He Is More Than a Hero

I’m not really a consumer of poetry, but during a college Literature course I fell in love with one poem in particular. The poem “He is more than a hero” was written by Sappho, an Ancient Greek female poet born on the island of Lesbos in the 600s BC.  Since reading this poem, I don’t think I’ve come across a more achingly clear description of desiring someone, in this case another woman.  Read it and tell me if I’m wrong.

He is more than a hero
he is a god in my eyes—
the man who is allowed
to sit beside you — he

who listens intimately
to the sweet murmur of
your voice, the enticing

laughter that makes my own
heart beat fast. If I meet
you suddenly, I can’t

speak — my tongue is broken;
a thin flame runs under
my skin; seeing nothing,

hearing only my own ears
drumming, I drip with sweat;
trembling shakes my body

and I turn paler than
dry grass. At such times
death isn’t far from me.

What a stunning depiction of desperately longing for that which is right next to you, but isn’t yours.  Lately I’ve been thinking of this poem from a different perspective.  I have a dear friend who, about a year and a half ago, found herself falling head over heels in love with another woman.  That in and of itself isn’t unusual, but all of this happened while she was a married, stay-at-home Mom to two children, enjoying a very comfortable, secure life and fitting neatly into her little corner of society.  It was the kind of thing that wasn’t supposed to happen.

My friend, S, is one of the most intriguing women that I know.  When we first met, it took all of fifteen minutes for her to start grilling me.  If I hadn’t found it so interesting, I would’ve been put off by it.   The thing about her is that she’s super curious about what makes others tick, and if she likes you, she wants to know everything about you.  It didn’t take long for me to learn that she grew up under a set of circumstances so tough they leave me amazed she’s as sane as she is.  She’s intense and edgy, but has a huge heart.  She’s like a scrappy, little street fighter – full of strength and courage, and willing to walk right up to a situation and deal with it, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be.  Yet she usually manages to find the sweet spot between all of those qualities that allows her to confront without being overly confrontational.

She and I can, and do, talk about everything.  There isn’t an off-limits subject between us.  As her new love was developing, she did me the great honor of trusting me enough to let me fully into her world.  I closely observed, and tried to be the best sounding board I could be for her as she stepped off of the safe, solid ground that was her married life, and plunged into the foggy unknown of a new relationship with another woman.

Over some period of time, before I knew anything about this, her feelings for her new love were deepening from mere friendship into something she couldn’t ignore, but it was far too overwhelming for S to even think about the ramifications of that.  This blossoming situation was without a doubt the wrecking ball that would lay waste to the carefully constructed building that was her married life, and it had the potential to render everything she knew unrecognizable.  In those early days, she wouldn’t admit even to herself what those feelings really meant, so she told no one.  But when the message that her heart kept trying to send to her brain ratcheted up from a whisper to a scream, she couldn’t ignore it any longer, and she began to spill her secret to me, which she tentatively described as her crush on a red-headed, spirited, pixie of a woman.

Nothing physical had transpired between S and her friend at that point, but the emotional intimacy had become very real, and it was unlike anything S had felt before, including what she had with her husband.  Her marriage, which had had issues for quite a while, began to feel like an unbearable sentence in purgatory as she wrestled with staying put and shooting for absolution by trying to make her marriage work, or following her heart and blowing her family apart.  I watched her struggle with admitting how she really felt to herself, and then I watched her agonize over not wanting to hurt her husband, her children, and her extended family.  She worried and wondered about which of her friends might turn their backs on her if she left her husband and entered into a lesbian relationship.  And she worried about being on the receiving end of bigotry from her very southern family and from people in the wider world.

Ultimately, after untold hours of talking with her husband, her therapist, their couple’s therapist, her friends, and the woman she knew she was in love with, S took steps to dissolve her marriage.  With her typical gusto, once she made the decision to live her truth and go down this path, she decided to just be who she was and let the chips fall where they may.   S and her love have now been a couple for a little over a year.  It’s had its share of very tough moments, but I have to give all three of the adults involved a lot of credit.  I have marveled repeatedly at how mature S’s ex-husband has been through all of this.  He’s had some not-so-pretty moments to be sure, but far fewer than most guys in his position would have had.  Mostly, he and S decided to put aside pettiness and focus on doing whatever was best for the children to help them adjust to this new reality.  It has generally gone well.

As for S and her girlfriend, well women are complicated in and of themselves, but put a couple of them together in a love relationship and the amount of time spent talking through issues can be extensive to say the least.  That has been the case this past year.  But that’s mostly due to S’s desire to deal with things as they are happening, to be totally honest about how she’s feeling and what a situation is dredging up for her, and to walk right up to it and talk it out.  While I’ve watched from the sidelines all of the tough moments these two women have managed to work through this past year, I can only say that there’s no denying that the kind of tough-love, courageous, honest communication S regularly employs would be completely off-putting, if it weren’t so darned effective.

About Chris DeVinney

Me in a nutshell: mom, writer, former lobbyist, wife, volunteer, lover of music and art, massive fan of traveling, and something of a smart ass. A typical INTJ, I quietly observe anyone and anything that comes into my orbit, squirreling away material for future essays. These days I spend my time writing about whatever interests me (both professionally and personally) and trying to strike the balance between taking care of kids/family/house/pets and me. Occasionally I nail it, hang on to it briefly, and then scramble back toward the center when the tipping starts again. I know, it’s a common story.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to He Is More Than a Hero

  1. Jeannified says:

    >Did you remove my comment?

  2. Jeannified says:

    >Nice post, Chris. Good for your friend for living her truth. Hopefully, all parties involved will be ok with the transition. That cannot be easy, but at least she's beign honest.

Comments are closed.