By Patricia Grayhall
Special to Lesbian.com
“Making The Rounds: Defying The Norms in Love and Medicine”
Defying expectations of a woman growing up in Arizona in the 1960s, Patricia Grayhall fled Phoenix at nineteen for the vibrant streets of San Francisco, determined to finally come out as a lesbian after years of trying to be a “normal” girl. Her dream of becoming a physician drew her back to college in Arizona, and then on to medical school in conservative Salt Lake City.
A chronicle of coming of age during second-wave feminism and striving to have both love and career as a gay medical doctor, Making the Rounds is a well-paced and deeply humanizing memoir of what it means to seek belonging and love—and to find them, in the most surprising ways.
The excerpt below is when Patricia has just arrived home from the hospital after being up all night in the ICU. I was looking forward to a quiet evening at home. But my lover Dani had let herself in to my house revved up for another confrontation as our relationship continued to crumble. I was sure she was sleeping with Jennifer on her softball team. This excerpt begins mid-fight. (Laki is her nickname for me).
I was limp as a wet dishrag when I arrived home, looking forward to a glass of wine and a nature program on TV.
Dani was there, eating a TV dinner at the kitchen table. I frowned, annoyed to see her, and wished I’d gotten my key from her. She had her mouth full and greeted me with a curt nod.
Why is she here? I tensed with anxiety that she was gearing up for another pointless discussion. In the six weeks since I’d given her the ultimatum about wrapping up her affair with Jennifer, she’d given me no sign she had.
“Can we dispense with our usual hand-wringing diatribe this evening?” I asked before she even opened her mouth.
Dani put down her fork and looked up at me. “I don’t under- stand myself for getting involved with a woman who is so totally egocentric.” She took in a forkful of processed mashed potatoes.
“I’m the one who’s egocentric?” Dani was the most solipsistic woman I’d ever met. Was this her way of justifying her affair? “You’re so caught up in your own world, you have no idea what I’m going through. You said you’d be here at eight o’clock last night. You didn’t show until ten when I needed to be in bed asleep.”
I paced the floor, preparing to go on a rant.
Dani cut me off. “You see only that I’ve wronged you by sleeping with Jennifer and that’s all you care about. You can be caring, loving, and generous—it’s true. But
I’ve seen it happen only when it holds an advantage for you.” She took a swig from the glass in front of her, half-full of something amber-colored.
“It’s hard to be caring and loving when you’re running off to the Vineyard with Jennifer, sailing with Helinka, out to the bar with your softball team. You hardly make any time for us when I’m not working. Have you fed the dog?”
“No, not yet.”
Buto looked up at me, her gaze expectant. I walked to the cupboard and got out her kibble, filling her bowl. She was out of water, too. Sensitive to our tone, she didn’t leap on her food.
Dani ignored our dog and carried on.
“Maybe you thought you could push me around. But I drew the line—my refusal to ditch friends so you could control me. Yes, I’ve slept with another woman because you weren’t fulfilling needs of mine. Sexual needs were at the bottom of the list, Laki. More important to me is acceptance with unselfish, unconditional love. I didn’t have to bargain for it like I have with you.”
I snorted. “So, you’ve found a woman who is giving you unselfish, unconditional love like an infant at mama’s breast? Even when you disappoint her, as you no doubt will?”
Dani gave me a dark look, got up, opened the cupboard where I kept the Cointreau to top up her drink. I wondered just how much she’d had before I’d come home. Was alcohol fueling this?
As she reached for the bottle, I walked over, caught her wrist, and squeezed it—perhaps a little too hard. “Don’t—no more.”
Dani looked surprised, then defiant as I stared her down. My heart pounded. She could overpower me in any physical confrontation. I held on to her wrist and felt her close her fist. Is she going to hit me?
Then she lowered her arm, and I let go.
She stayed put, still close. “Never have I experienced such overwhelming aggressiveness as I have with you.”
Who is she talking about? “This aggressive ogre is hungry.”
I moved away and rummaged for something to eat in the refrigerator. I found only wine, mayonnaise, and ketchup. The freezer yielded a spinach soufflé, but it would take an hour to bake. I settled for snacking on stale peanuts while I warmed up the oven for the soufflé.
Dani still hovered, but I was fed up.
“I’m so tired of this. Of you making me into a raging ogre who ignores your sensitive feelings and thwarts your creative energy. Go fuck whoever you want, yourself included.”
I flounced into the sunroom, turned on the reading lamp, took out a magazine, and flipped through the pages, too tired and upset to read.
Dani spoke softly to the dog in the kitchen, urging her to eat. Soon I heard Buto crunching her kibble and listened for the sound of Dani leaving.
She didn’t leave. She followed me into the sunroom and sat in a chair near me, her face partially hidden in shadow.
“Last week, I relived the most awful years of my life,” she said, her voice shaky. “Years of depression, attempted suicide, and the odd looks from people who knew.
“You didn’t have a ghost of understanding. You only expressed hurt and anger I spent the weekend with Jennifer.” Dani looked on the verge of tears.
I remembered there was a time when she’d turned to me for solace and comfort, and I’d been happy to give it. Over the past year, though, I’d been less available both physically and emotionally. So had she. Whose fault was that?
“Sorry, I’ve run dry of unselfish, unconditional love.” I re- turned to flipping the pages of my magazine, not looking at her.
Dani banged her fist on the table between us, rattling the lamp. “You insist on monogamy from me. But what about you cheating on Maryann? Most important to me is approval of who I am. I get approval from you if I bend myself to your will. But it’s all conditional, Laki.”
I looked up at her. “You’ll find it will be conditional with Jennifer too. Are you so naive that you think a woman will be there to love and comfort you, no matter whether you meet her needs as well?”
I winced inwardly, realizing that’s exactly what I had wanted of Cass. I buried my face in my magazine.
Dani jumped up and snatched the magazine away. “I could say many bitter things, Laki, but I would only dislike myself for it. I love you even now. We can be such great friends and we play together better than anyone I know. That’s hard to give up. But it’s gone too far. We’ve hurt each other too much.”
Her tone had softened, but I ignored it. She’d slept with Jennifer. She was still sleeping with Jennifer. That was all I could hear. I was finished with her. Blood pounded in my head. Also tempted to say further things I might regret, I realized there was no point. It was over.
“Just go,” I said.
Dani headed for the door, grabbing her coat and bag on the way, forgetting about Buto.
“Leave the key!” I shouted to her retreating back.
The door slammed, rocking the walls. I slumped in the chair. Only then did I cry.
After a good cry, I poured a glass of chardonnay and thought of my doomed relationship with Dani. Could she ever really see me? My sensitivity and vulnerability, my real—not imagined— strengths, and my genuine love for her? But satisfying my need for love and security with Dani this past year was like trying to buy a cantaloupe at the hardware store
Patricia Grayhall is a medical doctor and author of Making the Rounds; Defying Norms in Love and Medicine as well as articles in Queer Forty and The Gay and Lesbian Review. After nearly forty years of medical practice, this is her debut, very personal, and frank memoir about coming out as a lesbian in the late 1960s and training to become a doctor when society disapproved of both for a woman. Patricia lives with the love of her life on an island in the Pacific Northwest. patriciagrayhall.com/