This poem harkens back to a time, around 1993, when I was agonising over whether to give up, once and for all, on the man I'd been half living with for almost two years.
It wasn't a straightforward decision (is it ever ?). What made it hard was that, paradoxically, I was very fond of him ... or rather I was still very fond of his best side. Unfortunately the more established we became, the less I saw of that good side ... and the more he chose to regard me as a full-time audience for what I now realise to have been his intense self hatred.
Of course, being me, I just wanted to mend him ... to make him feel better ... to help him to be what he always managed to be for others when we weren't alone.
Good natured ... fun ... a source of support for me as well.
Feeling I was getting nowhere with the awful decision about whether to part from someone who was unfortunately liable to drag me down with him, I sought the advice of a close friend. ...A very out lesbian friend, as it happens, who'd suffered what seemed like just as much anguish from her women friends, as I was experiencing now.
We spent a lot of time comparing our experiences. Was it different ? Or did lesbian partners endure just as much anguish from each other as heterosexual people did ?
I knew what I wanted. I understood that people were often attracted to me because of the emotional strength which they perceived. Maybe I was attracted to them by the complementary sense of being needed. There's something very desirable about a "little boy lost". The snag was that there were also lots of times when I wasn't in a state to be their mummy substitute; times when I needed a daddy substitute of my own. Someone whom I could lean on. Somebody who could take over sometimes and provide a space for me to let go for the time I needed.
How did that sort of role exchange take place between two women? Was it a gender related thing ? If so then maybe I was on a hopeless search for my ideal man. Was it the case that people were fixed in either one behaviour or the other ... nurturer or dependent ? That seemed unlikely, because my very problem stemmed from exhibiting both behaviours myself.
I can't say that my friend was altogether objective in her answer either. We knew, and I acknowledged, that she wanted me to be more than just a friend. So I'm really not sure if her answer to my question wasn't tinged with a little bit of wishfulness.
In her view though, she felt that women were better starred as lovers, because of that greater ability to fulfil both roles in one : to be the big sister one moment, and the little sister, the next. She described instances of both and said how, she believed, true one-ness occurred when the roles became so fluid that she and her lover could be both at the same time, changing poles from moment to moment.
It certainly was an intoxicating thought and it stuck with me when I went to sleep that night, imagining the type of relationship my friend had painted. The next morning I had the words to express it in this poem.
What's interesting is that lesbian friends who hear the poem all seem to understand the meaning without the need for an explanation. Heterosexual friends almost all assume I'm writing about something else.
So draw your own conclusions ...