coming out in your thirties – Jaimee Estreller

day 1. the goodbye touch

Tonight was not supposed to happen.

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In my sluggish, one-eye squinted haze, I haphazardly declined the happy hour invite on my calendar. I need my alone time.

Tonight was supposed to end in a CBD-induced slumber under my weighted-blanket.

Instead, I was wide awake, plagued by a goodbye touch that unknowingly buried me in an indescribable weight. I need to know her.

It was 5:57 pm—and I made the split-second decision to say “fuck it, I’ll go” in hopes that being social after a self-inflicted week of solitude would be good for my soul.

After making a few laps around the room, I saw her miss the trash can. That was cute.

It led to the most unremarkable, cliché small talk ever. She does this. I do that. She is from there. I am from here. She likes something. I like something else. Fuck, she makes me nervous. The drinks helped. The shots did too. I tried to ignore the butterflies I had when she was in my proximity. She’s cool. I want to be her friend. That’s what I always say when I meet someone I vibe with. Except now I know she’s lesbian.

It was way past my bed time, so I chugged some water to make the train ride more bearable, making the laps again to say goodbye. I saw her by the drinks and gave her one of those side arm hugs, but instead of leaning in like a normal human being, my arm instinctually retracted like a knee-jerk reaction resulting in an awkward elbow grab. I should have Irish-exited.

The elevator ride down felt like forever. I kept rubbing the elbow she had inadvertently held onto for .0008 seconds. I felt dizzy. Not the booze. I felt giddy. Maybe the booze? I felt scared. I shook my arms like I was prepping for a butterfly stroke. Shake it off…please.

I got home and did what every sane person does when they had just met someone hours before—immediately follow them on Instagram.

My thoughts ping-ponged back and forth trying to answer this question: wait, do I like her or do I LIKE her?

All I felt was this pit in my chest, a balmy angst that wasn’t entirely dread. It was excitement too.

This is new.

I have a crush…on a woman.

That night birthed an entirely new book in the anthology that is my life. The main character is still me, except I’m bi now?!

Yeah. I’m bi.

Enough time has passed since that night to look back and define that split-second decision as my saving grace. It was the catalyst in helping me find eventual clarity and an untapped source of self-love, despite the perceived chaos it would ensue. I can’t properly explain it without having it sound like some woo-woo bullshit, but I left that happy hour with an all-consuming, soul-crushing, fight-or-flight energy that I couldn’t ignore. And I had to see where it was coming from.

For me, coming out meant going inward, because dear baby bi, the thing about the first queer crush is that it’s rarely ever about the other girl.

What has transpired since then was a myriad of distorted thoughts and intense emotions that went into hyperdrive. In classic me fashion, I journaled and word-vomited each day, finding solace that although my story is my own, there are threads of what I went through (and will go through) that weave together seamlessly into the vast, beautiful tapestry that is the queer experience.

There are highs and lows.

And I felt the complex layers at the get-go: the negative self-talk, the shame in trying to push that feeling away (I’m thirty-one, why is this happening now?), the inability to be a human around a crush, the ability to feel so human from just thinking about the possibility of love with women, the internal struggle with trying to define my sexuality (do I still like men?), the worry of not being accepted, the fear of being outed, the angst from masking it all, the loneliness in trying to figure it out.

The emotional toll evolved into a physical one. I relied on anxiety medication to level me out. I was on the verge of panic attacks, yet couldn’t find the courage nor words to speak my truth.

I woke up each morning thereafter in a haze, wondering if it would get any better.

It does, but not alone.

If it wasn’t for the IG bi memes, the Pride group at work, the $15 psychic who told me to “lead with my heart”, my gay sherpas, the LGBTQ+ podcasts I binged on my 13-hour flight to South Africa, my bi yoda, the movie Booksmart (don’t worry, the L-word is on my list), my ride-or-die therapist, and my overwhelmingly supportive tribe of family and friends, I would not have felt safe enough to accept this part of me.

LGBTQ+ representation matters. Stories resonate. Safe spaces connect.

Just as my people have helped me, I openly share snippets from my bi journey thus far in hopes of reaching the person, who, just like me, Googled “coming out in your thirties”, looking for some respite from the pubescent awkwardness that is eerily familiar, yet scarily new and exciting, and telling her: you are not alone.

Accepting your queerness connects you to your soul, no matter how old you are when you realize it. And that is fucking beautiful.

That night was supposed to happen.

This is essay 1 of my coming out series.

Peace sign. Finger guns. Bye, bye, bi.

*note: I am still a new-bi-e and have so much more to learn about my own queerness and queer culture. I am currently immersing myself in content, resources, stories, and communities to better understand the multifaceted nuances so I can write with respect, care, and pride. I recognize the fact that I could come out safely, and hope that others can do so too. All experiences are my own.

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