September 10, 2010, 12:48 am
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What I meant to say was something
other than my hand against her
braceleted wrist…

-Frankie Paino

It was women who first sexually excited me, not men at all. Even as a very small child, I was both puzzled and thrilled by the idea of the female, of something enclosed and kept hidden. I wanted to know why it was women didn’t take their shirts off in mixed company, and why my grandmother considered it inappropriate to wear skirts above a certain length. I glimpsed real, naked breasts occasionally, but the nudes in my encyclopedia set were what enthralled me. I thought the female form was beautiful and perfect, and I looked at it with a longing that as an eight-year-old I didn’t fully understand. Women’s bodies featured curves and crevices that men’s bodies simply didn’t have. I wanted to look at these bodies more often. There seemed to be no good reason to hide anything.

Freud might have had something misogynistic and vaguely perverse to say about my longings. But – then and now – these desires made sense to me. My eyes sought out soft curves and firm, rounded outlines. It’s those particular physical features that first attracted me, and even when I became older and began to evaluate others on the basis of their characters, rather than their first physical impressions, those features excited me most.

My first female partner was a girl who became my best friend, who functioned more as an older sister than a lover. Although I’d had sex with males before I met her, I’d never experienced any closeness, any sort of returned affection. With her, all that changed. I did not question my sexuality so much as whether she would remain my friend after we first fumbled into each other’s underwear, lying chest to chest and half-drunk at night in a public park. She remained my friend, through many more encounters drunk and sober, and I still thought of myself as straight, although I never used the word. When I left the city and she decided to stay with a new boyfriend, I felt that I had lost not only my best friend, but something I felt I would never find again. I couldn’t name it.

Next post: how I learned the term “bi,” and how to discard it.