Congratulations to Maddy! She’s the winner of this drawing!
Hey everyone! Look at this! Candace Walsh stopped by to tell us about her latest work, Greetings from Janeland. Plus, she’s giving away an e-book copy. Drop a comment in the space below and we’ll draw the winner on Sunday, December 3.
It’s been eight years since the idea to create Dear John, I Love Jane popped into my head. When I found myself in love with a woman while married to my husband, I scoured the internet for stories that reflected my own. I really wanted a manual, or at least, an anthology. I didn’t relate to what was out there—a couple of books that come to mind were published in the 1970s and 80s. Society had changed a lot since then. And I decided to create Dear John’s sequel, Greetings from Janeland, because so much had changed between 2010 and 2016. And then it changed some more on Election Day. We got to celebrate and help ourselves to marriage equality. Just watching the lives of the first set of contributors unfold made me want to round them up and publish their second acts. The maturation of this life-changing movement—of women who identified as straight until falling in love with a woman—begged to be chronicled. And the women who loved the first book clamored for a sequel.
When people find out that I have edited three anthologies and written one memoir, they often ask me questions like “How did you make this happen?” I recently watched a TED talk by Mel Robbins, who said the secret to getting what you want was to act on an idea within five seconds of getting the idea. I think that’s a big part of it. But my selfish desire to make the book I wanted to read turned out to be a tremendous blessing to countless people who needed to read it too. It’s been amazing to get emails from complete strangers who have told me that my book saved their lives. I hope, karma-wise, that that makes up for me stealing lipstick from the drugstore when I was thirteen.
I also hope that my story encourages you to give credence to the ideas that pop into your head. Your idea might actually bless thousands of people you’ve never met. (If you’re pressed for time, it’s a very efficient way to be the change you want to see in the world.)
I don’t have an essay in Greetings from Janeland because we got so many wonderful submissions that I felt like mine should not pre-empt any of them. But I will share my update now.
Laura M. André was my co-editor for Dear John, I Love Jane. It was wonderful to work with Barbara, but I definitely missed working with Laura. Luckily, I married her six years ago, so I get to collaborate on almost everything else with her. She also designed the beautiful cover. You might think that I would love any cover that my wife designed, but I am not that lesbian. She also copyedited the book, finding typos that would have given me a stroke if they made it into the book.
What does it mean to me to be a woman who realized she was gay nine years ago, at the age of 35? I had been married for 7 years, I had a 5-year-old and a 2 ½ year old, and I had an identity. It worked pretty well. I spent my adult life following the motto, “Fake it til you make it.” Very New York, right?
Then I moved to Santa Fe, and encountered the motto, “Live your truth.”
I tried to ignore it. But it was on so many bumper stickers! You could probably order it as a smoothie. What was my truth? Here goes. I really love men…as friends. But the incredible closeness I felt with women friends actually hinted at something more. If Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus, I don’t actually have to keep trying to live on Mars. Venus is my happy, sexy place.
Upending my life was hard, but it had really profound rewards. I thought I was a depressed person until I was 35. I was actually just depressed because I didn’t believe that I could be myself and still be loved. It turns out that my truth is also that I am like Tigger-levels of happy and optimistic, so much so that my wife sometimes has to be the voice of reason.
I am so lucky that I came out at a time when the worst thing I had to deal with was awkward run-ins with preschool moms at the supermarket. I am ecstatic that marriage equality is now the law of the land.
Before I came out, when my kids were very little, I told them that a woman could marry a woman, a man could marry a man, and a woman could marry a man. I said this because I hoped it would be true by the time they grew up. It became true before they became teenagers. Little did I know that I would be married to a woman by the time they were in middle school. But at least they didn’t think that part was weird.
My son told me recently that he loves his family because at his mom’s house, he learned that gay people aren’t weird, and at his dad’s house, he learned that straight people aren’t weird. He knows that they’re just people. (We may be weird in other ways, but at least not because of our sexuality.) What a great lesson.
(I saw on Facebook today that some guy wrote an article claiming that lesbians have children in order to make them into slaves. I’m glad he didn’t ask my son about it this morning after I asked him to take out the trash.)
At a time when our society’s ugliest impulses are marching in the streets and shaping legislation, we needed to publish a new book that speaks to our current circumstances. We’ve never been more free, and our freedoms have never been more vulnerable. In this surreal new reality, it really helped me to know that it was my job to not only read inspiring stories by marginalized people, but to share them with the world. One of the stories is by Ruth Davies, an Australian who was tired of going to straight weddings with her partner—and was worried about the vicious propaganda that would ensue from a popular vote on marriage equality. On the publication date, Australians voted yes to support gay marriage. It gives me the good kind of shivers to think that we all have the power to help manifest social change like this. Not just by sitting in the lotus position and chanting “om,” but by being the change you want to see in the world by believing that the thing that’s missing in your life might be the book, organization, movement—you name it—that you should create and launch.
Candace Walsh is the author of Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity, a New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards winner and the editor of Dear John, I Love Jane, and Ask Me About My Divorce. Her writing has appeared in numerous national and local publications, including Newsday, Travel + Leisure, Sunset, Mademoiselle, New York magazine, and New Mexico Magazine. Her essays have been published in the anthologies Here Come the Brides!, Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage, Blended, and Spent, and she is currently editor in chief of El Palacio Magazine. She lives in Santa Fe with her wife Laura André, their two children, and two dogs.