I believe in being genuine. My belief was hard-won. During freshman year in Ann Arbor, I rushed sororities all over campus. My mother had belonged to a sorority and I thought I ought to do the same. I went to the various houses and talked to beautiful women about myself…or about the self I thought would get me invited to pledge.
Just one house, the least prestigious on campus, invited me back for a second round. Hey, I’m from Connecticut and pretty, I groused silently. Why didn’t they seek me as a sister?
It’s easy, since then, to see how fake I was being with them. Mostly, I concentrated on not seeming flirtatious to my interviewers and on appearing to be an impressive candidate. Being categorically rejected was a blow, and liberating at once: If I could not fit the mold of my mother, I would need to define further who I was.
Since age 11, I was self-aware of my attraction to girls and women, but ran from it till 21, since I had gone to a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school for eight years, where I had been taught systematically that I would need to marry a man.
During my junior year in Jerusalem at Hebrew University, at a far enough distance from home, I explored my sexual orientation and twentieth-century Israeli literature – in that order. In early-September of my last year at Michigan, I saw a flyer on campus for a lesbian rap group.
I wore a skirt with a tropical print to the first meeting, telling myself as I walked to the site that if I felt out of place or uncomfortable, I’d just leave. Instead, I felt at home for one of the first times in my life. It took four years, but ultimately, I found the right sorority to pledge.
Ever since that evening at the lesbian rap group in Ann Arbor more than 20 years ago, I have believed that being genuine connects me to the rest of humanity, including to my family, colleagues and friends, who love, respect and befriend the real me.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.