Notes & Queeries: The Wisdom of Exes

No, being gay is not a choice, but we do have a choice in terms of who we date. I’m not saying that we can choose who we love — I’m saying that we can choose who we spend time with on dates. This is an important distinction, because I think that for many lesbians, it doesn’t seem as if there is a choice.

Your first love can be so all-consuming and actually life-changing that it makes you feel as though some higher being put that woman on the earth expressly for you to love, to be angry at, to desire, to weep over. And maybe nobody can really choose who they love the first time.

But after that first, life-changing experience, then there are opportunities to make choices. Being gay doesn’t preclude one from choosing to date Jane rather than Sally — or from choosing to date no one at all.

Jen’s journey on Exes & Ohs is all about discovering that she has choices. At the start of the season, Jen finds out that her girlfriend, Sienna, is cheating on her with their couples therapist. Her relationship is yanked away from her without her consent; she doesn’t seem to have a choice in the matter.

But by the end of the first season, Jen has learned that there are things she can choose. She chooses to not date an attractive, wealthy woman who is in an open relationship with her girlfriend. She chooses to let it all hang out during a pole dancing lesson. She chooses to tell Sienna that she was deeply hurt by her betrayal.

The cast of Exes & Ohs

As a half-hour sitcom that owes much of its style to ’90s television classics such as Friends and Ellen, Exes & Ohs‘ story lines are simple and direct. What it lacks in sophistication or slickness, it makes up for in sincerity, and that’s a rare thing on TV these days.

Exes & Ohs also has a decidedly mainstream feel. It’s not edgy like the British Queer as Folk or glamorous like The L Word. Because of that, it’s much more accessible. Watching the show, I felt as though it might actually resemble a life that I might lead.

That’s why Sam’s statement and Jen’s journey are so meaningful. They have nothing at all to do with coming out, and everything to do with coming of age. Their stories are about learning to be an adult — regardless of sexual orientation.

Once you get beyond the fact that being gay is not a choice, you have to start living your life as a gay person. What do you do then? I never gave that a thought when I first came out, but I’ve been figuring it out ever since.

Exes & Ohs shows that there is life after coming out, and you know what? Even if it sucks sometimes, ultimately it will all be OK. In a TV landscape where lesbians are usually embroiled in passionate and painful melodramas, this little sitcom chooses to take a breath of fresh air.

The first season of Exes and Ohs is now available on DVD. Malinda Lo is the managing editor of AfterEllen.com. Watch her on The Lo-Down or visit her website for more information.

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