I am relating this story because it speaks to the depth and meaning of love and friendship and demonstrates that love and friendship abide even when we expect it to turn a back on us.
I forget exactly when it was, but I believe I was a junior at Bates. I had a younger female friend; I would say we were good friends. I think our friendship began when I was a proctor in Page and she was a first-year student moving in there. We just hit it off and thus our friendship began. We spent a fair amount of time together and I even went home with her over a break once.
One afternoon well into the school year she came to me and asked if I would go to Lou’s (a bar frequented by Batesies out Main Street across from where Mardens is now) with her that evening. She had something she wanted to tell me. So we met that evening and walked to Lou’s because neither of us had a car. It was a bit of an adventure because we had never walked there before and, an added thrill, it was pitch black out.
We arrived at the bar, somewhat pleased with ourselves at being able to navigate our way in the dark through the vacant lots and over the train tracks. We grabbed the customary bowl of peanuts and ordered a couple of drafts (the drinking age was eighteen at that time). I was full of anticipation, wondering what her revelation might be. I think I was the one who broke the ice by asking her, once we were settled in at the bar, what she wanted to tell me. Her announcement was that she was in love. I was really excited for her because I knew from the delivery of her pronouncement, “I’m in love,” that she was very serious; this was not puppy love or a crush… we were talking serious relationship and commitment. “And,” she added, “it’s with another woman.” My response was, “That’s great!” I knew that her feelings were sincere and I also had determined for myself at some point prior to that (maybe even at that second), that love is not always something we have control over. Sometimes it just manifests itself and we have to decide how to respond. She looked at me, a little amazed and a lot relieved. “I thought you would get up and walk out on me,” she said. How could I? We were friends. It just didn’t matter to me because of all the qualities in her that I admired as a friend. She was who she was, and I liked her. If she was a lesbian, so be it. She was (still is) a great person and her sexual orientation really had no bearing on that in my mind.
I recognize that this tale of acceptance reflects a “happy ending” to a coming out experience and that not all revelations are met with acceptance. But I wanted to tell it because I have had experiences in my life where the anticipated rejection never materialized, where love (be it that of friend or family) brought with it acceptance.
- Sarah Bernard ’75, Staff
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