Once I became a regular on the tennis circuit, I saw a lot of women doing what they wanted to do. I saw them making business decisions for themselves, tennis decisions, and smaller decisions about how they wanted to live, how they wanted to eat and dress, what movies they wanted to see. They were professionals, their lives not always defined by men.
I guess I'd known that for a long time, going back to childhood when I had urges to be with some of the teachers, wanted to know everything about them, their secrets, the way they did things. I had much less curiousity about men.
As I grew up through my teens, I never had any relationships with a woman. Yet, I never thought there was anything strange about being gay.
Looking back to when I was 16 or 17, I can see I had some crushes on some women players and didn't really know it. I just liked being with them.
When it finally happened, it was with somebody older than me, a woman I met in the States and it seemed so natural. I was pretty much a rookie with women, and I'm shy anyway, so it took forever for me to get the hints she was throwing at me.
Finally, the way she put it, I was invited over to snuggle, and it went on from there. She knew what she was doing. I don't remember any flowers and candlelight, but I do remember feeling relaxed and happy being with her, waiting for the next step.
When it finally happened, I said, "This is easy and right. And the next morning, voila - I had an outright head over heels case of infatuation with her. When will I see you again? What will we do with our time together? I was in love, just like in the story books, and everything felt great.
At the time, although a few people knew, I never felt I would have any image problem. I was one of the up-and coming female tennis players in the world, and I didn't imagine my sexuality would become a major issue to anybody. It seemed like my business somehow.
Right from my affair in the States, I wanted privacy but I was also uncomfortable about pretending to be something I wasn't. Somebody once said to me, 'Society isn't ready for it.' And I told her, 'Hey, we're society too.'
The first affair lasted about six months and then it was over ÃƒÂ¢Ã‚ÂÃ‚Â“ her decision. I was crushed and it was tough getting over it.
When we were together, I just wanted to go off on an island and live happily ever after. And when it was over, I wanted to run away and hide on the same island.
I got over it, though, even if it did cost me a few tennis tournaments, played in a haze of tears.
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