feature image via shutterstock.com
Our second date lasted 36 hours. We woke the first morning to a snow storm. Overnight the streets, trees and rooftops had transformed into a soft white world. We threw back the covers and pushed our faces against my small window to watch the flakes drift slowly to the ground. We stayed awake long enough to declare ourselves a personal snow day before falling back asleep in each others’ shaky arms. Before I knew it, it was Tuesday, and we had been talking for a day and a half.
If you are someone whose identity has ever been even sort of aligned with “lesbian,” chances are you’ve heard the U-Haul joke so many times the white and orange trucks themselves seem a little heavy handed. But at the center of the joke is a truth: queers move through time differently than straight people.
Queer theorists talk a lot about time. Or rather, queer theorists talk a lot about “temporality,” which I understand as a pretentious way to say time. My favorite description of queer time comes from the theorist Jack Halberstam who wrote “queer time for me is the dark nightclub, the perverse turn away from the narrative coherence of adolescence– early adulthood –marriage – reproduction – child rearing– retirement–death ”
I’ve been thinking recently that queer time for me is a self-declared snow day. A chance to stay in bed and explore ourselves unhindered by the outside world. A chance to exist, to play — free from the hetero pillars of career, marriage, and lineage. A break from the ticking clock of larger society’s notions of progression.
When I was growing up, I didn’t know any other queer people. At least not anyone who identified themselves that way to little tomboy me. So I didn’t know it was an option. I only knew I wanted to be a truck driver or a football player. I knew the woman with curly black hair and soft sweaters, who tried to correct my speech impediment, to be the most beautiful creature in the world. And I knew I occasionally put a tennis ball in my underwear to see it bulge out of the front of my shorts. But none of these desires were reflected in the books or TV shows or the older kids I adored. And thus, I did not have an image of what I could become. My path forward never felt like a chronological progression towards a fixed point. But rather a whole lot of fumbling self-discovery. An erratic and uneasy becoming.
The thing about moving without an established route is that the going is messy. My progression has felt at times like interminable bushwhacking: walking for awhile in one direction, and then abruptly changing course. Scratching my legs on raspberry brambles and falling in ditches. But also getting to taste the sweet and wild fruit, and to stumble upon beautiful clearings.
This trajectory of constant reinvention is something that I believe is common among queer people. Queer people, on average, own homes, graduate college, and settle in careers later than their heterosexual counterparts. But the negative space in these statistics, the years that failed to produce a degree or a six figure salary, I recognize those years. Those are the years when we got to know ourselves — by tumbling through mistakes, through trauma, through depression so bleak that it seemed it would never lift.
Which is why I believe there is something distinct about queer time. Queer time is a bushwhacked path, a sled’s shaky trail, a web of continual reinvention in many different directions.
Falling in love with S this winter has felt like the very best parts of a long and gentle blizzard: the simultaneous excitement and coziness of watching the window sills collect with snow, the wonder of finding the streets I thought I knew so well filled with magic overnight. With S, minutes and hours feel like unreliable metrics: a seven hour conversation goes by in a blink, a weekend in bed is barely scratching the surface, and three months feels like always.
And recently I’ve been seeing images, though they feel like memories: S filling out a crossword puzzle in the beige comfy chair at my family home in western Massachusetts, or S walking with my sister through our overgrown pasture. These are places S has never been, and for a moment I get confused, as though what is yet to come has already happened. As though being in love means everything: the past, the current, and the future, are all touchable, all at once.
When I feel scared of falling so fast, I remember these words, a benediction for the pace of queer love by the poet Mary Oliver:
I Did Think, Let’s Go About This Slowly
I did think, let’s go about this slowly,
This is important. This should take
some really deep thought. We should take
small thoughtful steps.
But, bless us, we didn’t.