Mourning In The Closet: She Was More Than My Best Friend

Jul 2, 2014
Originally published on July 2, 2014 3:22 pm

OutLoud, a new StoryCorps project, records and amplifies the voices of the LGBTQ community.

Now 70, Patty Woods looks back to the late 1970s, when she met a woman who would become her partner — and leave a long-lasting mark on her life, despite the fact they were not able to be open about their relationship.

"I was working in a restaurant and she would come in every day for lunch. I was like, 'Oh my God, I want to know her,' " Woods tells her friend, 22-year-old Cedar Lay.

"And I just insisted on finding ways to get together with her. And one night, we went out to dinner and we came back to my house. And we were having some cocktails, and I said, 'I just want to tell you something, after that if you want to leave, I understand.' "

"I proceeded to tell her that I was lesbian and that I was interested in her, as more than just a friend. There was music going on, and she stood up, and I thought, 'Well, she's leaving.' And she grabbed me and she started to dance. And then we kissed," Woods says. "It was the most romantic time in my life. It was like something from a movie. And that was my first kiss."

"We had very strong feelings for each other, but both of us were closeted. I would introduce her as my best friend."

"When she got cancer, I said, 'I just wouldn't want to live if anything happened to her.' I'd never felt that feeling about anybody. It was the most difficult time of my life. I took care of her, and people thought I was such a good friend."

"She wanted to tell her family, my family, but we both felt nobody would understand. If they accepted us as being close friends, and we could continue to spend the time together, we still were better off than threatening that private time."

"And when she eventually died, I had to pretend I was grieving my best friend. And I never really could openly let people know what a loss I had."

"She was more than my best friend. I feel she was my soul mate."

Audio produced for Tell Me More by Nadia Reiman.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally we'd like to take a moment to remember the 1969 Stonewall riots. It's been 45 years since gay protesters clashed with police in New York City. The event is considered the beginning of the LGBT civil rights movement. It is an event that StoryCorps wants to commemorate. Now StoryCorps is the group that records interviews between loved ones and archives them at the Library of Congress. Their new initiative called OutLoud records and amplifies the voices of the LGBTQ community, including members of the pre-Stonewall generation. That's people like 70-year-old Patty Woods who recorded an interview in San Francisco with 22-year-old Cedar Lay. Patty Woods looked back to the 1970's when she met a woman who would become her life-partner and leave a long-lasting mark on her life.

PATTY WOODS: I was working in a restaurant and she would come every day for lunch. I was like, oh, my God. I want to know her. And I just insisted on finding ways to get together with her and one night we went out to dinner and we came back to my house and we were having some cocktails, and I said, I just want to tell you something, after that if you want to leave, I understand. I proceeded to tell her that I was lesbian and that I was interested in her in more than just a friend. There was music going on, and she stood up and I thought, well, she's leaving. And she grabbed me, and she started to dance. And then we kissed. It was the most romantic time in my life. It was like something from a movie. And that was my first kiss. We had very strong feelings for each other. But both of us were closeted. I would introduce her as my best friend. When she got cancer, I said, I just wouldn't want to live if anything happened to her. I never felt that feeling about anybody. It was the most difficult time of my life. I took care of her and people thought I was such a good friend. She wanted to tell her family, my family but we both felt nobody would understand. If they accepted us as being close friends and we could continue to spend the time together we still were better off than threatening that private time. And when she eventually died, I had to pretend I was grieving my best friend and I never really could openly let people know what a loss I had. She was more than my best friend. I feel that she was my soul-mate.

MARTIN: That's Patty Woods remembering her partner who died in 1988. The interview is part of StoryCorps OutLoud, recording the stories of the LGBTQ community. If there's someone you would like to interview or add your own story to the Library of Congress visit storycorps.org. To hear more StoryCorps on their podcasts, it's on iTunes and npr.org. And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.