Posted on | August 2, 2014 | 105 Comments
Shane and Cherie from Showtime’s The L Word.
Have you ever heard of “medical student syndrome”?
It’s a type of hypochondria, “a condition frequently reported in medical students, who perceive themselves or others to be experiencing the symptoms of the diseases they are studying.” Human beings are suggestible, so that minor itch or cough or ache you have may suddenly appear to be a symptom, if you consider the possibility you might have an actual disease. Medical students spend a lot of time thinking about diseases, and thus may become obsessed with the fear that the rash on their leg is a potentially fatal disease, when the actual cause is the poison ivy they brushed up against while hiking in the woods.
So . . . are you gay?
For the vast majority of people throughout thousands of years of human history, this wasn’t a question to consider. They grew up, got married, had kids, raised goats or whatever and hoped they didn’t die from disease or famine or attacks by hostile invaders. Merely trying to survive a life of toil and hardship — the fate of most people at most times in most places — was sufficiently difficult that people didn’t sit around wondering about their “sexuality” or “identity.”
Welcome to middle-class America in the 21st century, where sexuality and identity are all some people have to worry about:
That’s the headline on an interesting — excuse me, I meant to say weird — column at the lesbian blog Autostraddle:
I got pregnant and married, in that order duh, while I was in high school! I stayed married, got pregnant again, and kept staying married for something like eight years — I lost count. Then we moved to Virginia, into a house I hated, in a neighborhood I hated . . . My husband was in the military and he’d be gone for months at a time. I was perpetually in a bad mood/depressed. Then there was free Showtime and a Season Three marathon. I watched Shane fuck Cherie Jaffe by the pool over and over and spent the next month googling ALL THE THINGS + FEELINGS.
Had to Google “Shane and Cherie” to realize she was describing the 2006 season of the Showtime series The L Word. Anyway . . .
Everything — every last fucking thing ever — finally made sense. I made sense.
I came out, we separated.
“For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health — unless one of you eventually decides you’re gay, and then all bets are off.”
How do stories like these happen? I mean, besides getting knocked up as a teenager, then moving to Virginia while your husband is serving his country, becoming perpetually depressed and watching Showtime? How is it that somebody can be married with two kids and then one day — cable TV gay epiphany! — chuck it all overboard?
I’m often asked, not necessarily outright, how I kept up that husband thing for as long as I did. It’s not an easy question to answer, both because it involves summoning a state of mind I can no longer relate to and because I’m scared of being judged. . . .
Where I grew up, it wasn’t uncommon to be young and pregnant and married. Birth control was available but not really discussed or supported, and no one talked about homosexuality or feminism. This was the 80s and early 90s, so there wasn’t any internet or gay people on television.
Which is to say, she was a normal girl who grew up in a normal family with a normal life in a normal town. But did you notice this?
Gee, why do you think these two topics are connected in her mind? I mean, she could have said “no one talked about homosexuality or vegetarianism” or “no one talked about homosexuality or Buddhism,” but instead, it’s “feminism” — why?
Anyone who has been reading my “Sex Trouble” series about radical feminism will instantly understand the connection:
- July 28: Feminists Against ‘The Unnatural, Yet Universal Roles Patriarchy Has Assigned’
- July 26: Feminists Worry That Disney Movies Are Making Girls Heterosexual
- July 14: Radical Feminism and the Long Shadow of the ‘Lavender Menace’
According to feminist theory, this woman’s problem was (as every woman’s problem is) heteronormative patriarchy:
Heterosexuality, these authors argue, is never a woman’s own free choice, nor is female heterosexuality the result of natural instinct or biological urges. Rather, according to radical theorists whose works are commonly taught in Women’s Studies courses at universities everywhere, women who are sexually attracted to men have been indoctrinated — brainwashed by “hetero-grooming” — to believe that male companionship is desirable or necessary to their happiness.
In other words, heterosexuality is imposed on women. Once she divorced her husband and became a lesbian – thanks to cable TV — this woman revised her memory with the benefit of hindsight. She suddenly realized she never really liked men anyway:
It never occurred to me that being “in love” could feel like anything more than kindly agreeing not to be mean to each other. And attraction? Actually wanting sex? I mean, what must that be like?? Women aren’t socialized, like men are, to think they deserve sexual satisfaction. Maybe it’s different now, but at the time, I interpreted sex as a thing that made boys happy, but for which women shouldn’t set their sights too high.
That part — the sex part — is hands-down the most difficult thing for me to talk about, process or explain. Not just because of how personal sex is, for everybody, but also because of the terrible sad vacant feeling that comes with discussing a thing that I never related to and now can barely fathom ever doing. At that time, sex was how I could get someone to like me.
Again, this is rationalization, informed by feminism. She blames the way women are “socialized” for her failure to realize she was a lesbian until she was a depressed married mom watching cable TV. She now refers to her years of heterosexuality as “a thing that I never related to,” which she was only doing so she “could get someone to like” her. She insists she never wanted it or felt attraction to men, never really had the feeling of being “in love” with a man.
Let’s not mince words: This woman is a failed heterosexual.
Being successfully heterosexual is not as easy as it may seem. Sure, some of us are so good at it, we make it look easy, but this apparent ease is simply the result of years of practice. It’s not as if the problems involved have never been considered.
“In everything on this earth that is worth doing, there is a stage when no one would do it, except for necessity or honor. . . . If Americans can be divorced for ‘incompatibility of temper’ I cannot conceive why they are not all divorced. I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.”
– G.K. Chesterton, 1910
Considerations of “necessity or honor” are alien to the 21st-century mind, so that husbands and wives don’t think of the honor involved in upholding a sacred vow. If nothing is sacred, no vow can really be binding, and the sense of honor one should derive from being true to one’s word — to say, “I do,” and really mean it – can play no part in our considerations. If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence (or if the sex is sexier on cable TV), why let something as silly as a marriage vow stand in your way?
The important thing, we are nowadays told, is just to be yourself. Find the real you. Get in touch with your feelings. And, amid all these gooey emotional hymns to the Happy Self, at some point the children have to hear The Talk: “Mommy and Daddy are getting a divorce, because Mommy watched a cable TV show and now she knows she never really loved Daddy, because she’s a lesbian.”
Hey, what’s that rash on your leg? Probably ebola virus . . .