My first romance was anxiety-inducing and quick, and then all over. In spite of the feminist critique I surround myself with and my attempts to fight off this society’s limited view of women, I launched into my first romance, head over heels, eyes shut to the possibility of my lover as a complex human being, full of her/their (they identify as demigirl) own problems, worries, wants. I look back at the charting of our relationship and see it consigned to failure, a gradual downward spiral, brought on by fate.
One of the downfalls, I think, is how few cultural representations we had to measure our relationship against, no bar with which to size up our own emotional truths and figure out what was left wanting. All around me, and inside our little cocoon, was suffering. Every queer or LGBTQ+ identified person I knew was pursued by the shadow of mental illness, a harsh result of the culture than denies our existence in one breath and villainizes it in the next. And we were not excluded, our soft holding cocoon became an echo chamber, our issues and unhappinesses playing out over each other, a battle for breath in a finite space. My love for them began to wane and lose its voice under the onslaught. (Lesbian Bed Death seems funny until you experience it yourself. It starts to unravel at the thread of the bedsheets. Why doesn’t she want me? Doesn’t she love me enough to try?)
Finding out that love couldn’t fix everything was bad. Feeling my love fade was worse. Where was my quickly-concluded Disney happily-ever-after? I could feel it slipping from my fingers, the reins too loose. Where were the grand, sweeping declarations? Where was our shared bed? Her anxiety-induced insomnia meant they lay awake looking at my profile in the streetlights. She told me I looked sweet, that they felt rested just looking at me, but I knew it wasn’t enough. Love, unsatisfied, turns greedy. I needed proof, plastered over everything—needed to feel their love for me, in defiance of all others. But she told me to delete our only shared picture off Facebook; she wasn’t out, it wasn’t safe.
One picture. In the end, that was all the proof I had to show to others that they had lived warm in my heart until they didn’t.
So here is the question: Where is my safe world? The one where I can love her loudly, safely? Kiss them on street corners and worry about nothing else but her smile. One where the world didn’t lean its weight so heavily upon us that we snapped, breaking.
Love, I found out, wasn’t all we needed. And, in the end, we weren’t even allowed that.
Aoife Mac Elhatton is a university student and activist who writes about why LGBTQ+ women deserve better and occasionally panic-bakes cookies at 11pm. You can find her at @fullfatqueer on Twitter, retweeting pictures of cute animals, and ranting about all the injustices the world has to offer.