LESLIE GEDDES, ALICE RIENER, & WHY I SUPPORT GAY MARRIAGE
I'm thrilled the Supreme Court declared gay marriage a constitutional right.
Here is my reason why:
I learned a while ago that a former girlfriend, Leslie Geddes, is gay and has finally come out, mainly spurred, I suspect, through society's increasing acceptance and support of gay rights.
And I am so happy for her. I was deeply in love with her - in fact, she is the only person I can say I know I was truly in love with.
Even though she told me she loved me I was always left with the question I never asked of anyone else: why can't you love me? After we first made love and she lost her virginity she photocopied her bedsheet and wrote on it "I love you more than you know." So, there it was in my hands but I wanted more than the words. "Show me" is what I wanted to communicate, but I didn't know what that meant.
All of my life I had wanted to believe in her love and Leslie gave me many words to believe, but there was so much more not to trust, so it was like we never had any love at all while at the same time I was in too deep. It was confusing.
I see now, after it has all ended in ruins, that during our relationship she was always angry. More often than not this was passive aggressive anger, an art in itself, such as giving me the silent treatment or vicious looks when I tried to express emotions and feelings or playing mind games such as telling her friends in front of me while we were living together that she wanted them to set her up with someone "smart, cute and rich!" and then refusing to discuss that with me. I would beg Leslie to talk to me about emotions and feelings but she'd simply turn away and become increasingly angry if I persisted in trying. So, I stopped.
I had never asked, and never cared to ask, the question of anyone else or about anyone else: why can't you love me? For, I never cared why I couldn't be loved by my mother or father or grandparents or siblings or friends. Or God or Buddha or Jesus or Mara. Or anyone. It was the state I was born in and I accepted it like acne and baldness. But with Leslie it was different because she told me she loved me and I loved her. But despite her words it felt unreal because being hurt didn't feel like love.
I was reduced to spending my days writing weepy sophomoric poetry with purple prose:
three days from today
And that other day was simply lived for a hope that Leslie could love me even as she was with me and even as she told me she loved me. It was a sickness. My work fell off. I was a zombie, which was fashionable but crushing.
During the time we dated Leslie would spend every Saturday afternoon with her "girlfriend" Alice Riener. When I asked "Can't we just spend one Saturday afternoon together?" Leslie would simply respond, "Alice says she needs me."
They met at Columbia University and had been inseparable ever since. After graduation Alice moved back to Washington DC and Leslie followed her.
At the end of Leslie's bed, Leslie kept a large framed photo of Alice. She told me it was so that Alice's face would be the last thing she'd see at night and the first face she'd see in the morning.
After I bought an apartment and we moved in together I was arranging to put half of the ownership in Leslie's name (which seemed to me in my love besotted state a more meaningful gesture than an engagement ring); but some phantom unease moved me to ask Leslie, "Am I your best friend?" I suppose I wanted confirmation that my feelings were reciprocated before I took such a major step of giving her half of my home.
Leslie shook her head and looked away.
At that moment it dawned on me that Leslie Geddes was in love with Alice Riener.
I asked Leslie if Alice Riener was gay and she refused to answer.
When I saw the movie Brokeback Mountain about the gay cowboys, the scene that really resonated with me was Anne Hathaway's confusion about being lied to while sensing the truth. I related because my relationship with Leslie was terribly confusing. The audience was supposed to feel sympathy for the gay cowboys who felt they had to live in shame, but I identified with the wives who were being lied to but who loved their husbands, and I knew then that the cowboys in my life were Leslie Geddes and Alice Riener.
Every decision by Leslie Geddes, to the extent possible, revolved around Alice Riener. For Alice's part, despite my best efforts she was always unfriendly to me and I was never invited to join them on any of their dates. I see in retrospect that Alice was profoundly jealous of me.
What is interesting about Alice Riener is that she has devoted her personal and professional life to gay advocacy. I believe that focus was her outlet for a suppressed sexuality. Although her family is liberal and would immediately accept her, there would still be some emotional toll on her parents as they released the concept they had created of her, so I suspect that to Alice, living a lie felt preferable to the truth.
The consequence of living a lie is neurosis and in my opinion, what defines Leslie and Alice more than anything else was that if people are hurting and in pain they find it funny. As an example, when Leslie was at Princeton getting her PhD she gleefully told me about a classmate who was in such emotional trauma from a break-up that she was rolling on the floor in pain. When I responded to Leslie that rather than mocking and belittling her classmate, she could use the opportunity to reach out to the woman in compassion as a friend, Leslie was genuinely baffled by this idea. She told me that she hoped the woman's suffering would derail her academics and make one less competitor. I saw similarly cold behavior by Alice. In that, they matched.
Although Leslie constantly told me she loved me, after almost two years, I felt that I was constantly walking on eggshells around her, unsure of expressing my feelings and emotions so as not to say the "wrong" thing to her and anxious that showing any sign of weakness - of humanness - would make her turn on me. The problem was, I was in love with her. So, I foolishly took a risk and opened my heart.
I wrote a letter to her at Princeton University taking down all walls and defenses, laying myself out completely vulnerable and bare. I shared my life and thoughts and feelings and truths. I explained past trauma hat had happened to me, what I had never told anyone, and asked if she could help me move forward. And, I asked how I could help her, what she needed. Leslie called me a few days later and as I began to talk she said, "Oh please!" It was a voice dripping with disdain and hatred, barren of all emotion. The tone of her voice echoed the blackness of her eyes that had made me jump a year earlier when I had tried one evening to open up to her. At that point I jumped in fear and she laughed and I quickly backtracked, not wanting to lose the illusion I had of being loved. But what I didn't know was that by the time I was speaking to her at Princeton University she had already been set up with a moneyed private sector lawyer with a Princeton law firm; my expiration date had past. Even with clear intuition, fear and pain, though, the exhilaration of the freedom of being honest was like a drug. I wanted to believe that what she had told me and written on her bedsheets was real an that she was a soulmate. So, I began to pour my soul. And in so doing, I learned the foolishness and falsity of love.
Our relationship ended with me in fear and with Leslie Geddes kicking me when I was at the lowest point in my life believing in her absolutely and unconditionally. I will never forget how her eyes turned black when she looked at me in Trenton: there was no conscience behind them. I later saw that she posted on her MySpace page the quote: "I will climb up the pipe, go over the wall and thru the window to kill him." Chills ran through me. I was staggered and wondered, "what happened to that Leslie I loved?" My answer was obvious: people don't change.
I now believe that Leslie felt that if she communicated feelings of emotional intimacy (beyond simply saying "I love you" by which she really meant, "I control you") or allowed herself to feel empathy and act with kindness, she'd then have to let go of the emotional control that maintained the facade of her sexual identity. Her anger was, I feel, a coping mechanism that kept her from looking into herself.
From what I saw and experienced, what defined Leslie Geddes and Alice Riener more than anything else was that they derived pleasure from seeing and causing emotional pain in others. I feel that attitude was likely a projection they made onto others of their own pain. In my opinion, I would diagnosis both as having narcissistic personality disorders and the basis of their relationship is that more than anything else they validate each other's image of themselves. Clinging to each other is a coping strategy to deal with childhood issues.
Leslie suffered terrible and appalling childhood emotional and sexual abuse while Alice was put on a pedestal by her parents. These experiences are both warped extremes of identity development can lead to narcissistic personality disorders. Another consideration is that Leslie may be paranoid schizophrenic. I wondered about this because a time came where she thought people were following her and it was very scary for me; I never got an explanation.
Alice's expression of narcissism is classic: she engages in advocacy causes such as gay rights, housing rights, AIDS rights, and environmental concerns which allow her to project moral superiority. Many people engage in such causes out of compassion but Alice lacks emotional substance; I have never seen her feel compassion. Rather, her causes exist as means to manipulate others' perceptions of her. Her parents are very similar; for instance her father engages in the noble profession of highschool teacher while his motivations are suspect. In other words, Alice's narcissistic behavior may be learned behavior. Alice will tell people that she moved to New Orleans to help victims of Hurricane Katrina; her true motivation, in my opinion, was to move out of her parents' basement and far enough away to live her sexuality out of sight of their helicopter cluck-clucking. The move to New Orleans also fed into her narcissistic impulse to project social conscience; the victims in New Orleans were means to an end.
In a word that has become cliche, Leslie Geddes and Alice Riener are "phonies."
If Leslie were to have a relationship with a man I believe it would be out of one motivation: money and/or an apartment (and it is most probable that she would have an affair with a married man as she has no conscience and could find a sugar daddy relationship most profitable; in short, Leslie Geddes is a gold-digger). Alice, for her part, has never had a relationship with a man; at age 37 she is still a virgin. If she did, it would be for one reason only: social convention (and it is most likely that the man she would chose is someone uneducated and without money so that she could control him and the relationship). If they married, it would not be surprising to me to learn that one of their husbands died under murky circumstances leaving a substantial insurance policy. If they had a child I would not be surprised to learn that it mysteriously disappeared with a nanny. But, putting aside macabre pessimism, ultimately such relationships would fail because Leslie Geddes and Alice Riener are obsessively possessive about one another. No one can get in between them. Their identities have been based since their freshman year at Columbia University on validating each other's narcissistic needs. Thus, they each try to sabotage any intimate relationships the other develops. For Leslie and Alice lying is a natural state of affairs mostly because they have built lives based upon lying to themselves. While their core natures are abusive, manipulative and dishonest, Leslie derives a sense of security from Alice and Alice derives a sense of control from Leslie which allow them to create a form of "collective narcissism" (a term I have coined). By themselves they are merely manipulative and self-absorbed but together they are a force that derives happiness from others' hurt and pain.
While they have a cruel streak, it is not enough to say they are evil. Mostly they are so self-absorbed as to be indifferent. They exemplify the banality of evil and in another life could easily be indifferent citizens of Nazi Germany, indifferent to a concentration camp and ovens across the street from their home. They are in themselves a case study as to how fanatical movements are born: it takes just two. The liberal causes they espouse aren't derived out of empathy but out of ego, a feeling of moral superiority, and in this they are fakes. And, their gay rights causes are outlets for their suppressed sexuality. They have a collective support group that works to reaffirm their egos. Leslie primarily has three highschool friends, Autumn Francois, Kirsten Feyling and Maggie Martel who project onto Leslie their own feelings of helplessness. Each of the three - Autumn, Kirsten and Maggie - have sociopathic tendencies but they are also cowards and bullies. Their nature is to act out by encouraging the most egoistic actions of Leslie and live vicariously through her. And, Alice is encouraged mainly by her father, a former highschool teacher fired for incompetence who sexualized his students and lives a lie with deeply suppressed bixsexual tendencies. He lives vicariously through Alice by placing her on a pedestal and normalizes the lies in his life by both supporting those of his daughter and by turning a blind eye to them. An artful New Orleans gothic noir element thrown in the mix is that Leslie Geddes had an affair with Alice's father. Out of guilt, he acted as an obsessive father figure to Leslie and facilitated her relationship with Alice all the while denying its existence. But those events in themselves are another chapter.
I'm glad that Leslie Geddes and Alice Riener have achieved a degree of self-awareness by acknowledging their sexual identities. I feel compassion for them. I wish I could have been there for Leslie Geddes to help her work out her emotional pain, but I guess she had to ultimately work it out through her own path.
Leslie and Alice met as roommates at Columbia University in New York City. Much later I met one of their mutual friends by total coincidence and learned what she called, the down low. Leslie and Alice are not at all unique, they are part of a tribe in Washington DC, women who feel that for career and family reasons they want to keep their true sexuality hidden. But she explained to me the range of stylistic signs they carry, the most obvious being pearls, to signal each other. She invited me to a party in Dupont Circle of what she called "shadow lesbians" (she also called them "weekend lesbians") and it was fascinating to watch the dynamics of flirting and sizing each other up. I was a pure observer, feeling completely undesired and insignificant. I felt at home.
When Alice Riener met Leslie Geddes she had already absorbed the Kerouac myth that breathed at Columbia University. Her father was an english teacher at a highschool in DC, probably bisexual but a product of the 1950s and profoundly sexually repressed. (This came out through his interactions with his students in his test. Once he told me with great pleasure how the answer to a question concerning a greek hero was "throbbing red cock", a pun he thought hilarious, oblivious to how highly inappropriate it was for 15 year old students). His bible was "On The Road," a classic of 1950s sexual repression.
Their relationship, then, was more than an awakening. It was their taking the Stanislavski Method into their life, Alice becoming Neal Cassady and Leslie living the dual role of Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg (the defining point of Kerouac's relationship, we know through Carolyn Cassady's biography, was a menage-a-trois with Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg. Leslie had to take the role of two).
So, I was not just in competition with sexual identity, I was in competition with the living mythology of Cassady and Kerouac supported by a thriving underground culture in Washington DC. So, Leslie's relationship with me, I know now, was one more of gratitude and compassion for allowing her to maintain a facade that she wanted, rather than an act of desire.
I feel convinced that a person's true personality (not what they show the world but what they are) is revealed through their aesthetic choices. People project, just a Ahab projected onto the whale (and why the novel carries a resonance - it reflects the universal subconscious). For Alice, her aesthetic experience was the novel "On the Road"; on the surface a novel of personal freedom, what is more freeing than living one's own sexuality? But, as liberal as her family is, and as accepting as they are of her brother's gay identity, Alice has been brought up as her daddy's perfect little girl. She didn't get into Columbia because she deserved it academically; she got in because her parents played their connections in the world of education and academia. This was her parents vision for her and to do anything else would be to let them down. But always living their dreams left her longing to be "On the Road," and thus her father's favorite book carried a resonance to her he could never have imagined.
And as for Leslie? Leslie told me heartbreaking stories of early child abuse she suffered. They make me cry to this day to think of them, and of anyone hurting her, someone so beautiful and full of life. We know now that when a child grows up in an environment of abuse and neglect it physically changes their brain. The message they are given is that they are not fit to survive. What doesn't kill the abused child doesn't make them stronger but programs them to feel weaker, unworthy of life. Leslie's aesthetic object of choice has always been maps. And I feel this reflects her subconscious desire for a way forward, a way to survive.
So, Alice wanting to be On the Road and Leslie wanting a way out: a couple made in heaven. But only to be lived existentially because they were divorced from their true selves. So, their unconscious developed an elaborate play of self deception which allowed themselves room to breath but not to fall into existential crisis through self awareness.
I surmise that I became the catalyst.
I heard about the story long after I knew Leslie and Alice.
The grapevine whispers, the internet speaks. Leslie kept a MySpace page under a pseudonym that I came across when I was researching feminist theories of Araki. That is when I learned about her and Alice. I could piece together that her pondering on feminist theory were really about herself. And then I found her journal after she left. Certainly she must have wanted me to find it.
I probably learned more about her by her leaving than when we lived together. For instance, to my embarrassment I'm a pretty poor housekeeper. We noted for months that there was dust under the baseboards and I realize now that her mentioning it meant that she wanted me to get up and clean it.
When Leslie walked out on me I was in shock. But what pulled at my heartstrings the most is that as I sat on the couch in shock I suddenly realized that before she left she had cleaned under the baseboards all the dust. She walked out on me but cleaned the apartment first. That's when I realized what a failure I had been in listening to her. In hearing her. Cleaning the apartment was a louder message from her than was her walking out.
I wandered through the apartment which felt like a stranger; she had removed all her clothes and her books while I was at work. But her journal was in my desk drawer. I found it days later when I absentmindedly opened the drawer for no reason but to distract my thoughts.
There it was, the moleskin journal she always wrote in.
Two years earlier Leslie was in her last semester at Columbia University. Rather than flying back to San Francisco for Christmas break she had spent three weeks living with Alice and her parents in Washington DC. Alice took off before then end of the break to spend her final semester abroad researching political rights of gays in London. And that's when it all started, as much as anything has a beginning.
If I did talk to Leslie again, I'd tell her:
"I'm your ally and I always have been; my love for you was real. I support you completely. I believe in you and wish you happiness. I care about you more than you will ever know. I want you to be happy."
From a legal perspective, the obvious argument as to why the Supreme Court should make gay marriage a constitutional right has been ignored: marriage is simply a contract between two people and to not have states recognize the ability of two people to enter into a contract violates the Commerce Clause.
This is straightforward and legally sound and far simpler than the argument of equality (although that makes sense too). If gay marriage was argued to the Court as an issue relating to interstate commerce (which as a contract it is) then I suspect that even Scalia, who is a thoughtful legal scholar, would find it reasonable.
But here is the big picture: now that gay marriage is mainstream, the healthier society will be because even more gay people will feel supported and normal and free to come out and be who they are. To me, this seems a win-win for the mental health of individuals and thus society as a whole.
There's no question that the biggest mistake I've made in my life was to trust Leslie Geddes. In my experience she is incapable of telling the truth. I wasn't just naive to believe she was capable of telling the truth when signs to the contrary were abundant; living in fear of her made my instincts shut down. I wanted to believe her because I was in love with her.
What I learned from Leslie Geddes and Alice Riener is that people are horrible human beings. Leslie and Alice are simply ordinary people living as fakes camouflaged by liberal causes and robotic smiles.
By coming to terms with them, however, my attitude towards fear has changed. Rather than cowering from it I now work to be aware of it and use it for strength to make me think, not simply to react. I still fear Leslie and Alice because I've seen what they are capable of. But, I've also seen how truth can be transformative. And what greater truth is there than one's own sexuality? It is the core of every person's being.
Through my fear of Leslie and Alice I've seen that living a lie hurts everybody.
And yet, while the conventional wisdom is that everybody lies and no one changes, by coming out a personal revolution is possible. By feeling acceptance and compassion for themselves it seems inevitable that they will begin to feel it for others. And become a little more than ordinary, and a little less horrible.
I learned the chemistry of this reality through a seminar I took with Jeffrey Schwartz, who proved the theory of the plasticity of the mind with brain scans. Yes, new radical ways of observing oneself rewires one's brain.
But some do, and that's where Leslie Geddes and Alice Riener come in: for they are in love. Deeply. Their lives and destinies are intertwined. Every decision the one makes is based on how it will effect the other. I realized this most profoundly when Leslie was twisting her knife in me with relish and for what; for becoming vulnerable. If Alice were to do the same, she would thank God and fall at her feet. Leslie has left everything and moved to New Orleans to be with Alice. A new start in their life together. That is why gay marriage should be a right; it allows for the expression of what might save the wretched human race: love. It is sad is Leslie and Alice had to hurt so many people to get where they are by lies and betrayal, but as for me I forgive them. The thing Jesus said that I think is most profound is: "forgive them for they know not what they do." The hurt they caused was out of ignorance. I forgive. And even though I know my life doesn't have love in the future it can still be an act of creation; a truth created without experiencing love and being aware and accepting of that state could be revolutionary in a world conditioned to believe it impossible.
I know that Leslie has likely found peace too through the transformative power and light of her truth. And what is love for Leslie and Alice? Truth.
So, we both found truth through different paths.
Thank you Saint Leslie Ann of Geddes.
I wish her and Alice Riener happiness.
And yet, if only it could all end as wine and roses.
I fear her.
I did have two later indirect interactions with Leslie. About two years after she hung up on me I received a disturbing call from the Princeton University police at around 5:00 am while I was sleeping in a city hundreds of miles away. Leslie, they said, had contacted them and said I was following her that morning. They asked me where I was and to provide an alibi.
I went to my friend Elizabeth's apartment to do so, but was so upset and in such a state of shock that I was hyperventilating as I wondered, "What happened to this person I trusted so much?"
Fortunately, Elizabeth is a massage therapist so helped me return back to normal breathing and then I called back the police with her number. I never heard anything more about it but I later received a fedex at my door from Leslie Geddes with a multi page nonsensical letter full of threats. I tore it up. A therapist I spoke to surmised that Leslie had had a psychotic break and couldn't separate reality from fantasy. My instinct was that Alice, out of jealousy, encouraged Leslie's worst paranoid delusions because it drew Leslie towards her and away from me.
So I feel compassion for Leslie and although I wish I didn't, unfortunately I still love her.
But now, I also acknowledge my fear of Leslie Geddes.
I know that she is a person with no conscience, and I listen to that.
When the scorpion asked the frog for a ride across the pond, the frog said: "but you will sting me!" The scorpion answered he would not as they would then both drown. So, the frog gave the scorpion a lift but halfway across the pond the scorpion stung the frog. "Why did you sting me?" the frog cried, "For now we will both die!" The scorpion answered, "Because it is my nature to sting, no matter what the consequences."
THE LESLIE GEDDES VARIATIONS - CHAPTER ONE:
LESLIE GEDDES & ALICE RIENER: THE GIRL WITH THE GETAWAY FACE
Alice was coming.
Leslie stood at their favorite spot, where they had first kissed at Columbia University outside of the Art Center.
Leslie had squat peasant legs like one of those plastic troll dolls and sported a pancake ass. She wore hips like combat boots creating a pear body, which she tried to conceal by combining loose jeans with belly shirts.
Her mother was from Nicaragua while her father was from Scotland so she carried hispanic features with pale skin. Under her make-up are acne scars and a mustache.
She had a wide smile, high cheekbones and an aztec nose.
Her hair was thick, even though she rarely washed it.
Two moles were at the edge of her left jaw and she had symmetrical moles on the back of each arm.
Her shoulders were flecked with black freckles.
She felt self conscious of her skin and body and periodically went on extreme fasts as a form of self-loathing. This creating an abnormally skinny trunk unbalanced with her stubborn rump and hips.
The unwashed hair and frequent fasts gave her a peculiar vomit like smell.
She hated her body and so hated the bodies of others; except for Alice's.
Alice had tan skin that she envied and her shorter height made her massive hips appear more square and proportioned.
Leslie saw Alice first.
Leslie smiled as she noted that Alice had put on weight.
Alice's hips were also short, squat and troll-like.
Alice sported a bobble head slightly too large for her body, mousy hair, a mannish square jaw, beady eyes and a thick upper body.
Her bare arms were beginning to show flab and were covered at the back by red scabs and pistils.
She wore sleeveless shirts to display her arms defiantly.
She looked cute, Leslie thought.
Her stub nose and black Irish complexion reminded Leslie of Jack Kerouac.
In bed Leslie would call her Jack.
Tomorrow they would graduate, and then Leslie would have to tell Alice.
But the affair could wait.
This was to be it, their one perfect day, so they'd always have the memory.
But Leslie had to tell.
Alice was ten feet away before she saw Leslie.
"Lesssslie!!!" she screamed.
They fell into each others' arms and hugged.
Alice felt nausea from the sick smell of Leslie's hair and body when she didn't shower for weeks at a time.
She loved it; it was home.
Leslie didn't want to let go but Alice pushed away first.
"You've changed," Alice said.
"Your hair is pink!"
Leslie laughed in relief. "Darling, welcome home, come talk to me!"
Alice pulled back dramatically. "Did you see this?"
She held up a copy of THe New York Post in front of her face.
Leslie read out loud: "Anthony Wiener - Carlos Danger - Gets a New Job Working Stiff."
"Oh, gross!" Leslie said.
Alice looked at the cover. "Oh, I know but, I meant have you read about this...?" She opened the paper and read: "The former Hasidic woman who jumped to her death from a swanky rooftop bar Monday wrote a despondent e-mail to pals days before her suicide blasting the Jewish sect as a cult that shouldn’t exist. Faigy Mayer, who was shunned by her Hasidic parents, described the sect as antiquated, oppressive and controlled by powerful rabbis."
"Whooooa..." Leslie sat down on the sidewalk with the paper. "Who is Faigy Mayer?"
"Was," said Alice. "She's dead. And it's just like you said before I left."
"I know," said Leslie. She stared at the photo of Faigy Meyer and then said, "we need to do a shrine."
Alice nodded knowingly.
"Wait, I'll tear out the photo." Leslie lay the paper on the sidewalk in front of her and bent over on her knees, carefully tearing out the photo of Faigy Mayer. "There," she said
"Tear off the jagged edges," Alice said.
"I know, she needs to be respected..." Leslie bent and tore the paper until it looked as if it had been cut with scissors. "To the gallery!"
As they headed towards Wallach gallery, walking past the Low Memorial Library they heard someone shout, "Hey, you left your paper on the sidewalk!"
"Dickhead," Alice said. They walked arm in arm down Amersterdam Avenue past the mindless drones, unaware of the cosmic connections around them.
"Do you have glue?" Alice asked as they walked up the steps of the gallery.
"Always prepared," Leslie said. They squeezed each other just as they arrived at the security desk.
"Open your bags, pass on through," the security guard said as he glanced inside their day packs.
"Dickhead," Alice said under her breath. "So darling, where shall we put her?"