I’ve been thinking a lot these days about what it means to feel uncomfortable. Is it really so bad to feel bad? Why are so many people conflict avoidant? What does it mean when we brush up against each other the wrong way, and what would happen if we forced ourselves, just once in a while, into situations that made us feel like we wanted to run?
I have this friend, Leesa (I call her Leesie), who is painfully girly. She’s got this small, soft voice, and when she speaks she sounds like she’s about six years old. Her perspective on the world is painfully innocent, and sometimes the beauty of the universe causes her to weep for no reason. My last name is Zemser, but she has never called me anything but Zoomie.
“Zoomie,” she says, pulling my shirt tails like a little kid, “Zoomie, I love you.”
“I feel sad today Zoomie,” she’ll say in a voicemail message. “I need to talk to you. I have a deep reservoir of pain.”
The last time I visited her in San Francisco, she said, “Zoomie, I am sorry you are going back to New York soon. I miss you when you’re gone. When you’re gone, I hurt.”
Leesie hurts, but then she moves on. Either she’s figured out some way to cope with pain, or she’s a complete idiot.
Leesa told me she knew she was gay from the time that she was four years old.
“But how?” I asked, mystified. “How could you know so young?”
“I just did,” Leesa said, her eyes all dreamy. “I used to fantasize that my babysitter was my jailer,” she said.
I don’t know if this line comes across as funny to you, but the idea of Leesa, who had huge brown eyes and pigtails and was an adorable little kid, sitting behind bars in a little jail while a blond teenager sits outside with a key ring is about all that I can take.
“Did that scare you?” I asked her once. “Did it bother you that something so denigrated could turn you on?”
“Yeah, Zoomie,” Leesie said. “It scared me a lot.” She looked at me, smiling a little. “But sometimes,” she added. “It’s okay to be scared.”
There’s an episode in the second season of Louis CK where Louis is invited into the home of an acquaintance for casual sex. The woman who invites him is the mother of one of Louis’s daughter’s classmates, and her name is Dolores. Dolores just wants sex, nothing else, and after some initial discomfort, the two finally get started. Pretty soon Dolores is asking Louis to paddle her. “Oh, Daddy, I’m sorry, Daddy, I’m so sorry,” she says, first crying, then sobbing, as Louis swats her on the bottom. The look on Louis’s face is priceless. It’s a great segment because the things that we eroticize are tied up in such nutty stuff. And you can see that Louis isn’t really into it at all, but you know, he tries to make the best of it.
Leesa likes to be tied up and dominated. We once tried to carry on together, but I was uncomfortable, and she wasn’t into me anyway.
“I suppose you want me to hold your wrists down like this,” I said, pressing her to the bed and lying flat on top of her. (We were fully dressed). I tried to look mean and terrible. “Maybe I should do you like Mark used to do me,” I said, trying to sound powerful.
“Yes, Zoomie,” said Leesa.
“You are very bad,” I went on, thinking of Leesa’s first jailer. “You are very naughty, and you need to be punished.”
“Yeah, Zoomie,” Leesa said, her eyes wide. She looked dazzled. “That’s working. Be Mark.”
I got off the bed and started putting on my socks.
“I can’t do that,” I said. “I’m a D cup, for god’s sake. How do you expect me to be Mark?”
“Let me in there,” my friend Jessica said once, after she met Leesa. “I’ll be Mark.”
“Yeah, Zoomie,” Leesa said, when I told her what Jessica said. “Let Jessica be Mark.”
I’ve never been one for good boundaries. Any self-respecting therapist will tell you that boundaries are very important things and that we are supposed to pay attention to them, but I’ve always been suspicious. The party livens up when boundaries dissipate. People fight. Feelings get hurt and people become uncomfortable, yes, but I’m of the mind that this is when things start to get interesting. Whenever I’m scared or uncomfortable I figure I’m about to have a learning experience. Yes, I’m sort of miserable right now, I say to myself. But I could grow from this, too.
I must have grown quite a lot after introducing Leesa to Mary — the woman I had my first lesbian affair with — because as soon as I returned to New York, the two of them started carrying on together.
“I love her,” Leesa sobbed into the phone. “Zoomie, she’s so hot. She’s so brilliant.”
“I know,” I said. I sighed.
“Do you think she will leave her partner anytime soon?” Leesa asked.
“Well,” I said. “I waited a year. But perhaps your love will be stronger than ours was. Maybe the power of your love will compel her to leave once and for all.”
Mary came to visit me in New York. I was in between women at the time, so I tried to whip something up.
“I really want to try and make it work with Leesie,” Mary said.
The first woman I’d ever fallen for had apparently fallen harder for my good friend. The first woman I really loved — Moira — had broken up with me after we’d had a baby together (she’d say she had the baby). Did breaking away from the traditional, heterosexual model mean that the rest of my life would be unparalleled emotional chaos?
I wasn’t thinking straight. I hated sleeping alone. Once, I spent the whole night on the phone with different women I’d connected with on Craigslist, thinking maybe I could get someone to come over and get in bed with me. But nothing panned out. Finally, at around two in the morning, someone sent me a a very nice email inviting me to spend the night in a hotel room in the city.
“Don’t do it, Zoomie,” Leesa said, on the phone from San Francisco. “You don’t know what could happen. Who is she?”
But I’d gotten it into my head that I wasn’t going to be alone that night, so I took a cab from Brooklyn into Manhattan where, in a very nice bar in the west village, I discovered that Kieran was a male name. Who knew? I thought I’d been emailing with a woman.
“I can’t stay the night with you,” I said. “You’re a boy.”
“Come on then,” Kieran said. He was a burly guy in his mid-thirties, of Indian descent. He spoke with a British accent. “We’ll have a romp.”
He convinced me to go back to his hotel room. Hunched over my cell phone in the cab, I listened to Leesa try to talk me out of it.
“Don’t do it, Zoomie,” she said. “Get out now and go home. You don’t have to put yourself through this.”
“I’m not spending another night alone,” I said.
“It’s almost four in the morning,” Leesa said. “The night is over.”
“But you told me once that it’s all right to be uncomfortable,” I said.
“Uncomfortable is one thing,” Leesa said. “But this is kind of dangerous, Zoomie.”
I didn’t listen to Leesa, although I should have. For inexplicable reasons, I had my mind set on a one night stand, even if a romp with a woman was going to be a shag with a man.
Kieran and I got out of the cab on the East Side….
The above is the 9th installment of a hilarious ongoing series by author and squirrel hunter Amy Bronwen Zemser called “How to Thaw Your Unborn Child.” Start at the beginning here. Return next week to find out how things went with Kieran. And read more of Amy’s adventures on her blog, AmyBronwenZemser.com.
Amy on coming out, homophilia & sexual identity:
My Husband Has No Penis