OPINION: Navigating the wedding of the woman I lost my virginity to
"She gave me silencing looks if ever I mentioned our school days"
Traditionally Roman Catholic weddings wrench my gut. I balk at the constant references to a male God, the near complete erasure of the woman’s voice and the niggling knowledge that they’d kick me to the curb if I wanted to get married in the same place. One I attended this month carried a whole load more weight. I was bridesmaid at the hetero marriage of my best friend, who is also the woman I lost my virginity to.
This friend and I met at school, at the onset of our wild and explorative teenage years. We’d go out, get drunk and embody the most problematic of Katy Perry’s discography. Amazingly, these sexplorations never interfered with our friendship; the next morning we’d wake-up, eat breakfast and begin planning our next night out. Of course, the rumours spread round school that we were lesbians, even leading to one particularly malicious science teacher making us demonstrate how molecules function by forcing us to hold hands in front of the whole class. For four years we continued to be best pals and have our intermittent frolics, but despite this I didn’t come out til I was 23.
We finished school and went off to our respective unis, where she would meet her now husband. That’s when our relationship shifted. I was delighted that she’d found someone for whom to break her vow of polygamy. But I couldn’t help feeling that she wanted to hide and forget those formative years we’d had together. The beautifully special thing about our friendship was that it was just that, two people with a strong bond of friendship who enjoyed sleeping together. Neither of us had any expectation of, nor wanted, a romantic relationship together; just fun, honesty and respect. When this man came along, with his understandable insecurities and jealousies, my friend began to erase our herstory when in front of him. She gave me silencing looks if ever I mentioned our school days. Once she even outright denied anything had gone on.
The intensification of her erasure of the intimacies of our friendship happened about the same time as I came to fully understand, take pride in and openly express my sexuality. Therefore, this pantomime of heteronormativity and denial of the past, which had brought me to the splendidly queer place I am now, felt to me like a betrayal. This wasn’t a romantic betrayal or even a betrayal of friendship, it was a bulldozing of the experiences that built my identity. After a while I came to accept that she didn’t want our past brought up in front of him so I stopped alluding to it in his presence. The funny thing is, when we’re alone or just with girlfriends, she makes frequent reference to our past together. Even on her hen-do, joking that she’d made the wrong choice and it should be me who she’s marrying.
As the wedding day approached I began to reflect more deeply on what our friendship meant to me and how I’d navigate emotions around it on the big day. By the end of the ceremony, however, I realised that very special kinds of love between women have been kept secret to protect the fragile egos of men for time immemorial. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last. It’s not right, but it’s ok. I’m happy to have a unique and hidden connection with one of the most kind and generous women in the world.
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