Lesson Learned the Hard Way

By Cheryl Lavin

December 4, 2016 4 min read

When Mattie was in school, she would get crushes on her female classmates and teachers. She explained:

"I wasn't sure what was going on and what the crushes made me. We get the message that homosexuality is a sin, and that if you have gay inclinations, you can expect family estrangement, job discrimination, friends dumping you and so on.

"You were damned if you told someone how you felt, and you were damned if you didn't. Where I lived, in a blue-collar neighborhood, you got verbally and physically abused. Fundamentalist Christians would tell you God hates gays."

The kids at school spread rumors about Mattie. They called her names. She said: "The kids hated lesbos, but they loved to talk about them."

Mattie started seeing a therapist to control her feelings for women. She said: "For a long time, I had those feelings under control. I sought out heterosexual relationships. I was in the closet. I dated men. I wanted a home, a husband and a family."

And then Mattie had a hysterectomy. She said: "That sealed my fate — I was never going to bear children. I see the scar every day." She was dating a man at the time, and they broke up.

And then Angela was hired at Mattie's office. Mattie described Angela, saying: "She had a very eighties vibe. Very up-tempo and funny. I met her when I left my desk to take a break. Angela smiled at me and tapped me on my elbow. I was hooked.

"One rainy summer day, shortly after she was hired, we decided to take the train home together. She opened her umbrella, and we walked with our arms around each other's shoulders onto the train platform. By the end of that ride I was in love.

"My feelings toward her made me throw caution to the wind. She was all I could think of. I couldn't wait to get to work just to see her. On days when she wasn't at work, we would talk on the phone.

"We were never lovers. We never kissed or held hands. But I confessed my feelings toward her. I wanted to be complexly honest with her."

Angela responded by having her cubicle moved far away from Mattie's. She stopped talking to her. Mattie got angry and created a scene at work. Then she regretted it and wanted to apologize. She wrote Angela a note in which she confessed her feelings again. She drew a picture of herself with a broken heart and a tear in her eye.

"The next thing I knew, my supervisor took me into a closed-door conference room," she said. They told her to stay away from Angela. "I felt destroyed and betrayed."

It got worse. After a few weeks, Angela quit. But before she did, she made five copies of Mattie's note. She put one in the ladies' room — one on the bulletin board in the kitchen, two in the conference room and one by her former cubicle.

The episode taught Mattie several valuable lessons: "I've learned not to get crushes on people at work, and to avoid crushes on straight women. I now accept the part of me that's attracted to women. I don't have a significant partner right now, but that's my relationship goal."

Did a romantic vacation ever turn into a disaster? Send your tale, along with your relationship questions and problems to [email protected] And check out my new e-book, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front."

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