(Originally posted on May 12, 2013 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)
I grew up in a tiny hamlet in rural Nova Scotia. Our backyard was big enough to play baseball in, and we lost more than a few fly balls in the woods behind it. My grandparents lived across the road from us, and aunts, uncles, and cousins were within walking distance. Flowers and blueberries grew wild, and on summer evenings the air sounded like crickets.
The beach was less than a ten-minute drive away. I would spend whole days there with my cousins, braving the cold water and painfully stumbling over uneven rocks to get to the wavy sand that waited for us waist or chest deep. We walked along the shore looking for shells, wearing our towels as skirts and letting the sun dry us. We chatted on damp picnic blankets, crunching slightly sandy potato chips and wishing the juice boxes had stayed cold.
Cable TV didn’t become available until I was seven or eight. Sugar cereals (beyond Alpha-Bits and Honeycombs) were almost exotic… we had to go all the way to “town” for those. Strangers weren’t really a thing – on any given Sunday drive, Mom and Dad could tell me who lived in every single house we passed. Whenever we needed a babysitter, my folks had dozens to choose from.
People knew whose kid you were just by looking at you. If you were getting into mischief in the afternoon, your parents knew about it by the time you came home for supper. For better or worse, you really felt like the whole village was raising you.
Our little corner of the world was incredibly homogeneous Not only was everyone white, but the same kind of white. Not only was everyone religious, but the same kind of religious. We were all part of one shared identity with matching opinions and values. We were honest, unpretentious country folk who moved at our own pace. City people were the first “them” that I was taught to compare “us” with.
Most people who grow up where I did don’t stay. The job market is meagre, and the dating pool is more of a shallow puddle, due to the tiny population and the unsettling truth that most of us are related to most of us. Romantic prospects are pretty much non-existent for a homo.
I spent my high school years terrified of what life would be like after high school, and then I spent my university years terrified of what life would be like after university. I had no vision of my own future. I spent four years as an undergrad, learning for its own sake, with no delusions that this would help me with a future career path. I was very much living in the present. I took philosophy classes, and language classes, and writing classes. I chose things I knew I could do well on auto-pilot. I had to, because my focus was split between my studies and my existential lesbian crisis.
During this phase of my life, my sister was living in Edmonton with her husband. We chatted on the phone most Saturdays. Sometimes she would ask me to move out west when school ended.
The notion sounded like utter nonsense to me. I was a socially anxious rural girl with a pretty severe case of (self-diagnosed) directional dyslexia, and I liked the quiet. How could I possibly function in a huge, loud city full of strangers?
For some time, that doubt was the unwavering obstacle standing in my way. And then, one day, it just wasn’t. The more certain I became that I was a big lez, the more this crucial question changed in my mind. Now, as I looked around at the only roads and faces I’d ever known, I was asking myself the opposite.
How could I possibly function here?
Edmonton was a mold I had no choice but to press myself into. I learned how to take buses, and how to talk to new people. I became accustomed to strolling along paved sidewalks instead of gravel shoulders. I got used to locking my doors. Slowly but surely, a country girl started to resemble a city girl.
I made myself learn how to be far away from most of my family most of the time. Today I wish I could see everyone a lot more frequently than once a year. But it just isn’t possible. They’re there, and I have to be here.
It all feels worth it most of the time. I am thriving here, in ways I never could have back home. But I sometimes feel like being gay robbed me, by forcing me to make a choice I may not have had to make otherwise. By nature, I was a frightened turtle whose every instinct told me to stay in my shell. If I were straight, would I have stayed put? If I had stayed, who would I be now?
Living rural, among nature at its most beautiful, feels like a luxury not afforded to me as a lesbian. It’s kind of like when I hear people wishing they had been born in a different era. I’m not at liberty to wish that. When I look to the past, I don’t see a place for myself. The future is the only place I can look.
Not long ago, during one of our weekly phone conversations, my mother informed me that the high school in the small fishing community where my Dad grew up recently started a gay straight alliance. She could not have strung together an odder sounding group of words if she’d tried. I’ve been away so long, I haven’t seen the huge change happening.
Maybe what the future holds is a place for homos in rural Nova Scotia. A place where a pair of wives can sit together in their enormous backyard and hold hands and watch the sun set. A place where they can then retire to their nicely sized (yet affordable) home for some sweet lovin.’
Hey, it could happen!