Two years after I made this self-portrait I separated from the husband whose clothes I’m wearing and whose snapshot I’m holding, and I began my first lesbian relationship. Soon after that, mother came to my house and told me this story:
Before I married your daddy I was very much in love with a man from Cincinnati. I had visited him and he was supposed to come to New York and we were to be married. But he jilted me, and I was so hurt that I decided then and there, I would never be that much in love again. Four boys had been asking to marry me. I decided to marry your daddy because I thought he’d be the most successful. Years later, about a year before you were born, this old boyfriend came to Houston to find me, and I wanted to leave Irvin for him. While I was trying to decide what to do I told Irvin’s best friend what was on my mind. “You can’t leave my friend Irvin. It would break his heart,” he told me. So Irvin’s friend made a deal with me, an unspoken deal, to keep me from leaving your daddy. We met after that, four or five times a year, at the Rice Hotel, for the next 20 years.
What was your message that day? Were you encouraging me to stay with my husband and have my flings on the side, as you did? Or were you wishing you had left your marriage, as I was doing? Perhaps you were simply telling me you understood. But regardless, I resented your trying to say we were alike.
“She had a lot of friends that were married. It didn’t mean that she was going to keep her hands off of their lapels – because her hands were always on somebody’s lapels.” “I didn’t like it when you had your affair with E.L. Hated it, I thought it was horrible and daddy was alive and it was disgusting. But then I more or less did it myself – though we were much younger – to Gus...and so, I’ve understood it.”
From Bertha Alyce: Mother exPosed. Video by Gay Block, 2003.
Credit: © GAY BLOCK