Technically, she wasn't really a lesbian.
To say that I grew up sheltered would be a massive understatement. I never had an actual conversation with someone who wasn't white and Jewish until I reached college. The good part about that: when I did meet people from other religions and races, I came with no preconceived notions or prejudices. The bad: I felt a bit like Woody Allen's character in Sleeper, waking up to a new world. In my case, of course, the world had existed all along.
I never met anyone who was openly gay or lesbian until graduate school. My program of study was in an arts-related field and required a lot of time spent in Soho and Greenwich Village. During that period of my life (my wayward years) I was blessed to work at a job with a wonderful group of people who I actually enjoyed spending time with - not just a few people, but every single one of my co-workers was someone I wanted to get to know. One of these was LM, a brash and sardonically funny woman 2 or 3 years my senior, who smoked incessantly and always regaled me with a play-by-play of her latest therapy session with a doctor she viewed as an incompetent, but whom she just couldn't leave.
Though LM called herself a lesbian (and even included it proudly in bold on her resume), she would flirt with anything that moved, and admitted openly that though she preferred women, she was actually bi-sexual; she employed the term lesbian because bi "didn't mean anything politically." For a sheltered boy, all this was quite an eye-opener, and fascinating. Being an incredibly open, frank and forthcoming person, LM was happy to share her thoughts, opinions, and experiences, which led to many deep, occasionally existential, often touching, and always thought-provoking conversations.
LM's mother had been a nun in a convent who could not fight her urge to have a child, and left the convent in search of an intellectual man who would enable her to fulfill her desire; she found him in the form of a Jewish university professor, whom she contacted only twice more - once to tell him she was pregnant, and again to say she had given birth to his child. They had no real relationship with each other, and neither wanted one. LM's mother later married a gay man, who helped raise her daughter.
LM always imagined what it would be like to meet her biological father. It haunted her, and she yearned for it. As her father was somewhat well-known, she kept tabs on him, knew where he lived, knew of his other children, kept track of his career. She would create different elaborate scenarios in her mind of how she might run into him and how it would be. Once, she even saw him from a distance, but did not approach. This was the one area where she was not impetuous, was downright scared: "Hi. I'm your lesbian daughter by a woman you had a one night tryst with. I have many neuroses and now I'm here in your happy home." In the face of potential parental rejection by a father she did not know, her normally bold, tough exterior was hobbled by fear.
As a result of her dad's Jewishness (to which she attributed her neuroses), LM was intrigued by all things Jewish. She was always very respectful and accomodating of my religious needs, suggesting kosher restaurants we could go to, and never asking me to do anything on shabbat. She did, however, feel the need to broaden my horizons and loosen me up - she introduced me to some great bookstores and record stores, museums and cafes. I drew the line when she wanted to take me to Hell, a bar/dance factory where you have to feel along the wall to find the entrance door. She just shrugged ok when I dropped her off and repeated that I would not be accompanying her.
The office we worked in was a very convivial atmosphere. Any excuse would do to call for an after-hours drinkfest ("hey, it's Tuesday!"). Not being a big drinker, and not entirely wayward during my wayward days, I would sometimes go and not drink, just to observe, and sometimes not go at all. I never understood the appeal of getting blasted on a regular basis, and was especially surprised that this would continue after college.
I asked LM about it during one of our "broaden my horizon" excursions. LM had decided to take me wall-staring, which for the uninitiated goes something like this: you find a dive bar somewhere in the Village, one that is the size of a large broom closet, with a faded sign outside; the bar stools should face a brick wall, where there should be X-mas lights hanging in June. You go to the jukebox and put on some tragic-sounding French music, sit at the bar and drink, and drink, and drink, and stare at the wall until you get horribly depressed and then numb. As she started on her fourth beer, I turned to LM, and I asked her: "Why? I don't get the appeal. I don't get wall-staring, I don't get any of it. Why does everyone always want to go out drinking?"
Being the very open, honest, and forthright person she is, LM looked at me and said, "because when it comes down to it, no matter who loves you, no matter who is in your life, you're really completely alone in this world, and so you drink, to forget how lonely you are."
I was never so glad as I was at that moment that I believed in G-d. That was the beginning of the end of my wayward days.