle of a woman. We made our romance highly visible, holding hands and kissing in public, and it felt good to be so exposed and unashamed after those years of internal suspicion.
But my pilgrimage to openness came with its own strings. It turns out that when people see two cute brunettes “together,” they take notice. One night at a bar, a guy followed my date back to our table, called us “unicorns” and offered up an invitation to guest star in a foursome with him and his wife. (It also turns out that being openly bisexual leads to a lot of group sex proposals; I’ve had seven in the last eight months, not including the anonymous messages accumulating in my OKCupid inbox.) These kinds of experiences — the ones that make me feel targeted because of whom I choose to enjoy — help keep that old caution and confusion alive.
This uncertainty also stems from the nature of my identity. My desire is ever-expanding and fluid, which is not always as fun as it may sound. When I’m walking down State Street and my head turns to follow a beautiful body, it usually belongs to a woman. Even if I’m totally in love with a man, instincts like that leave me staring into my medicine cabinet’s toothpaste-splattered mirror and asking aloud, “What if you’re just super gay?” Other times, I’m overtaken by the urge to grab a guy and have all kinds of straightforward, hetero sex.
It’s a ride; it’s distracting; it’s exhaustingly exhilarating, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.
After I wrote that first essay, I befriended a young woman who asked me out for coffee and identifies in my same realm of queer. I interviewed her for a project on bisexuality and toward the end she shook her newly buzzed head, sighing, “It’s not going to get any less confusing.” In the interview’s recording, her voice sounds exactly like mine does when I take that look into my own eyes — rapid and stammering through attempts to articulate desire, laughing off the resulting frustration. “Yeah,” she said, “if you figure out the magic formula to not be confused, please let me know.”
Well, I didn’t have the formula then and I definitely don’t have it now. I’ve learned a lot of lessons at the University, but how to be gay, and how often, is not one of them. Now I’m graduating, and every aspect of my life is in a state of disarray. I’ve got to pack up four years of trinkets and clothes and creations; I have to decide where I want to stumble through the next phase of my saga. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, or whom I’ll be with, in just a few months from now. My mind is cluttered with more doubt than ever, but … I’m not panicking.
In a way, my sexual uncertainty has prepared me for these radical transitions. Instability is scary as hell, but tackling that monster again and again has proven that not knowing has always helped me discover new pleasures, and the incredible leaps I am capable of taking.
Emily Pittinos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.