I hated my freckles when I was little. They were unwelcome stains across my face, on my chest, covering my arms.
My best friend had long, straight Marcia Brady hair and perfect, pale skin. I was all unruly red curls and polka dots. She was quiet and sweet, a swimmer, a pianist. I terrorized the boys with my wicked strong left arm during recess games of dodge ball.
My sister was a beauty pageant winner. Her feathered hair was perfect. Her dimples, enviable. My cousins were long and lean and gorgeous. They were scholars and student council leaders and track stars and cheerleaders.
I was skinned knees and sweaty t-shirts and cut-off jeans.
I wanted to be someone else.
When I was young, there was this feeling I used to call the weird feeling. It would overtake me on a daily basis — this notion that I was different, a freak, an outsider. That I was looking into a world where I didn’t belong. It was a physical sensation, an out-of-body experience. It made me feel like an alien.
My freckled skin never quite fit.
It’s been just over a year since I came out.
A year of the biggest, most profound changes of my life.
When people ask how I’m doing, I typically say, “It’s been the best of the best and the worst of the worst.”
My 28-year relationship has unraveled. And with it, so have many other relationships. I have lost family members. I have lost friends. In many ways, I am the pariah — the outcast I always knew I was.
My ex and his girlfriend are still invited to hang out with our mutual friends. They have been to dinners, to gatherings, to concerts with the people I once believed were mine, too. He and his girlfriend are safe. They are familiar. They are white picket fences and PTO meetings.
I am not. Those invitations no longer come my way.
My true blue, Andi, says, “Let it go, Kat. You’ve outgrown that life. It’s no longer yours.”
And when I unclench my fists and open my eyes, I can see that she’s right. There’s magic in letting go.
Live and let live.
The ones who have stayed by my side have burrowed themselves so much more deeply into my heart. And the screaming silences from some have been filled with a beautiful community of new loves, new friendships. What once was has made way for the what’s next.
I have found a beloved group of women online. Women who — like me — are coming out in mid-life, after having husbands and kids and so many unanswered questions. They are brave and beautiful. Our stories are all different, yet they are so much the same. Last week, someone lamented that a friend thought her “coming out” was a lie, a way to make her life easier, a means to escape a marriage that no longer served her.
Trust me, friends, there is nothing easy about this.
But there is necessity in being true, in being you.
In the reassembling.
I don’t expect everyone to understand. I know there are judgments and whispers. But here’s what I would ask for myself, for others: Empathy. Kindness.
There is enough pain in the transition. There is enough grief. There is enough loneliness.
And couldn’t we all use a little more empathy and kindness? In whatever situation we face?
For everything I have lost, I have gained so much more.
I have gained me.
Skin that finally fits.
Freckles and all.