Deirdre by Jaime Mah
I was listening to the lyrical genius that is Misao McGregor on Spotify one cold night last month, when “She Was World’s Above Me” came on queue. With the kind of magic only the regret of time can elicit, I found myself swept up in an old memory: a honeyed reverie of a summer’s exhilaration that I recall now with so much longing, if only to laugh about it once again with her. But that cannot be, and that’s okay, and so I write.
My mother told me once: Deirdre would have been my birth name in a different repeat of my same life in a different world, if she wasn’t so convinced that the children at school would mock me, teasing me in sing-song with ‘daydream, daydream’ instead of my actual name, and so the Deirdre the name remained unnamed until I chose it for my Catholic confirmation, to watch over me in holy guidance. I chose ‘Deirdre’ in part from my research on the Irish St. Deirdre, my now patron saint and namesake, and also in part to honor my mother and her wish 14 years ago then unfulfilled. Little did I know how the name ‘Deirdre’ would burn even more alive to me six years later as a young adult, shivering from the slight drizzle and cold in the early coming autumn of downtown Columbus, Ohio.
There was an orange goldfish swimming in a small metal oblong bowl, with a cardboard ‘FOR SALE’ sign propped up next to it, right at the entrance of the cafe that we had decided to meet up at; super hipster, super low pressure, super okay for a first date from a phone app. I was ecstatic and nervous beforehand: I remember barging into my good friend Amy’s apartment, demanding an audience to my declaration of going on my First Date With A Girl at the cafe nearby. Amy and her housemate Anna were far more enthusiastic than I, it seemed, as they gleefully followed me to the cafe (“it’s only *checks Google Maps* 0.3 miles away don’t sweat it we’re not even doing anything else tonight”, “I promise we won’t be obvious”, “she won’t even know we’re here, it’s fiiiiiiiiiine and anyway we came here for the chai”), and proceeded to sit at the table in front of mine, in full view of me and my pending date. They had their notebooks up covering their faces, listening intently to our conversations and snickering… I’m glad I’ll always have that ridiculous and warm moment locked forever in memory.
With the tinkle of the doorbell, Deirdre walked in, nervous and smiling, and the rest of the night was a beautiful, electric blur. She was so beautiful, I literally lost my well-rehearsed and (probably precocious) introduction in my head. It ended up not mattering because we had so much else to talk about, and we quickly found out to our shared delight that we had so many similarities; even our dissimilarities made sense in the rhythm of our mutual attraction. I remember her specific opinions in film she shared that night over her chai tea, and I felt like I won the lottery when she totally agreed with my analysis of that one Quentin Tarantino movie (newsflash: Hate it). Have I also mentioned how jaw-droppingly stunning she is? Because she is.
I finally told Deidre on the third date a month later about my friends being there (I had to wait for the right time okay, it’s not something I wanted to bring up immediately because it’s so embarrassing) BUT she was such a good sport and laughed as hard as I did when I explained it all in minute detail. Even now reminiscing, seeing Amy and Anna trying so hard to suppress their giggles and glee from the voyeur of secretly watching my First Date with a Woman Ever unfold so awkwardly yet so damn splendidly well, I’m positive that it was an unexpected and once-in-a-lifetime moment that I will continue to cherish and laugh about. They are witnesses to my sapphic renewal, a cemented bisexual cornerstone, and Amy and I still bring it up from time to time and laugh.
Deirdre and I ended up dating off-and-on for close to a year, but I was too involved in my research and other university commitments to realize I was prioritizing work over spending time with her, until it was too late. I was so determined to follow my self-made productive life schedule religiously that it ended up being the reason Deirdre and I drifted apart. It was bittersweet, but we knew it was the best decision for us at that point in time to just let our ‘could-have-been’ turn into a ‘maybe-next-time, but-it-was-sweet-while-it-lasted’. She deserved the world, because she was world’s above me, really, and I wanted her to be as fully appreciated as the wonderful person she is, rather than be stuck feeling less than fulfilled. We parted ways, but I wasn’t bitter; she taught me to be positive that way, to appreciate a moment even if all it ends up being is a memory. She was always turning various obstacles she faced in her life into creative inspiration for her art and her genius, and she made me feel like anything was possible. Her thoughts brim with so much life and passion, throughout the setbacks she’s faced, and I can’t help but think of her and still feel so inspired, to this day, to be unabashedly myself, fat rolls and all, leg hair galore. Fuck the patriarchy and societal rules restricting women from existing the way they are as they are – full stop.
‘Deirdre’ was just a meaningless word in my life slowly clicking into focus with the evolving stages of my growth, finally culminating into our time together that stirred a yearning within me that I now can happily and positively identify with as bisexuality. Our slow dance of time away from each other, fading back into the comfortable and halting silence of strangers once more… Felt okay. We’ll always be okay, in the wistful burn that memory leaves you reeling from. The timing just wasn’t right, and anyway, the experiences we shared itself was an absolute dream of a memory to keep in my pocket, for hazy days like this. It didn’t need to go further, because it was gentle and reassuring the way it was already. I knew she meant me no harm, and would not talk about me poorly, and we broke up promising each other to still watch the entirety of ‘Lord of the Rings’ together someday, somehow, and to keep in touch, because we’ll still be friends and be in each other’s lives. That didn’t exactly turn out that way, but life’s like that and you just have to roll with it. I’m just lucky I got to kiss her all those times I did, and hold her hands when I could.
My clean break with Deirdre shows me what mature conversations, emotional intelligence, accountability, compassion and most importantly, honesty, can generate: a really good fucking time. Oh was it a goooood time. Our relationship was passionate, agreeable, equal, and loving: it was surreal. And I felt that every time we hung out! Both sides of our friends got along great too, with no tension or unusual vibes. It was refreshing. Her friends’ opinions aligned with my core life principles, and spending time with them was a joy I cannot replace but can only name it when I see it, and I see it in the social justice activism groups I’m involved with in-person and online. This is a reality so different from the men I have, in poor choice, dated in the past, and my less-than-enthusiastic experience with their circle of friends. (Lol)
Deirdre stood for many things in my life, and now thinking of her only encourages me on days of gloom that I can go further than what society or religion tells me I can achieve. I have learned to trust myself as myself and give my thoughts more credit than I usually do. I feel that the binaries and outdated social stereotypes regarding perceived gender and expression, is precisely what is holding young bisexual women, like myself, back from fully expressing themselves in all authenticity in their relationships. The freedom of finally connecting with someone enough to create such a joyous relationship that mirrors my passions, matches my efforts, and maximizes both our strengths, is one that I hope to again seek out and cultivate in the future, when the time is right. I really won’t ever forget Deirdre, and as the next song on my Spotify playlist begins to trumpet through my XiaoMi bluetooth speakers, I open my eyes once more and embrace the rest of my day.
Multilingual Chinese Malaysian fascinated with the arts, sciences, and mischief, Jaime Mah is an INTJ feminist and writer with a coffee-stained heart, based in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A. For more of her content, follow her on Instagram (@jaimygdala).
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