In this week’s installment of Modern Love, we find a woman coming to terms with her sexuality through snakes. Yes, really. Not just a phallic metaphor–an actual snake.
Allow me to backtrack slightly. The author of this week’s piece, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, wrote about how she suppressed her burgeoning feelings of same sex attraction in a relationship with Oren, who favors creepy crawly things and encourages her to purchase an Australian python as a pet. She writes:
He was new to New York and the United States, a former prosecutor in the Israeli Defense Forces who still had basic training biceps and the dimples of a prankish kid.
Ms. Marzano-Lesnevich, despite her same-sex preferences, succumbed to the same type of man that drives young Jewish girls from America who are spending their gap year in Israel wild with lust and giggles. Such is the power of the post-basic training allure. And Marzono-Lesnevich didn’t even see him with his M-16.
Now let’s move onto the other kind of phallus–an Australian python she named Pretzel. The snake was meant to be something of a starter pet since Oren actually wanted a tarantula. (What’s with his insect and invertebrate preference in pets? Is it because he’s Jewish and liable to be allergic to the furrier, more traditional house animals?)
It was when Marzano-Lesnevich had to carry the full-grown snake hidden on her person (under a pair of sweaters) on the subway in order to get to the vet that she started moving towards acceptance of her sexual orientation.
I’d been conventional and timid my whole life, always worried about acceptance. What had bothered me most about being gay was that I wouldn’t be able to marry and have children and that people might think I was weird. Being gay felt weird in a way that was big and life changing, but having Pretzel felt weird in way that was interesting.
While she took pleasure in being noticed for her odd pet, she wasn’t yet ready to be out of the closet. Perhaps having such an unusual pet and being recognized for it allowed her to acclimate the idea of people looking, not necessarily out of malice but curiosity, to realize that to stick out was not the worst possible fate.
I can’t fully empathize with Ms. Marzano-Lesnevich’s sexuality dilemma. The only time I found myself questioning my sexual orientation was during college when I was constantly staring at other girls’ thighs to see if they were smaller than mine. For a semester, I wondered if this fixation meant something deeper than needing to diet and exercise more. However, this habit subsided when I trashed my scale and started eating bread again. Yet despite not suffering from the same confusion and fear she very understandably felt, her experience resonates, particularly what she writes about getting comfortable enough to be the metaphorical sore thumb that sticks out. (And where does that expression even come from, “stick out like a sore thumb”? When was the last time you saw an irritated thumb and exclaimed, “Did you get a load of that thumb? Man, is it sore.” Extra credit if you know where I got this from.)
Yet despite the fact that the story ends well for everyone–for Oren, who is married with kids, and for Marzano-Lesnevich, who has since come out–Pretzel was sent to a snake sanctuary in order to grow to 12 feet and live out her days. Perhaps she was simply too potent a symbol to keep around.