Before I met J, I was in my first serious relationship with a woman I really thought I would spend the rest of my life with. I was in my late 20's when we met and although I knew she was younger than me, I thought our connection was strong enough to survive. When she turned 21, however, all bets were off. I was in my early 30's at that point and thinking about having a baby, settling down, house ownership, etc. I had given up my horses when we started our relationship (she was not a horse person) and was settled in my career, so it seemed like a natural progression of events. She wanted body shots, late nights of drinking, picking up strangers and all of those other early twenty activities that become wearisome and exhausting by the time you are thirty. We went our separate ways and I moved into a small one-bedroom apartment by myself.
I decided to forego relationships and have a baby by myself, since I had always wanted a child. I figured it would be hard, but we would have love and I would do whatever it took to give my son a great home and a bright future.
Then this happened:
I was almost asleep on the couch (my regular sleeping place since the break up - sleeping alone in bed was too difficult) when the phone rang. I answered it to find that a friend of mine was calling to see if she and her girlfriend (my bestie Jay) could borrow my water jugs to go camping. I replied that I was almost asleep and if she was coming over she was running the risk of me answering the door in my underwear. (This was nothing new, since I find moments for public nudity wherever I can, usually while camping. Well, I did. Not so much any more. You are all safe.) Shelly, Jay's girlfriend, laughed and said she dared me to.
About forty minutes later someone knocked on the door. I knew it was Shelly and Jay and for a moment was very tempted to answer the door in the buff, just to prove a point, but then I remembered that for the first time ever, three strangers had knocked on the door this evening looking for someone else and I couldn't risk it. I pulled on a t-shirt (I sleep mostly unclothed.) and shorts and went to answer the door. It was a stranger. Shelly, believing me when I said I would be naked, had hidden to the side of the door and had J knock. She didn't tell J what she was doing and had hoped that I would do what I had threatened, thus embarrassing us both. I spoiled her plot by actually having clothes on and invited them inside.
J, back then, had long, curly red hair almost to her waist, which she wore in a braid down the center of her back most of the time. She had a baseball cap on, tshirt and shorts. Brilliant blue eyes. The four of us settled ourselves in the living room and proceeded to talk for several hours, until I finally kicked them out of the apartment so I could get three hours of sleep before needing to go to work. During that conversation, which spanned a myriad of topics, I discovered that J was 1) raised fundamental Christian, 2) spent a lot of her youth in the south, 3) went to Wheaton College, which is the college Billy Graham was from, and 4) was kind of militant in her attitude about God, Jesus, church and religion. (I, for the record, am the exact opposite on all of those topics.) Still, she was easy to talk to and made me laugh. She didn't know anyone in the Denver area just having relocated from Chicago, and so I gave her my number and told her to call me if she ever wanted to hang out. They all left and I figured I wouldn't ever hear from her again. (A couple of our conversations had gotten a little snarky in the liberal vs religious department and I love playing devil's advocate to anyone's blind belief.)
Imagine my surprise when she called two days later. She had forced herself to wait because she didn't want me to think she was too interested. We chatted on the phone and made plans to go out. I was not very good at dating. It's not really something lesbians are good at, maybe because we are women and figuring out the dating thing was something taught to men, or maybe it's just that the step between dating and bedding is so short and small, it was easy to take. This time, however, I was committed to dating. To courting. To figuring out whether we were compatible before falling into bed and renting the Uhaul (now, I think this step between dating and bedding can be short for a lot of couples, straight or gay, when you meet as strangers and adults. At least it seems that way to me after sharing stories and experiences with my friends.) We decided to go to dinner in Boulder and then walk on the creek.
Dinner was wonderful and wandering along Boulder Creek is one of my most favorite things to do ever. I was feeling comfortable, stimulated and intrigued. We seemed to be enjoying each other's company and at one point, J took her hat off, undid her hair and finger combed it out, then put it back under her hat. I was entranced. I wanted to run my fingers through her hair. At that moment I wondered. I wondered if she was the one I would spend my life with. Was this door opening again if I was willing to take the risk? I felt hope for the future for the first time in several months. I wanted this to continue (she really did have magnificent hair when we first met.)
Flustered, I glanced down and realized J was wearing black polished combat boots. I grinned and said, "Nice boots."
J looked down and said, "Yeah, I like them. They were a gift from a Nazi friend I knew in college. She gave them to me for doing her a favor."
I froze. Nazi? friend? I was intrigued and terrified and confused. How could you have a Nazi friend in college? What kind of favor? Was J a Nazi? Here I was, intrigued and delighted by this woman, who was wearing boots given to her by a Nazi. But how in the hell does one ask one's date "Are you a Nazi?" What if she said yes?
We finished the evening in a haze and I managed to hide my turmoil from her. I was dealing with attraction and revulsion, feeling at ease and in danger at the same time. I have always been the type of woman that if you told me I couldn't do something, I would figure out a way to prove you wrong. The worse kind of oppositional defiance. This situation poked at me the same way. I wanted to see her again, to see if she really was a Nazi, or if she just knew Nazis. Her adamant fundamental Christianity seemed like the sort of thing a Nazi would believe. How could she be a Nazi and a lesbian? I should just walk away. But then, the image of her taking down her hair, the vulnerability it revealed, would draw me back in. I walked around arguing with myself in my head about what the hell I was doing. It was all very dramatic and felt dangerous. I didn't know what I wanted to do.
We kept dating. A week or so later, we went to the Taste of Colorado. It's a food event with live music during Labor Day weekend and is a fun way to sample all the different gourmet foods offered by different restaurants in Denver. We had plates of food and were sitting on the grass with Shelly and Jay when an absolutely, drop dead gorgeous black man walked by.
J said, "Wow, he's beautiful."
Definitely former Nazi, if Nazi at all. I couldn't imagine a Nazi admiring the physical beauty of a black man at all. I felt a little bit better after that revelation, but still, did I really want to be with someone who had been a Nazi in the past? And what kind of favors did she do the Nazi she knew in college? The mind boggled. I was still stretched between fight and flight. Should I stay or should I go?
We planned a camping trip with Shelly and Jay. To Vedauwoo. My heart place. The place where I take all of my prospective dalliances. The first evening we were up there we walked to the meadow, and were walking and talking and enjoying the company. Inside, I was still torn.
I looked down and realized she was wearing the Nazi boots.
I said, "nice boots" not sure I meant it this time.
J said, "Aren't they awesome? I got them for doing my roommate a favor."
I was done. I had to know. I couldn't take it any longer, because I absolutely couldn't fall in love with a Nazi, no matter how titillating it might be. I didn't want that to happen. It went against everything I believed, everything I was. I said, "Sit down here. I have a question for you."
We sat facing each other on a fallen cedar tree. J looked worried. I took a deep breath and mustered my courage.
"When were you a Nazi?"
J's mouth dropped open. I don't know what she thought I was going to say, but it wasn't that. "What the hell are you talking about? I'm not a Nazi? Why would you think that?"
Confused, I replied, "Well, when I first commented on your boots you said they were a gift from a Nazi friend. For doing favors."
J said very clearly with great enunciation, "Rotzy, Karen. Not Nazi. R.O.T.C."
There was a long pause.
Then she added as if I were feeble, "My roommate in college was in ROTC. I polished her boots for her for her dress uniform, since I was really good at it. At graduation, she gave me a pair in thanks. I never said I was a Nazi." She was very offended.
All I could do was laugh.
In my defense, I had never heard anyone refer to ROTC as Rotzy.
It made a great story to tell at our wedding.
Last thoughts: when I told this story at our wedding, most of the people there said they would never have gone on a second date, if they had thought the person they were interested in was a Nazi. I think about that and how, if I had reacted that way, instead of trying to figure her out, we wouldn't be here today. With our son. Or my horse. Or our life. With her. It would have ended before it ever got a chance to start: not because she was a Nazi, but because of my preconceived notions of who she might be. My misunderstanding her comment. And then not questioning.
There has to be a life lesson in there somewhere.