Lesbian is the label she's claimed since college, along with various permutations, a definition that means so much more than just being attracted to women. It's not as simple as that, though it should be; it's something greater that encompasses her whole life, and determines where she lives, how she lives, who she's friends with, her opinions and beliefs. It defines her to the outside world, and shapes her identity. She doesn't just love women, or fuck them – she's a lesbian. She's not sure when there started to be a difference between the two, just knows that there is, somehow.
(And now she's lost that, somehow, because in the complicated unspoken definition of lesbianism, the code of behaviour she's supposed to have followed, there's no room for sleeping with a man, even if she regrets it now. Because there's no room for being attracted to a man, and even worse is that the attraction was genuine, and the worst part of all is that he's not the first man, and that as much as she tells herself it doesn't matter in the greater scheme of things, she knows she's lost something she can't reclaim, or maybe shouldn't ever have claimed.)
Mother is the label that she asked for, dreamed about, and finally earned, through all the pain and discomfort and turmoil, the label that only fully made sense when she held her baby in her arms for the first time, and even through the haze of drugs and the sense of unreality hanging over it all, she took one look at him, before he was even named, and fell in love all over again, with this tiny delicate precious creature that she'd brought into the world. She knew, instantly, she'd do anything to protect him from harm. Protect her son.
(But now he cries every time they leave the house he spent the first few years of his life in, and hates the tiny apartment she can barely afford, and her other child, the most beautiful girl in all the world, is hers for only a few hours a day, and she's barely allowed be a mother to her. She's not at all sure she's protecting her son, and if the worst happens she might not have the legal rights to protect her daughter, and she finds herself wearing the label of mother uneasily, not convinced that it entirely fits.)
Artist is a label she embraced when she was young and confident and believed she could do anything she wanted, believed the world was hers to conquer, before she grew up and became sensible and responsible and everything people expected of her. And still the tools, the easels and charcoal and paints and brushes and above all the ideas dancing in her mind, simultaneously soothe and inspire her, and the creation of art rests in her hands, and she knows, despite the insecurity that plagues her sometimes, she has the ability to give birth to beauty in this way, too.
(And now, even if she were living in the same house as her beloved attic studio, with all her family under the one roof instead of scattered and separated, she doubts she'd be able to pick up a brush and paint without the reminder of what happened last time, and what she's lost because of it, and she knows that simply being an artist isn't enough, and simply being a mother or a lesbian wouldn't be enough, either, and that she needs to be everything before she'll feel like herself again, and she wishes she knew how to do that.)
- end -