Bonnie Aspen – Identity and Awareness

“At least the sheets smelled like you.”

I had laid the law down [to my boyfriend] and said, “You need to make a commitment to me, or we need to stop doing this.” So he moved to the commune [where Willow lived]. And so, because [he and I] were still figuring out the relationship and all that, I’d visit. He’d write me lengthy letters, because he was a real descriptive writer, describing everybody. He’d write paragraphs about the freckled, 16-year-old “Amazon,” running around the farm without a shirt. [Willow] did that a lot then. She was a basketball player, and he was really into basketball. So, that was the first I knew [of her].

There was one fateful time when I went to visit him. I was going to stay about a week—a long time—and the farm was pretty full up, lots of extra people were staying for whatever reason. [My boyfriend] and I were real sure that we didn’t want to stay in the same room, so they decided to put me across the hall from the room he was staying in—and that was in Willow’s room.[1] They said, “If you guys bunk together just one night, then she’s going on the bicycle trip, and you can have her room while she’s gone.” So we bunked together for one night. And nothing happened. She’s 16. I’m into boys. Nothing happened. We cuddled.

But years later, after [Willow and I had] been together quite a while, Willow was going through papers. She comes up with this note and she says, “Do you remember this?” And she shoves it under my nose. It’s my handwriting, but I don’t have any recollection of writing it at all. And it was like, “Thank you so much for giving me your room. It felt so empty without you here. At least the sheets smelled like you.” Oh my, it went on, and on, and on. [Laughs.] So at that point, she had fell in love with me and decided to wait until I got over boys.

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No. [I didn’t have trouble accepting my sexuality.] Not at all. I had been the world’s biggest fag hag when I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I totally hung out with the gay boys 24/7 for years.

Upon my ah-ha [moment] it was like, “Oh. What straight boy was going to run through that gauntlet and want to ask me out for a date?” And certainly the lesbians weren’t going to be interested, because I was hanging out with the boys. No, I didn’t have any trouble accepting it at all. I just don’t think I saw it as an option [earlier]. Even though I had gay friends, I really didn’t know any of the women.

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I had an uncle, who I have very limited contact with, who was gay. Uncle Joe. I remember very early knowing that there was something different about him. I knew, at least as a teenager, that he was a homosexual. I didn’t really think about what that meant, but I always got that feeling that it wasn’t okay. That resulted in his isolation from the family 95 percent of the time, his eventual homelessness, and dying of alcoholism—although both of those things are very prone in my family. I lost a brother to that too, without the gayness, I think—but he was a very pretty brother. [Laughs.]

 

 

[1]“Dennis” is a pseudonym.

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Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson, 15 August 2007; transcribed by J. Zander; edited by Laura S. Hodgman. Audio file held in the Museum of Arts and Culture.