How do you live an authentic life while keeping a secret?
Carol Anderson is raised in a fundamentalist Christian home in the ’60s, at a time when being gay is in opposition to all social and religious mores and against the law in most states. Fearing the rejection of her parents, with whom she shares a loving relationship, she hides the truth and pursues false romances with men while struggling to harness her powerful attractions to women.
The watershed point in Carol’s journey comes when she returns to graduate school and discovers the feminist movement, which emboldens her sense of personal power and the freedom to love whom she chooses. But this sense of self-possession comes too late for honesty with her father. His unexpected death before she can tell him the truth brings the full cost of Carol’s secret crashing in compelling her to come out to her mother before it is too late.
Candid and poignant, You Can’t Buy Love Like That reveals the complex invisible dynamics that arise for gay people who are forced to hide their true selves in order to survive and celebrates the hard-won rewards of finding one’s courageous heart and achieving self-acceptance and self-love.
Targeted Age Group:: 25+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The fundamental theme of this book is: How do you live an authentic life while keeping a secret? In my case, the secret was being gay. I wanted readers to understand the importance of belonging and the stress people experience when they have to hide a part of themselves in order to be accepted. I believe all people want to live in a world where they can be themselves and feel like that are a part of the larger culture. When that happens, everyone benefits because I believe we are at our best when we feel embraced for who we are. I also wanted young people who are struggling with their love orientation to share their truth with trusted friends and learn they can grow up to be happy, successful and embraced by many. It was to encourage everyone who has a secret regardless of what it is, to understand the unintended consequences of keeping silent. Ultimately, I wanted to open the eyes of everyone to understand the importance of their personal participation in making the world more welcoming for anyone who is different and to see the gifts that differences might bring.
I was summoned to a meeting with Judy, the assistant director of the residence hall. Nicky was sprawled out on the lower bunk in my room, half asleep as she struggled to do her biology homework when I left for the consultation.
I suggested she stay there and rest until I returned. It was unlike her to be so low in energy, and it worried me. I left quietly and headed to the director’s room. The door was closed, which was unusual, so I knocked and waited. Judy opened the door slowly; all the RAs were sitting in a circle.
None of them stood up to greet me, give me a hug, or banter in the way we once had when we all worked together. The dim lighting made the institutional lime-green walls feel even more oppressive than usual. My hands were clammy, my throat dry. My heart pounded so fiercely I feared others could hear it.
“How are you doing?” Judy asked as I took the empty chair in the circle.
“I’m not sure—maybe you could tell me,” I said. “Is something wrong?”
I was scared. I had visions of my parents being in a car wreck or my mother having a stroke at work. Surely someone must have died to create the heaviness hanging in the room. Finally, Dottie spoke.
“You know we are your friends . . .” She paused for a moment before continuing. My body stiffened, anticipating a blow. “We just wanted to let you know that people are talking about your relationship with Nicky.”
My eyes were fixed on the brown tile as I counted the flecks in it and noticed how the sun had faded the ones closest to the windows. My lip curled inward in an effort to keep back the tears. I knew what was coming next, though I wanted to cover my ears and not let the words reach me.
“They say that you are sleeping together. In fact, people are saying that you’re gay.”
I stared past the people in the chairs and out the window. Spring was near, and the sun was bright on the trees. People in light jackets walked from the library back toward the dorm, and a couple of girls played catch on the front lawn. I felt my lungs collapse inside my chest, desperate for a deep breath that would sustain me through this nightmarish scene. I didn’t know what the punishment would be if the truth were known, but expulsion was the first thing that came to mind. I wouldn’t let them make me admit it. I wouldn’t allow the truth to harm Nicky or me.
I sat still and tried to keep composed though the overriding sensation was one of defeat—trapped in the enemy camp with a sword to my throat. Of course people would think that. Of course they would imagine we were gay. Of course they would make it ugly. It was an indefensible position—most of all because they were right. She did spend the night in my room. We did sleep together. I did love the feeling of her arms around me, the touch of her skin next to mine, the way her hands moved in the dark to pull me closer to her. I loved the sound of her breathing, the way she looked in the morning, her shy tenderness, the way she touched my face when she kissed me.
My ears were hot, and my hands turned to fists in my lap as I prepared to speak. Instead of confirming their accusations, I responded with an incredulous, “What? That’s ridiculous!” My gut roiled with the force of this lie, my chest heavy with despair.
Dottie persisted. “Well, is it true?” she asked in a derisive tone.
“She’s my best friend. Is there a problem with that?” I tried to convey an appropriate balance of surprise and indignation. “So, who’s saying that?” I asked, taking the focus off of me.
“We are not going to name names, but it’s more than one person.”
I wanted to throw up, run out of there, smash something. Instead, in the calmest voice I could muster, I said, “Sure, we spend time together, but it’s no big deal,” as though Nicky meant nothing to me.
“Does she spend the night in your room?” Jane asked in a tone that made me feel I was being interrogated by the relationship police.
“Yeah, sometimes—but I have bunk beds, you know. I find this insulting!” My voice strained as I kept denying the allegations.
“Carol, you know we are your friends.” Really? None of this felt very friendly. It felt harsh, accusatory, humiliating. I glanced around the room, but no one’s eyes met mine. Heads down, staring at the tile, they spoke to the floor as though I weren’t there.
Sherry weighed in, “Sometimes people make things up, and, whether they are true or not, they can ruin your reputation.” Why would loving someone ruin your reputation? I thought to myself. Tethered to my chair by invisible ropes, eyes cast down, I was unable to speak.
“Are you okay?” Dottie asked. “We just wanted to let you know that we’re concerned.”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I lied again as I stood up to leave. “Is there anything else?”
“You might not want to give people the wrong impression,” Judy said in closing.
But they already had the wrong impression on all counts by making our relationship something to be ashamed of rather than to celebrate, and there was nothing I could do to give them the right impression because somewhere inside I had the wrong impression also.
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